Wrath Of The Titans Review: Epic, Visually Breathtaking, But Lacks Depth

The spectacle is huge, the effects are suitably impressive, but Wrath of the Titans lacks any real depth.

Wrath of the Titans starring Sam Worthington

rating: 3.5

For those still smarting over the oddly lacklustre Clash of the Titans remake in 2010, and the retina scarring 3D bolt-on, you can rest easy that the film-makers behind Wrath of the Titans have learned a few lessons, not least in pouring more time and money into the rendering of the third dimension, even if some may be disappointed at the lack of an eight-legged Pegasus. The spectacle is huge, the effects are suitably impressive, and the big bad facing Perseus (Sam Worthington) this time around makes the Kraken look like a monstrous afterthought. The returning producers Kevin De La Noy and Basil Iwanyk, and new director Jonathan Liebesman, patently decided to ratchet the epic up to eleven, and they mostly succeed, but as with Louis Leterrier's Clash of the Titans, and Liebesman's own Battle: Los Angeles, the desire for shock and awe leaves little left over in the emotional stakes. 10 years have passed since everyman bruiser Perseus saved the denizens of Argos, and having turned his back on the world of Gods and Monsters he now lives in a modest fishing village with his son, Helius (John Bell). His oddly plotted paramour from Clash of the Titans, Io, has apparently passed away, leaving him as sole caregiver. Although based on his fairly unimpressive fishing skills and a desire to be permanently covered in dirt, it starts to look as though his out of the limelight lifestyle choice may not be all it's cracked up to be. Even Helius isn't entirely convinced, having spent some of his spare time making a toy, wooden sword. Thankfully this idyll is interrupted by Perseus' real father Zeus (Liam Neeson) who attempts to gain his help in fighting Hades (Ralph Fiennes) once again. Humanity's increased disregard and respect for the Gods has left Hades fearing for his own immortality and so like any good son he's turned to their own father, the imprisoned Titan Kronos. If he frees him from the prison Tartarus then his immortality is apparently assured. Not that this holds much sway with Perseus, who reckons that this is a job for the real Gods, plus he's got other things to worry about, namely his son. Even Zeus' warning that demons are already escaping from the underworld leaves him cold. He is, after all, just a man. Kind of. Wrath of the Titans starring Sam Worthington Bereft of his demi-god offspring Zeus travels to the underworld with his full-on God of War son Ares (a mean and moody Edgar Ramirez) and his other brother Poseidon (Danny Huston) to try and stop Hades' plans, but unfortunately for Zeus and Poseidon their demonic sibling has done his corrupting well as Ares turns on them, and with the help of some double-torsoed, lava-spraying Makhai demons, Zeus is turned into a life-force battery for his own dear world-shattering Dad. Back up top, and before you can say I told you so, a Chimera demon is spewed from the depths of Tartarus and crash lands in Perseus' village. Naturally all his talk about taking a back seat counts for nothing when your loved ones are confronted by a two-headed, flying, fire-breathing hound-beast, and in a fantastically rendered sequence proceeds to grab handily accessible sword and armour before dispatching it, and half the housing stock. Scarcely pausing to draw breath Perseus realises that hiding his head in the sand just isn't going to work and sets off to try and talk to his father at the Temple of Idols, now reduced to not much more than a cavernous and neglected storehouse of monuments. Zeus, of course, is otherwise engaged but the wounded Poseidon appears and tells him of Zeus'capture, that he has to free him. In a familiar refrain Perseus says he's only half a god (someone should make him a badge), so Poseidon tells him to find another demi-god, Poseidon's own son Agenor (Toby Kebbell). Agenor can lead him to the 'Fallen One', and the key to getting inside Tartarus. So, one gratifyingly four-legged, flying horse later Perseus lands in the camp of Queen Andromeda (Rosamund Pike), who is busy fighting her own rearguard action against other hellspawn. Perseus 'persuades' his cousin Agenor to help and the two of them plus Andromeda travel to a mystic island to find the Fallen One. Using his father's Trident Agenor finds the island and there, after besting a family of cyclops who seem to be the mythical monster equivalent of hillbillies, the cyclops' father takes them to the Fallen One, Hephaestus (Bill Nighy), weapons maker of the Gods and the designer and builder of Tartarus. Nighy is initially unrecognisable beneath a mass of hair but his performance ticks soon win through; there's nothing quite so telling as a Nighy snort. He's great fun though as the slightly crazed God who's had no-one but a familiar, and sadly defunct, mechanical owl as his companion for aeons. Confronted with actual flesh and blood conversationalists it doesn't take him long to agree to help - to show them a secret passageway he built into Tartarus' design. And I hope you've got all that because by that point I think we'd barely scratched the 25 minute mark. Wrath of the Titans starring Sam Worthington Wrath continues to crackle apace as our trio rush headlong to stop Hades and Ares from committing Titan bothering mischief, encountering dizzyingly moveable mazes, the random presence of a creature that I'm pretty sure Perseus' half-brother Theseus would be more familiar with, and finally the meltdown of the dysfunctional family to end all dysfunctional families. Fathers against sons, sons against fathers, brother against brother... it's a familial nightmare, and very ancient Greek. It's not many blockbusters that have the central conceit of a man ultimately trying to destroy his own grandfather by flying into his gaping maw. As the embattled, family-wrecking hero in question, Worthington has added hair but not much else in his dour reprisal of Wrath of the Titans' central character. He has thankfully lost most of the petulance but his blokey persona makes it difficult to spot Perseus's apparent, underlying God-like qualities. The opposite problem to Tarsem Singh's Immortals where Henry Cavill looked unfortunately god-like the moment he stepped on screen. As Perseus' brotherly foil, Kebbell has a welcome, jokey intransigence, and Rosamund Pike tries to make the most of her blood and guts fighting Queen but, like Clash of the Titans, pace is the movie's real overlord, and all the choreographed 'quiet' interludes do nothing to give the film it's emotional kick. Even the presence and peril of Perseus' son is little more than abstract, the one moment of personal danger at the hands of Ares dropped without a whimper, much less a bang. On the one hand breathtaking, and on the other infuriating, the entire enterprise charges along as if the finish line is in sight from the opening credits. You wonder if the producers are permanently scared of modern audiences' supposed attention deficit disorder. Although Wrath of the Titans does work as popcorn extravaganza there are apparently scenes providing explanation and intellectual impetus on the digital equivalent of the cutting room floor. You just wish that in the storytelling stakes Liebesman and his producing cabal had more of the courage of their on-screen creations. There is a glimpse of it at the film's end when Perseus tells Helius that dreams of going back and just being a fisherman are over. They must both accept their destinies as offspring of the Gods, as he hands him, and lets him feel the weight of, a real sword. Wrath of the Titans starring Sam Worthington Wrath of the Titans open this Friday in 3D and 2D.
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Film writer, drinker of Guinness. Part-time astronaut. Man who thinks there are only two real Indiana Jones movies, writing loglines should be an Olympic event, and that science fiction, comic book movies, 007, and Hal Hartley's Simple Men are the cures for most evils. Currently scripting.

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