The various father-son relationships and brotherly rivalries underlying this sequel to 2010’s Clash of the Titans attempt to bring some humanity to the gods-and-monsters grandeur, but the movie’s main focus is on computer-generated mythological creatures, epic battles and fantastic settings. That’s not entirely unexpected, because nobody buys a ticket to a 3D special-effects spectacle like this hoping to see a heart-rending interfamily melodrama — and it’s not as if the original tales featuring these larger than life legends were known for their subtlety. Still, it would have been nice if the movie made us care a little more about its myriad characters.
Playing the Greek (with an Australian accent) demigod Perseus, Sam Worthington seems so bland and indifferent even when exerting himself that he may be the year’s most passive action hero. He’s handsome, rugged and believably muscled, but definitely the strong, silent type.
Wrath of the Titans picks up 10 years after Kraken-killer Perseus has hung up his sword to raise his young son Helius (John Bell) in a peaceful fishing village. Then his underworld-dwelling uncle Hades (Ralph Fiennes) forms a hellish alliance with Perseus’ resentful half-brother Ares (Edgar Ramirez) to capture their father Zeus (Liam Neeson). By draining Zeus of his divine powers, Hades and Ares hope to free the imprisoned giant Kronos, who is both the father of Zeus, Hades and Poseidon (Danny Hutton) and leader of the likewise imprisoned monsters known as the Titans.
The screenplay by Dan Mazeau and David Leslie Johnson (from a story by the two of them and Greg Berlanti) does a good job of keeping everyone in that extended family tree straight, which is quite an accomplishment. Other featured players include former Bond girl Rosamund Pike as the warrior queen Andromeda (played by Alexa Davalos in Clash of the Titans). The very Russell-Brandish Toby Kebbell provides some comic relief as Poseidon’s shifty son Agenor.
Bill Nighy replaces Clash‘s Paul Kynman as Hephaestus, the slightly dotty forger of the big three gods’ weapons: Zeus’ thunderbolt, Poseidon’s trident and Hades’ pitchfork, which collectively form a weapon of unbelievably mass destruction known as the Spear of Triam. Hephaestus also is the architect of the humongous underworld prison known as Tartarus, a labyrinth of shifting stone mazes that are the movie’s most impressive setting.
CGI creatures including an elephantine two-headed winged Chimera with a snake for a tail, giant conjoined swordsmen, the winged horse Pegasus, a huge-horned Minotaur and a treetop-tall Cyclops trio are convincingly impressive. But the mountain-sized, lava-flinging, ferociously fiery Kronos is the movie’s special-effects showpiece.
Neeson and Fiennes are enjoyably unironic as proud old gods whose immortality is at risk because they are losing worshippers, making them the most interesting members of the cast. Director Jonathan Liebesman (Battle Los Angeles) keeps the story moving ahead at a good pace, unlike last year’s similarly ancient-gods-oriented Immortals. Also, viewers who see the 3D version of the movie will appreciate that this installment was shot in 3D, unlike its converted-after-filming predecessor.
While the finished product could have used more personality from its protagonist, the plot of this original adventure is a satisfying extension of the original mythic story that should satisfy classic fantasy fans.
[Rating: 3 stars]
Wrath of the Titans is released in US, Canada and UK on Friday March 30, 2012. Australia release is March 29, 2012.