Jonathan Liebesman recovers from blowing up Los Angeles to take the Titans series up a notch with some lush 3D and a solid cast.
We could blame Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings Trilogy for the revival of historical sword and sorcery epics, but the truth is that they have always been present in blockbuster cinema. Louis Leterrier’s remake of 1981’s Clash of the Titans, recounting the mythical story of Perseus slaying Medusa and the Kraken, was an unmitigated disaster, and a textbook example of bad spectacle. Yet with almost $500 million in the bank at the worldwide box office, there was enough cash of the Titans to justify taking a second kraken at the material.
Following his defeat of the Kraken, Perseus (Sam Worthington) has returned to the simple life of a fisherman, getting by as a single parent to his son, Helius. When his father, the god Zeus (Liam Neeson), approaches him for help, he is at first reluctant to accept his fate as a half-deity. However, as the gods diminish in importance in the lives of mortals, so too do their powers. Having imprisoned their father Kronos in the deep abyss of Tartarus, only the combined power of Zeus, Hades (Ralph Fiennes), and Poseidon (Danny Huston) can defeat him as their prison weakens. Perseus must embrace his destiny if humans are to be victorious.
South African director Jonathan Liebesman was on the fast-track to becoming one of the worst reviewed directors in Hollywood, with Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning and Battle: Los Angeles under his belt. Yet his consistent performance at the box office has earned him the right to helm a sequel to the 2010 blockbuster, and he approaches it with all the army of technical wizardry that he has amassed to date. On this level, Wrath of the Titans is a special effects success, using CG to create imagery that couldn’t possibly exist in the real world. From trio of cyclops to the emergence of the molten Kronos, everything is turned up to eleven on Wrath of the Titans. More than this, the 3D is actually some of the best that we’ve seen in recent years, fully shot for the format and immediately adding an immersive level of depth to the visuals.
Yet the depth mostly stops at the visuals, with the figures of Greek myth simply reshuffled like a deck of storyboard cards. The scenarios are all familiar, with the classic hero’s journey the basic story arc for Perseus. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as it emphasises the visual storytelling element to Dan Mazeau and David Leslie Johnson’s screenplay. For this is what Wrath of the Titans is: a visual representation of Greek mythology, handed down and reinterpreted by countless generations, just as much as the urns and plates of the ancient world. While liberties are no doubt taken with the material, this is action entertainment at its most reliable.
Liebesman has wisely surrounding his lead with a formidable cast of multi-accented thesps, deftly covering the fact that the by-the-numbers Worthington isn’t even trying to cover his Australian accent these days. His counterpoint in Édgar Ramírez as the conniving Ares is sufficiently moustache twirling. Alexa Davalos was thankfully replaced by the stunning Rosamund Pike, who provides not only a strongish female role to the cast but a worthy companion for Perseus. Roguish companion Toby Kebbell is also a standout, even if he is borderline Russell Brand at times. Neeson, Fiennes and Huston are largely perfunctory, but pad out the strong cast dealing with average material. Bill Nighy, who seems to be in everything, should be singled out as the batty Hephaestus, stealing every scene he is in.
Straightforward in its telling, Wrath of the Titans nevertheless offers enough spectacle and solid performances to makes this a solid crowd-pleaser.
Wrath of the Titans is released in Australia on 29 March 2012 from Roadshow Films.