As a sequel to the critically-panned Clash of the Titans remake, Wrath of the Titans has had its fair share of detractors ever since it was announced. It certainly didn’t help that incoming director Jonathan Liebesman was responsible for last year’s atrocious Battle: Los Angeles – a movie that, based on the amount of shaky cam involved, must have been filmed in the middle of an earthquake. But somewhere in the cosmos the stars must have aligned, as the result is a sword and sandals action adventure that’s everything Clash should have been.
My hopes were raised almost immediately, as one of the film’s first sights is the grave of Io, Perseus’ wife from the first film. I never liked Io. She wasn’t in the original 1981 movie so felt out of place in such a prominent role in the remake. It also didn’t help that her actress, Gemma Arterton, had zero chemistry with Sam Worthington’s Perseus.
Well, it seems my prayers were answered sometime in the ten years since the Kraken was released and subsequently stoned. As a result, Andromeda (Rosamund Pike replacing Alexa Davalos) is now the leading female, which is appropriate since she was Perseus’ love interest in the original claymation Clash. Moreover, she’s not the lovey-dovey type this time, instead portraying a hardened Queen who follows stock hero Perseus on his quest to stop Greek Gods Hades (Ralph Fiennes reprising a wheezing vernacular) and Ares (Édgar Ramírez) from freeing the Titan Kronos from his prison.
It’s a pretty typical ‘quest’ kind of plot, and includes the obligatory three things that must be collected and combined to defeat the big bad. Speaking of Kronos, his appearance at the end of the film as the magnificent flaming-shadowy man is disappointing and doesn’t leave much of an impression. It’s Hades who surprises however, with an unexpected arc that sees him develop the most as a character over the course of the story. More of that please.
Throw in Liam Neeson again (because he makes anything he’s in better) as Zeus, and hit frappé. Oh, and did I mention that there’s an enjoyable appearance by Bill Nighy in which he argues with himself as if Gollum from The Lord of the Rings? Fantastic. These great performances distract from Worthington’s bland but otherwise inoffensive turn as the demigod son of Zeus. Is it just me, or is it amazing how much a simple change in hairstyle makes the character feel much more ‘Greek’?
And how about those monsters! In this, the film doesn’t disappoint. The action is fast, furious and sufficiently creative, the highlight being an inventive cyclops encounter in a gloomy forest. The effects too are suitably impressive and have a great sense of scale. I especially liked the re-imagining of the labyrinth as a Rubik’s cube meets Jenga. Suffice to say that there’s eye candy galore if that’s what you’re after.
While it maintains a cracking pace it’s nonetheless a shame that it’s all over so quickly. These kinds of ‘epic’ quests deserve the time to slow down and explore their characters and internal mythology. At least there’s a shallow but present subplot about father-son relations, as well as themes of forgiveness and brotherly love. It’s these that help to give Wrath of the Titans the extra dramatic oomph to usurp it’s predecessor but – and who am I kidding? – it’s the action, adventure and spectacle of it all that makes it well worth the price of admission.
Wrath of the Titans is everything the original film should have been; mythological movie-making done right.