Wrath of the Titans Review
Sometimes, just occasionally, we are treated to that rarest of beasts: a sequel that improves upon its predecessor. In the case of Wrath of the Titans though, managing this feat was never going to be a difficult ordeal. The 2010 Louis Leterrier-directed remake of Clash of the Titans didn’t receive much in the way of critical praise, though it certainly went down a storm at the box office. Hence the appearance of this follow-up, which sees Sam Worthington reprise his role as Perseus along with Liam Neeson as his father Zeus, Ralph Fiennes as the treacherous Hades, God of the Underworld, and Danny Huston (barely glimpsed in the first film) as Poseidon. Thankfully, new director Jonathan Liebesman has a much better grip than Leterrier did on the film’s main attraction: gods and men bringing the action.
Ten years after the events of Clash, Perseus has been living the quiet life of a fisherman with his young son Helius. Events conspire to drag him back in to conflict with the Gods when Zeus is captured by Hades, along with Perseus’ half-brother Ares (Edgar Ramírez). They have made a deal with Kronos, leader of the Titans and father to Zeus, Hades and Poseidon, who has long been imprisoned in the underworld: in exchange for immortality, Kronos will be given all of Zeus’ divine powers and allowed to once again lay waste to the world. Perseus sets off on a quest to recover the one weapon that can destroy Kronos.
As with Clash (which I reviewed here), trying to summarise the plot in a paragraph makes it sound like an incoherent mess, which admittedly in some ways it is. All sorts of disastrous father/son/brother relationships drive this story, which at least gives it a sense of fidelity to the myths that inspired it. But very little time or effort is spent on getting it going; perhaps realising that audiences aren’t turning up with their 3D glasses to watch a heavyweight drama, Liebesman just cuts to the chase. Liam Neeson appears and disappears with a loud “Whoosh!” at the start to explain what’s about to happen, and then it happens. The audience is popped on to the mechanical conveyor belt of action that is the plot and the film doesn’t stop until the end. Job jobbed.
But there’s a key difference this time around: where Clash was dull and charmless, Wrath is actually quite likeable. Director Liebesman knows when to stand back and allow his heavyweight supporting cast to do their thing. Hollywood learnt long ago that if you’re going to have Gods in your movie, casting quality British thesps is always a good first move. Neeson and Fiennes could probably have phoned in their performances, but if they did then they disguised it well. If anything, Fiennes is better here than last time, having dialled down the Voldemort excesses of Clash. Gemma Arterton is MIA (her character is written out right at the start) but Rosamund Pike is a more than acceptable substitute. Worthington himself isn’t too bad; he’s not a complete charisma-free zone but neither does he display much star quality. But best of all is Bill Nighy; possibly the first God ever to sport a Yorkshire accent (though Geoff Boycott may dispute this), his scene-stealing, mad-as-a-box-of-frogs cameo recalls nothing so much as Tim the Enchanter from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. All it lacks is Graham Chapman commenting, "What an eccentric performance."
The main attraction is of course the action, and it’s here the Battle: Los Angeles director steps up to the plate. The climactic battle with Kronos as the Titan erupts from a volcano is the chief highlight, but before that there’s a good deal of pleasure to be had with the quest through the labyrinth (though the confrontation with the Minotaur is a disappointing mess of quick cuts) and an encounter with some Cyclops. In an odd way, despite the heavy CGI, it feels a tad more Harryhausen-esque than before, which can only be a good thing. And with the emphasis on father/son conflicts, it’s much easier to keep track of who’s who, as opposed to Clash’s muddle of unmemorable men. That’s not to say the script is anything more than workmanlike – some of the lines are so predictable you could finish the sentences before the cast do – but it gets the job done, which rather neatly sums up the film as a whole.