You just can’t keep a good god down, and two years after Clash of the Titans made “Release the Kraken!” an unlikely catchphrase (at least for a few months), Perseus and his extended family are once again causing a commotion in the inevitable sequel, Wrath of the Titans. While the first film had to live up to the expectations of fanboys who had fond memories of the 1981 original (particularly the stop-motion special-effects work of the legendary Ray Harryhausen), Wrath of the Titans is clearly meant to hold up the standards of Louis Leterrier’s noisy remake, and unfortunately it doesn’t quite make the cut. It’s hard to imagine a film with as much going on as this one being dull, but somehow director Jonathan Liebesman has managed that dubious feat, reducing characters that have captivated the world for centuries to cardboard cutouts, all playing second fiddle to enough CGI to overload every computer in Southern California.
Ten years after demigod Perseus (Sam Worthington) brought down the Kraken and saved humanity, belief in the ancient gods has waned among the people, and without a steady stream of prayer, those gods are losing their power. Perseus isn’t much worried about this, as he’s embraced his human side and makes his living as a humble fisherman while raising his son Helius (John Bell). But Perseus is visited by his father Zeus (Liam Neeson), who warns him that as his power fades from a scarcity of prayer, his brother Hades (Ralph Fiennes), who rules the underworld, is taking advantage of the situation by entering into an alliance with Perseus’ vain and ill-tempered brother Ares (Edgar Ramirez). Zeus is then kidnapped by Hades and Ares, and with the great god weak and in bondage, Hades is urged by Ares to bring his wrath upon the world. Perseus reluctantly takes up the fight against the forces of the underworld, joined by the goddess Andromeda (Rosamund Pike), the scruffy demigod Agenor (Toby Kebbell), and Hephaestus (Bill Nighy), who once made the weapons of the gods and knows a tricky path for outsiders to make their way into the underworld.
Wrath of the Titans only lasts 99 minutes (which includes a lengthy end-credit crawl that cites literally hundreds of special-effects technicians), but it feels considerably longer. Director Jonathan Liebesman (whose credits include The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, which is about as ill-begotten as sequels get) packs the film with action and narrative leaps and turns, but so much of it happens without any reasonable context that it just seems like a random parade of images, tossed at the camera in less-than-stellar 3D and with the usual shaky-cam visuals making it hard to tell who is doing what. When you spend millions of dollars designing a huge, multiheaded CGI monster, it would make sense to set down the camera just long enough so that we can get a decent look at the thing, but this is not a lesson Liebesman has learned. Wrath of the Titans is also filled with trite dialogue (peppered with modern-day slang) and shoddy character development, and the latter presents a challenge the cast, for the most part, is unable to overcome. Neeson and Fiennes manage to hold on to their dignity as the aging gods, and Nighy is enjoyable in his brief turn as Hephaestus, but Worthington is more of a prop than an actor here, wooden even as he struggles to convincingly depict his love for this son. And as Agenor, Kebbell comes off as a cut-rate Russell Brand, uncomfortably calling attention to himself at every turn. (It’s worth noting that Alexa Davalos opted not to return as Andromeda for this sequel to Clash of the Titans, and given how little Pike gets to do with the character here, it’s not surprising.) If Clash of the Titans was an enjoyable if empty-headed special-effects thrill ride, Wrath of the Titans manages to cover the same territory but without a sense of fun or adventure, and for all the monsters, mayhem, and lost worlds on display, there’s no sense of wonder or any reason to care about humanity’s possible destruction. In the end, it’s hard to feel much enthusiasm for a movie that doesn’t see anything funny about the notion of presenting a Cyclops in 3D. leave a comment --Mark Deming