"Wrath of the Titans" starts off as standard sequel material and never recovers. Not helped by surprisingly pedestrian CGI, the experience feels like a 99-minute movie trailer with more unintentional laughs than "Troy" and a plot held together with forced sentimentality and duct tape. Though Ralph Fiennes is at least entertaining in villain mode, there isn't nearly enough of a story to bridge the gaps between battle scenes, leaving us a stumbling, laughable bit of big-budget moviemaking that reminds us just how far off the rails it can go.
If nothing else, director Jonathan Liebesman at least gives us an Ancient Greece that looks how it should. With dust swirling around and covering much of the sky, Perseus' (Sam Worthington) Greece appears stark and foreboding - a place that clearly could use a hero. After slaying the Kraken in "Clash of the Titans," Perseus would love nothing more than to live a quiet existence with his young son Helius (John Bell), one preferably far away from monsters and other scary things that can kill him. "There is more to life than gods and titans," he warns his progeny early on, though Perseus is the one person who should probably know better.
Instead of enjoying a quiet existence in a small village, Perseus soon finds himself fighting for his life once again when the titans and the gods can't figure out a way to bury the hatchet. This time around, Perseus' father Zeus (Liam Neeson) ends up the victim of a sinister plot involving his brother Hades (Ralph Fiennes) and his father, an imprisoned titan named Kronos who wants to free himself and bring ruin to the entire world. While Kronos seems an impossible foe, Zeus turns to Perseus for help, probably because it worked last time with the Kraken. Also in the mix is Zeus' son Ares (Edgar Ramirez), the jealous God of War who believes that Zeus is favoring Perseus.
Though Hades and Kronos have no problem killing Poseidon (Danny Huston) and setting their plot in motion, they take their sweet time draining Zeus of his powers, giving Perseus plenty of time to raise an army and come knocking on the doors of the underworld. Fortunately for Perseus, his old flame Andromeda (Rosamund Pike) has the needed army and she's ready to sign on for his cause. They may be in a hurry to get to the underworld and free Zeus, but that doesn't mean they have to forgo the incessant reminders of their past love.
As Perseus and Andromeda share longing looks dripping with sexual tension, we see just how limited the story of "Wrath of the Titans" is going to be. That Andromeda is so revered by her army should seem like a source of interest for the filmmakers, but Rosamund Pike is mainly left to stand around and look pretty. Instead of a dynamic character with an interesting story of her own, we get an underdeveloped recreation of other film heroines and Andromeda ends up as about intriguing as sand paper.
If there is a bit of light in the movie it's that Ralph Fiennes still makes for the perfect Hades, a role the talented actor can do in his sleep. While Perseus and Zeus are wooden and surprisingly dull, Fiennes' Hades has a menacing chill to his tone and he manages to get through some weak dialog that would have sunk a lesser actor. Though Fiennes at least gives us a glimmer of hope when he's on the screen, Worthington has all the guile and enthusiasm of Orlando Bloom, and he's so somber and serious that it might be hard not to snicker.
But what's the most disheartening about "Wrath of the Titans" is how run-of-the-mill the action sequences end up being, which takes any remaining wind out of its sails. Much of his time on screen, Worthington ends up just standing around and staring with awe at the surrounding CGI, which is a strategy that hasn't really worked since we first saw dinosaurs in Steven Spielberg's original "Jurassic Park." As Perseus picks his way through an endless array of giants, monsters and other demonic beings, the CGI can't keep up with director Liebesman's imagination and doesn't look nearly as seamless as action audiences are used to.
It's probably a good thing that "Wrath of the Titans" is hitting theaters before the summer schedule heats up, as it wouldn't sit well next to an impressive group of big-budget action movies. Though there will always be a spot in the multiplex for overblown, dimwitted blockbusters like "Wrath of the Titans," the biggest movies of this upcoming summer seem to at least be trying to mix in a little story and character development into the chaos. With "Wrath of the Titans," it's all chaos, and we're left with a movie that doesn't feel nearly as epic as it wants to be.
by RTT Staff Writer
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