– Summary –
Director : Jonathan Liebesman
Year Of Release : 2012
Principal Cast : Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Feinnes, Bill Nighy, Rosamund Pike, Sinead Cusack, Danny Huston, Edgar Ramirez, Toby Kebbell, John Bell.
Approx Running Time : 100 Minutes
Synopsis: Perseus is once more thrust into battle against enormous Greek mythological figures, as the power of the Gods begins to wane. Accompanied by the son of Poseidon, Perseus must travel into the Underworld to visit the prison of Tartarus, in order to rescue his imprisoned father Zeus from the clutches of Hades and Ares, who want to release the monstrous Kronos from his incarceration.
What we think : The epitome of Big Dumb Fun, Wrath of The Titans is filled with stunning visual effects, sound design and
story, no, acting, no wait, direction – the hell with it: you get what you expect from this film, and nothing more. It’s never about the acting, nor the plot, and for some reason Hollywood still seems keen to give Sam Worthington lead roles in films; up against the monsters and demons he does well, but he’s utterly unconvincing as Perseus once again when it comes to things like emotion and “acting”. Wrath is large-scale popcorn entertainment that will never win an Oscar, but will certainly keep the teenage boy market (and me) quite happily entertained for 90 minutes.
Greek Mythology. Accents Optional.
It’s surprising, considering the sheer wealth of material available to filmmakers, that ancient Greek mythology hasn’t been more greedily mined to this point. Wrath of The Titans, the second of the Titans franchise (after the woefully received Clash of The Titans back in 2010) attempts to redeem the original film by adding in more demi-gods and mythological figures than one film rightfully ought to contain, but once again, audiences are let down by some shoddy scripting, terrible performances and plot holes wider than a Hydra’s backside. Wrath is a decent looking and sounding film, and it’s quite fun to see old hands like Liam Neeson and Ralph Feinnes trying to be all serious within the ludicrousness of the story, but the wringing of stodgy emotional zephyrs from an otherwise lean, mean narrative undoes any good work from new-to-this-franchise director Jonathan Liebesman.
Some ten years on from events in Clash Of The Titans, demi-god (and son fo Zeus – played again by Liam Neeson) Perseus (Sam Worthington) is a widower, raising his young son Helius (John Bell) as a fisherman in a local village. After a visit by Zeus, who informs Perseus that the power of the Gods is failing due to humanity’s increasing lack of devotion, it is announced that the walls of Underworld prison Tartarus are beginning to fail, releasing demons and other mythical creatures onto the Earth to wreak destruction. Perseus refuses his father’s request to join him to halt this concern, however after a chimera attacks his village, he realises he once more must pick up his sword and save the world. Zeus, meanwhile, is captured by Hades (Ralph Feinnes) and held captive in Tartarus, draining his power to revitalize a long-imprisoned Kronos, the father of Zeus, who will tear the Earth asunder should he escape. Alongside the son of Poseidon (Danny Huston), Agenor (Toby Kebbell) and Queen Andromeda (Rosamund Pike, filling the shoes of former player Alexa Davalos), Perseus journeys into the Labyrinth to locate Tartarus and prevent Kronos from rising and destroying the world.
Clash director Louis Leterrier stepped down from steering duties for this one, preferring instead to remain in a producer role, leaving the way clear for action-director Liebesman to step up and have his shot at this big-budget effects extravaganza. Liebesman, best known to audiences for directing Battle: LA and the truly abysmal Darkness Falls (a contender for Worst Film Week at some point, I’d wager) delivers a full throttle Event Movie, eschewing subtlety for large-scale, gargantuan action sequences and battles, and a full-bore raping of the Greek myths for our listless entertainment. Liebesman knows how to deliver visual effects, and Battle LA showed that given the right material he’s able to draw out convincing performances from his cast, but here he’s badly let down by a script more concerned with action than with anything remotely resembling character development. The script, from duo Dan Mazeau and David Leslie Johnson, is risible in it’s execution of presenting Perseus as some sorrow-filled (or fueled) half-man-half-god, skips over any legitimate claim to be worthy of even using the myths it draws from, and risks lamentation over so many opportunities missed. There’s scant regard for explanation as to who half of these people are – obviously, you’re expected to watch Clash first, although even that’s a risky proposition for fans, because it’s not likely that that will help with a lot of what’s going on here.
Characters seem to be written by committee, with as many trailer-worthy sound-bites as can be thrown at the screen within 100 minutes of blockbusting pseudo-Greek antagonism, devoid of internal truth and lacking a genuine spark of creativity. Perseus might as well be a block of wood for all his character has as a journey emotionally throughout the film, although it’s perhaps partly a fault of Worthington’s straighfaced and monotone portrayal of the character that leaves the viewer flat. Screen compatriot Agenor, essayed by Toby Kebbell, is as close to “comedy relief” as we get here, and although his character deserved better than we see, Kebbell still manages to deliver something worthwhile with it- barely. Bill Nighy appears as Wrath’s version of James Bond’s Q, the gadget guy, doing his crazy best to ensure his persnickety portrayal of a fallen God isn’t at all like the many other crazy characters he’s done over the years. Rosamund Pike armors up as the replacement Queen Andromeda, with a secret crush on Perseus, although her role might as well be played by a dude because she’s barely feminine in it at all. I like Pike, and I’ve seen her do some solid work, but this is just a paycheck for her, I’d say. Of course, the major draw with Wrath is the reappearance of Liam Neeson and Ralph Feinnes as Zeus and Hades respectively – and most people were waiting for another “Release the Kraken” line from Neeson in this: it never eventuates, although the script truly does try and facilitate some gravitas with every pronouncement he makes. Neeson looks bored by the whole thing, and Feinnes almost hardly bothers to rise from his “this is kinda like Voldemort” essaying of Hades – swap the hair and the staff for a noseless face and a wand and you’d be right back at Hogwarts. Edgar Ramirez is solid, if poorly serviced by the script, as Ares, Zeus’s other son who despised all the attention his father has lavished on Perseus over the years. This conflict in particular is badly handled.
The sidebar narrative of Perseus’s love for his son mirroring Zeus’s love for Perseus is a good idea, yet terribly executed. Liebesman can’t quite hone in on the emotive qualities between the father/son dynamics of this film, with even Poseidon’s son Agenor coming in for short thrift over his garrulous relationship with his trident-wielding father. It’s this kind of thing that just cripples Wrath as a solid entertainment beyond the battles; the core emotional journeys within the film just aren’t strong enough to warrant the effort of portraying them – they should have been better written, or left aside altogether to make this just an affair of carnage (or something, I don’t know!). Nighy’s turn as Hephaestus, which had potential to be really moving since he was a “fallen god”, is more a caricature than anything, and so disappointing. John Bell, as Perseus’s son, merely exists to provoke Perseus into action, and his role is little more than a pivot point for the narrative – he’s never a real character, and at times his performance feels forced and contrived. Oh, and don’t get me started on the accents in this film, either. Worthington moves between his Aussie accent and a fake-European one from time to time, while you’ve also got British and American, as well as some other hodgepodge, throughout the movie. I think the scholars of classical antiquity would be rolling in their crypts were they to learn how their heroes, gods and monsters had been Hollywood-ised, given accents as broad and noticeable as the gaps in the plot.
The action, or should I say the special effects that encompass the might action sequences, are actually pretty terrific. There’s a chimera attack on Perseus’ village to open the “wrath”, while a battle between Perseus’ gang and three Cyclops is actually decently mounted. But the real thrills kick in when we start to see Kronos, a taller than a mountain and a living body of molten lava, come to life. You wonder how the armies of Greece would stand on the ground, look up and go “yeah, we can take him” for realsies, but they do, and do it well. As a spectacle, as an epic Epic, Wrath of The Titans certainly delivers in many areas, although its weakening by various lapses in foundation narrative ends up diluting the overall impact. The whole enterprise feels manufactured, almost soulless to the point of being like watching somebody else play a video game, a game you can’t join in on. That being said, the film does move at a cracking pace, ensuring your attention, while certainly lacking in quality material, is never bored. Perhaps the mantra behind this film was to simply overwhelm the audience’s senses with sound and fury and hope to skate by without being pinged for lazy, depth-free film-making.
Wrath of The Titans is by no means a terrible film. Yeah, it’s got plenty of issues, most of which stem from a horrid lack of depth in the script, and others which one could derive from the idiotic focus on explosions and battle over character development, but from a sheer so-stupid-it’s-fun angle, I’m hard pressed to outright hate it. Since my credibility in this blockbusting genre is screwed (I adore Armageddon, so I can’t bring myself to hate this film) I’m just gonna say that if you though the first film was pretty, simple fun, you’re gonna have a ball with Wrath. It’s annoying to see a film with so much potential just screw it up and set fire to it, but beggars can’t be choosers. Wrath is the epitome of Big Dumb Fun, and I found it utterly, unrepentantly enjoyable. Now, if we could just get the Kraken and Kronos to have a go at each other, then that might be a film to watch!
Picture Quality (2D Version)
Regardless of your opinion on the actual film, Wrath of The Titans delivers knockout blow after knockout blow on BluRay. Picture quality, which was a major issue for the 3D edition of Clash of The Titans, is superb here, with the aspect ration changing between films to the 1.85 format for Wrath. The dusty hues of ancient Greece, the dingy darkness of the Underworld and Tartarus, and the fireball-swept landscape of the Grecian armies defending against Kronos in act 3, all look utterly desolate on this BluRay edition. Colors are superbly rendered, with vivid hues of red and yellow spearing across the screen against the blackened hues of the Underworld, while shadow definition is exemplary. There were no noticeable compression issues, no banding or ringing, or artificial sharpening (to my eye), leaving what amounts to a rock solid, issue-free visual component of the film.
Like its predecessor, Wrath Of The Titans delivers a thunderous sonic display when this one’s cranked up. The DTS-MA 5.1 track is robust (something of an understatement, actually) in every way; from the sublime mid-range and high end sound to the bowel-trembling LFE that assaults virtually every second minute in the soundtrack. Channel cross-fading is equally sublime, with plenty of rear channel panning through the centre front channel and across the mains. Channel definition is excellent, dialogue is always distinguishable, while the bass never overpowers what is a terrifically mixed audio track. Wrath delivers exactly the kind of audio experience home cinema was designed for. Potent, powerful and often subtle as required, you’ll hear the Wrath long before you ever feel it.
The Australian BluRay release, specifically the 2D edition, has fairly minimal bonus material, although among those included is an engaging and often informative Maximum Movie Mode, mush like we saw on films such as Terminator Salvation and the recent Harry Potter films. The MMM is divided into two comp0nents, the Path Of The Gods, and The Path of Men; the former deals mainly with the mythology of the film, while the latter spends more time on the film-making journey itself – you can switch between modes as you watch, and at times they will converge with footage and material combining both aspects. Several focus points within the MMM can be accessed individually via an alternative menu selection. A selection of deleted scenes – most of indeterminate value – are also included. If it wasn’t for the MMM feature, the score for the bonus features would be extremely low. I don’t believe, however, that one should pick up this film just to watch the MMM, because while it’s certainly entertaining and informative, it’s not enough to warrant a blind buy on this movie.
It’s a given that most people are gonna pick up this BluRay if they already own Clash Of The Titans, and while I can’t speak for the 3D version, I’m going to admit to finding the technical presentation of both picture and audio on this 2D disc almost faultless. That alone is reason to have at least a cursory look (perhaps rent it first), and if you’re interested in seeing Hollywood butcher the mythology of Greek culture then the Maximum Movie Mode included will be right up your alley.