First came Clash of the Titans, then a Clash reboot, and now Wrath of the Titans, the second in a planned trilogy. A second movie, let alone a planned series, might catch a lot of people off guard because 2010′s Clash of the Titans was a muddled mess of a movie that seemed like it would become an obstacle to funding any other movies in the series, sort of the way a bicyclist in a tight race trips up the ones behind him after a crash. Wrath of the Titans’ trailers looked like the filmmakers upped the ante with more epic epicness — armed creatures with two torsos cutting through soldiers, giant cyclopses smashing things, Sam Worthington with more hair, and Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes reprising their roles as Zeus and Hades. But the questions remain: Did the filmmakers get it right this time? Is Wrath of the Titans more of the same or one step forward in the right direction? Is one step even enough?
Zeus finds his son, the half-god and half-human Perseus (Worthington), living a normal life as a fisherman. A single father, Perseus wants nothing to do with the gods until Zeus shows up, less shiny (thankfully) and with words of warning. With faith being in short supply, the gods have lost much of their power, and who will keep Cronus, the ultimate titan and father of the gods, from breaking free of his prison in Tartarus? When Perseus’ village is attacked, he learns what’s at stake — the world could become a worse place for himself and his son if he doesn’t keep the worst case scenario from coming to fruition. Meanwhile, Hades and god of war Ares have joined forces to capture Zeus and give their powers over to Cronus in exchange for immortality.
Though Wrath is much more imaginative than the first, it still seems destined to fail in its quest for greatness. For every inescapable labyrinth, there’s a sudden and unexpected solution that saves the day. It’s an action movie on rails in which Perseus, lauded for his power, hardly feels like he’s in control of anything. He gets tossed around and beaten for much of the movie, but he always triumphs because he’s meant to. There’s a lack of tension in this movie, especially within the spheres of character relationships. Dialogue feels just as forced as the action — even more so as Zeus asks Hades if he will ever forgive him for banishing him to the underworld. When Hades asks why, Zeus explains, Because I forgive you for what you’re doing to me now. Poorly executed cues like these feel patronizing to an audience hoping for deeper and clearer motivations by characters who deserve more. Perseus, who should have the lion’s share of character development, lacks — he’s half-god, half-human, and all stone. He’s an action hero with the pedigree, but where’s the drama? Characters like Poseidon’s son Agenor (Toby Kebbell), who brings levity to Perseus’ crew of serious seriousness, and Bill Nighy as the schizophrenic Hephaestus are more fun to watch because, ironically, of what they say rather than what they do. Fiennes and Neeson, both wonderful and decorated actors, seem misplaced in a movie that gets a boost from their talents, though it doesn’t reward them for their efforts. Fiennes looks like he got the better pick of the two, playing the neglected and bitter Hades. Neeson is relegated to playing a character who constantly talks about fathers and the quality of being human. Wrath of the Titans, with its high production values lacks on the ground floor where the characters dwell. The tone of the movie tries to tread middle ground between camp and all-out seriousness, only to be exposed by its cliches and the dead weight it carries. Perseus need not feel restrained by his moral obligations — there’s a lack of joy in Wrath of the Titans which bogs it down and makes watching the movie a struggle in itself.