Silver Screen: Wrath of the Titans 1/2*
Imagine a restaurant that served you a gristly steak charred to the consistency of a gym mat alongside a bowl of raw potatoes hastily mashed up with a dirty garden trowel, served on a bed of pine needles. Noticing your grimace as you choke down the meal, the maî tre d' brings you an enormous dessert as an apology for the meal: vegan carrot cake studded with AAA batteries and frosted with suntan lotion.
Welcome to Nosh of the Titans, opening in the Universal Studios Food Court in May 2013.
The 2010 remake of Clash of the Titans was a lot to choke down. Gone were the wonderful Ray Harryhausen special effects and the zippy B-movie energy of the original, summarily replaced with endless uninspired computer-generated action and the frowny, unemotive Sam Worthington setting the dour tone. The movie made some money based on a jaunty trailer, a catch-phrase-of-the-week (“Release the Kraken!”)... and a lot of help from overseas markets. However, there was a pretty broad cultural consensus that it, in the words of Jacques Derrida, “sucked the big one.” Even star Worthington admitted, in an interview with Moviefone, “we kind of let down some people.... What we're setting out to do with this one-- the writers and the director and myself-- is improve… . This one I want to kind of try to satisfy a lot more people.”
One of the primary gripes about the 2010 Titans was the marketing campaign that promised big 3D action when in reality the film had been shot in 2D and sloppily retrofitted to capitalize on the emerging trend. That's the one complaint that Wrath of the Titans seems to have been addressed, even if the response is dubious. Yes, there's certainly a focus on 3D-action sequences, so ardent fans of things seeming far away and then moving kind of close if you wear special glasses should be satisfied.
Aside from the 3D, though, the original film's problems are only amplified. This one is even more leaden and humorless than the previous installment. Yet again Perseus (Worthington), a demigod with daddy issues, is forced to fight a bunch of monsters to bail out the gods at the behest of his father, Zeus (Liam Neeson, who I hope felt very silly in that getup). This time around Zeus has been kidnapped by Perseus's brother Ares (Edgar Ramirez), working in tandem with Hades (Ralph Fiennes). Perseus reteams with Queen Andromeda (Rosamund Pike) because... well, because the movie needed a girl, then heads down into the Underworld before Hades's scheming can unleash Kronos, father of the gods.
Director Jonathan Liebesman, who directed the moderately less silly Battle: Los Angeles, takes Wrath’s reins, but he's utterly unable to make the film seem like anything more than a collection of vaguely related setpieces. There's no sense of place-- the perspective shifts to random locales as Perseus is run through a clunkily episodic quest en route to an inevitable finale that just won't seem to arrive. A surprising amount of time is spent in endless conversations between old men in robes and big silly beards (Neeson and Fiennes alongside Danny Huston and Bill Nighy) reciting flat, expository dialogue.
Despite Wrath of the Titans' attempt to convey massive scope, the unclear and seemingly arbitrary paces its hero is put through make Perseus's quest seem less important than Jeff's in Jeff, Who Lives at Home. It's a bummer to think about how many small, cool movies the Duplass brothers could make just with Wrath of the Titans' budget for ZZ Top beards and funny wigs.
Follow Bryan Miller on Twitter@bmillercomedy.