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Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!
Sometime in 2009, I read online about a remake of the classic 1981 claymation-extravaganza Clash of the Titans. Despite my general hatred of film remakes, I kept an open mind about the new Clash because I have such an affinity for the source material. I have extremely fond memories of watching the Harry Hamlin original with my father and brothers growing up in the 80s. Despite its blatant cheesiness, Clash ’81 has some legitimately great moments in it (the Medusa hunt remains tense and exciting, even in these CG-driven times). When I finally saw the Clash of the Titans remake in spring 2010, I thought it was ok. I didn’t hate it like most critics, but I certainly didn’t love it. Sam Worthington, not a particularly strong actor but he’s fine in these kinds of roles, replaces Harry Hamlin, and Liam Neeson replaces Laurence Olivier, and both seem like fair trades to me. On the whole, Clash ’10 was a fairly entertaining trifle, if ultimately forgettable. When it grossed around $500 million dollars worldwide, however, Warner Bros. rushed a sequel into development. A remake I can deal with, but a sequel to a remake of a movie is a bit harder to swallow. Thus, we get…
Wrath of the Titans starts in a small fishing village, where our hero Perseus, now several years older as well as a father, attempts to live a peaceful life as a widowed fisherman. He loves his son dearly (you can tell because he let him skip school) and he tries desperately to avoid the trifles of the gods, who are dying out as mankind begins to believe in them and fear them less and less (an aspect of the story I like because it brings a sense of hopelessness and dread with it). Though its never quite clearly explained, it seems as if there are only a few gods even left in the world. Those who do live still, notably Zeus and Poseidon, require Perseus’ aid. When he scorns them, they seek out Hades (played by a mournful-looking Ralph Fiennes in what surely is not his finest hour). Hades, with the help of the jealous Ares, betrays his divine brothers, imprisoning Zeus and mortally wounding Poseidon, whose time and power have all but run out. Now it is up to Perseus and a rag-tag group of losers to rescue Zeus and save the world from the wrath of the titan (singular, not plural mind you) Cronus, whom Ares wishes to unleash upon society for reasons which are not altogether clear.
If the plot sounds incredibly forced, dumb, and illogical, that’s because it is. There is no reason for this film to exist artistically, and it shows. Directed by director-for-hire Jonathan Liebesman (whose last film Battle: Los Angeles was actually somewhat underrated), Wrath of the Titans is a brown-paletted mess of a movie. Like so many generic films before it, Wrath jumps from action set-piece to action set-piece haphazardly and illogically, with little regard for internal consistency or even, in most cases, common sense. It’s never clearly explained where our characters are going or even who some of our characters are to begin with. Soldiers are regularly dispatched with ease by villainous creatures without ever getting a line in. Jump-cuts and choppy editing almost refuse to give a sense of scale to battle scenes, which are disappointingly few and far between.
The performances by our main cast are not really the problem in this film. Worthington is fine once again as Perseus. He is a blank slate still, which is totally acceptable for this type of movie as noted earlier. Fiennes and Neeson play well off each other, and shine in their brief scenes together. Newcomers Rosamund Pike (as Queen Andromeda) and Toby Kebbell (as Agenor, human son of Poseidon) are also just fine. Bill Nighy gives a legitimately funny performance as outcast god Hephaestus, and in his brief scenes manages to elevate the film just a bit. But again, it’s not the cast that’s the principle problem here.
Wrath suffers because it just plain isn’t entertaining. A film like this needs to be at least exciting and action-packed, and Wrath really features neither of those qualities. Honestly, it’s pretty hard to screw up material like this. I can think of a hundred different ways the story could have gone. All Wrath had to do was be a pretty fun 90 minutes, and it should have been leagues better than, and built well upon, the Clash remake. But it’s just a bad film, at least until the climactic finale. The last 30 minutes are decent for an action spectacle film, though it isn’t nearly enough to make up for a lousy overall experience. Wrath of the Titans is pretty much the entirety of what’s wrong with current Hollywood filmmaking: it’s soulless, cheap-looking, and fails at even being considered standard entertainment. There’s nothing wrong with turning your brain off for an hour and a half and having fun in a big, loud commercial event film, but Wrath offers extremely little fun to be had. It’s not offensively bad, but it’s totally not worth seeing either.