Friday, April 13, 2012

711 - Wrath of the Titans review

“Wrath of the Titans” is a sequel that doesn't have to clear a terribly high hurdle to best its predecessor. “Clash of the Titans,” the 2010 film roundly criticized for its mundane plot and dreadful post-production 3-D, was so boring that I'm having trouble remembering much of it. Here, we've got something a bit better, a would-be blockbuster that generates enough interest that the average audience member should be able to recall at least two cool scenes immediately after the credits. There's your standard for this sort of movie: can one remember at least two scenes they enjoyed?

Like its predecessor, this one features a quest led by Perseus (Sam Worthington), the half-god son of Zeus (Liam Neeson, of course), to defeat the evil schemes of Hades (Ralph Fiennes). Here, the gods are embroiled in a bitter feud over their own power and the fate of humanity, leading Hades to place Zeus in shackles and attempt to conquer all of the known world, which seemingly includes some concept of heaven and hell. Despite this, Hades laments that while humans have an afterlife to look forward to, as a god he and Zeus can only anticipate oblivion. So here we have this: gods who anticipate the afterlife for others, but not for themselves. Is that a distant cousin of atheism?

Perseus' team, which includes the human queen Andromeda (Rosamund Pike) and Agenor (Toby Kebbell), son of Poseidon (Danny Huston), travels across Greece in order to defeat Hades and restore balance to the Force, or humanity to earth, or something to that effect. I never was entirely sure what Perseus' party was doing at this place or with that person, but the why is clear, even as the how was a bit murky.

The film looks pretty good, as long as one doesn't blunder into a 3-D screening (note: if you can ever see a film in 2-D instead of 3-D, then do so). The action scenes typically involve elaborate fights where human-sized men and women plunge edged weapons into well-animated monsters, a formula that drew no complaints from me, even if it didn't generate enormous interest, either.

Of special note is a scene where the characters must navigate a labyrinthine prison in order to infiltrate the underworld, and a fiery beast at the end that can soak a battlefield with molten lava. These effects look great, and are directed just well enough by Jonathan Liebesman that one has a reasonable shot of knowing exactly what's going on.

The actors handle their roles as well as could be expected of one reciting expository dialogue about gods and monsters. Neeson and Fiennes starred together in “Schindler's List,” and one wonders, do they as actors enjoy this sort of work to that? Is a big budget movie with no brain more fun or even more challenging, or does it just remodel the kitchen? Something to think about when the characters are just talking about the plot.

“Wrath of the Titans” carries virtually none of the thematic weight of “The Hunger Games,” its primary American competition, nor does it possess that film's storytelling clarity. On the other hand, it does cost about twice as much, even though it entertains about half as much, which with this comparison, isn't a crippling fraction. At least it has its two scenes.

3 out of 5

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