29 March 2012

Movie Review: Wrath of the Titans


D+

Wrath of the Titans
2012, 99mins, 12
Director: Jonathan Liebesman
Writer (s): Dan Mazeau, David Johnson, Greg Berlanti
Cast includes: Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Edgar Ramirez, Toby Kebbell, Rosamund Pike
UK Release Date: 30th March 2012

2010’s “Clash of the Titans” didn’t find much critical love, its combination of monster smashing action and subpar 3D leaving film fans cold. However the picture quietly trucked its way to $493 million worldwide, leaving Warner eager to construct a sequel. That follow-up is now upon us in the form of “Wrath of the Titans”, boasting a new director and an updated writing staff, hoping some fresh creative blood will allow this portion of Greek adventuring to leave a warmer mark. A noble aim indeed, but one made almost impossible by the hiring of Jonathan Liebesman, a director last seen guiding the diabolical “Battle: Los Angeles” to screens. “Wrath of the Titans” is a marginal improvement over his previous work (how could it not?), but it still reeks in parts of Liebesman’s apparent determination to shoot action in the style of videogame cut-scenes. Some of the thespian input has been improved for this sequel, but most other facets are inferior to even the modest standards set by the previous 2010 endeavour.

Perseus (Sam Worthington) has retired from his monster slaying past, dedicating his life to raising his son Helius (John Bell) in a small fishing community. However it isn’t long before the demigod hero is visited by Zeus (Liam Neeson), instructing Perseus to ready himself for the fall of the once great gods and to prepare for the rise of the infamous Titans, a selection of beasts being spurred on by the malevolent Hades (Ralph Fiennes) and Zeus’ other treacherous son Ares (Edgar Ramirez). Initially reluctant to join the battle, Perseus is soon forced to act when Zeus is captured, pairing himself with Queen Andromeda (a miscast Rosamund Pike) and ignoble demigod Agenor (Toby Kebbell). The group make passage to the underworld where Zeus is being held, hoping to rescue the once great deity and prevent the rising of a monster more fearsome than any other.

“Wrath of the Titans” starts slowly and builds virtually no momentum until the climax, Liebesman executing one competent sequence in a maze, the rest a mire of CGI tedium and repetitive action. For a film with so much spectacle and bombast, it’s phenomenal to observe how boring “Wrath of the Titans” can be, the film lacking energy or even a viable hook upon which viewers can begin to engage with the material. It’s hollow and mirthless, Liebesman failing to concoct anything original or memorable, the director simply happy to fire his talented cast into a plethora of broadly pitched and soulless monster encounters. 2010’s “Clash of the Titans” admittedly didn’t add anything new to the genre either, but at least that picture’s set-pieces had a pulse. This time around even the money shots are DOA.

There’s an attempt to create a more rounded batch of characters here, it rarely works, but the effort is appreciated. Worthington’s Perseus is completely indebted to the actor’s physicality, Liebesman utilizing the Australian like an action figure, pummelling him through a selection of grandiose challenges, failing miserably to manipulate the character’s newfound stance as a protective father. More screen time is afforded to Neeson and Fiennes on this occasion, and it is here that “Wrath of the Titans” manages something of worth, creating an interesting emotional dynamic between the uneasy siblings. Added to the mix is Edgar Ramirez’s Ares, a dejected son looking for vengeance. It’s an obvious arc which the actor struggles to do much with. Rounding out the principal participants are Toby Kebbell (lively comic relief) and a humiliated Rosamund Pike. For most her of scenes the actress looks like she’d prefer to be anywhere else as opposed to occupying silly costumes within Liebesman’s ditzy universe.

The editing is more acceptable from Liebesman here than it was in “Battle Los Angeles”, the action is certainly dull but at least it maintains a degree of coherency. Still this mild improvement doesn’t change the fact that “Wrath of the Titans” is a plodding blockbuster courtesy of a genuinely terrible filmmaker. Liebesman continues to show no real aptitude for enjoyable Hollywood cinema or indeed a basic understanding of storytelling, leaving this as yet another miss in his chaotic and unimpressive CV. His next gig is an apparent reboot of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” under the careful eye of producer Michael Bay. God help us all.

A Review by Daniel Kelly, 2012

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