The Gods indeed deserved better than the 2010 remake of 'Clash of the Titans', a wholly ill-conceived attempt at revisiting the campy Ray Harryhausen sword-and-sorcery epic that instead replaced the original's stop-motion visual effects with second-rate CG effects. And certainly, the producers seemed to have heeded the call with this sequel, retaining the fine cast from the original- Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes- while opting for fresh writers and a new director.
It's still as important however to keep your hopes down for 'Wrath of the Titans', especially for those expecting a sweeping mythological epic. Taking over the reins from French director Louis Leterrier is Johnathan Liebesman, and going by his previous works- 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning" and "Battle: Los Angeles"- the man is at best an efficient but uninspired director who pays more attention to visceral pleasures than to anything resembling depth.
That is certainly true of his work here, which vastly improves the action sequences of the original but little else. As if singularly devoting his time to create mind-numbing big-budget sequences, Liebesman invests little in the story and in his characters- God, demi-god and human alike. Both are mechanical at best and engineered with a specific purpose of taking his viewer from one jaw-dropping sequence to another, never mind the inconsistencies or the leaps of logic along the way.
So despite the exposition, the plot of the entire movie can be summed up in a one line- to save Zeus (Neeson) from his conniving brother Hades (Fiennes) and jealous son Aroes (Edgar Ramirez), the demi-god Perseus (Worthington) leaps back into full battle mode since retiring ten years ago to a quiet life in a small fishing village. Before facing the worst of them all, Perseus will have to go up against a host of hideous- looking monsters- a fiery-mouthed Chimera with two heads at the front and a snake's head at its tail; a trio of towering Cyclops giants; a Minotaur; and a band of half-man, half-rock soldiers with four arms and two bodies that twist around on a pair of legs.
There's no denying that the creatures this time are much more inventive, and the action sequences choreographed much more skilfully, adding up to a much more thrilling time than what its predecessor offered. Saving the best for last, Liebesman also crafts an epic finale with a gigantic lava-spewing monster known as the Kronos that also involves a whole legion led by warrior-queen Princess Andromeda (Rosamund Pike). The victory call at the end may be a tad overdone, but the climax alone is worth the price of admission and surprisingly impressive even in post- converted 3D.
Pity then that the rest of the movie often pales in comparison- and perhaps the most jarring of all is the poorly defined interfamilial conflict between Zeus, Hades and Aroes. Screenwriters Dan Mazeau and David Leslie Johnson (working off a story that's also credited to Greg Berlanti) give Aroes little motivation behind his father's betrayal other than his envy of Perseus, nor do they manage the sibling tension between Zeus and Hades convincingly. Worse still, they try to turn Hades into a less straightforward character by casting him as a reluctant pawn in Aroes' scheme midway into the movie, and the subsequent reconciliation between Zeus and Hades is laughable even with the considerable acting talents of Neeson and Fiennes.
Certainly, both thespians are well aware of the thin material here, but kudos to the pair for trying to imbue their Godly characters with the gravitas they usually bring to their roles. Among the more interesting additions to the cast are Bill Nighy as the loony weapons-maker Hephaestus whom Perseus approaches for help to gain entry to the underworld labyrinth Zeus is held captive, as well as Toby Kebbell as Poseidon's son Agenor and the only other character besides Hephaestus to have a sense of humour in the entire movie.
Indeed, the movie takes itself too seriously for its own good, ignoring its own campy origins in favour of a self-serious sensibility to its storytelling that only further exposes its plot and character flaws. This is, and perhaps has always been, about watching Gods, demi-gods and monsters go at each other with sound and fury- and thankfully, this sequel easily betters its predecessor on this regard alone. That's not likely to be enough to make the Gods happy though, but for those of us mortals looking for big-budget mind-numbing spectacle, this will do just fine.
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