Return of the Terrible

Wrath of the Titans

Considering the general blandness of the Clash of the Titans remake, one would assume that there would have been no need for a sequel of any kind (not the least of which being that the myth of Perseus and Andromeda that the film was based on had been all used up in that film, albeit inaccurately). There was, in effect, no more story for Perseus to tell and seemingly no reason to go back and do so. Clearly I was wrong as Warner Bros. had other plans.

Just two years after the release of the 20010 remake we were graced with sequel Wrath of the Titans (because "Wrath" sounds a bit like "Clash", I guess). The film is similarly bland and loaded with CGI, as you would expect from any modern big-budget blockbuster, but it does manage to improve on the previous film in a few areas. Characters are more interesting, the action feels a little better paced, and the film does pay off at least one thing the previous two films never managed: it includes an actual Titan. Chalk one up for the unnecessary sequel.

Set ten years after the previous film, we pick up with Perseus (once again played by animate chunk of meat cube, Sam Worthington), once more a fisherman. His wife, Io, had died sometime back (a travesty considering she was the best character in the previous film), leaving Perseus to raise his son, Helius (John Bell), on his own. He wants nothing more than the simple life as a human, but fate always has a way of pushing us where we don't want to be. The power of the gods is failing, leaving Zeus (Liam Neeson) to worry that the old titan Chronos may rise once more. Without the power of the gods to keep the Titan in check, all may fall.

Unfortunately for Zeus, he's betrayed by Hades (Ralph Fiennes) and Ares (Edgar Ramirez) and trapped down in Hades so that his power can be siphoned off to Chronos. This means that the only one who can possible save the world is Perseus, the reluctant hero. He has to venture off to Argos, which will be the first line of defense against the Titan (for... some reason), where he meets up with Andromeda (now played by Rosamund Pike), the Queen of Argos and leader of their army. Together, alongside Perseus's cousin (and son of Poseidon), Agenor (Toby Kebbell), they'll have to venture on a quest to find the power to defeat the gods.

There are things this film does right, and wrong, but the biggest thing it improves upon from the first film is that it stops Perseus from being such a wet blanket. Yes, in this film he does spend a little time waffling about helping his father, all because he wants to protect his own son, but once Perseus sets his mind to saving the world he's a proactive hero. That is so much better than in the previous film where people had to cajole him, kicking and screaming, into his heroic duties. Perseus is active, he's engaged, and he's generally the one doing the heroic actions.

Downside, though, is he's still played by Sam Worthington. I've said it before but I just don't understand why Worthington was such a big star. He did get attached to one massive film, Avatar, and it seems like Hollywood decided some of the credit for that film's success had to be laid at Worthington's feet (despite it being obvious people just love sexy blue cat people in 3D). He had a string of films in the early-to-mid 2010s, most of which did only okay, and he was always listed as "one of the worst things about this film." He's just so bland, every time, and he brings that same blandness to Perseus. This is a case where the writing, and not the actor, elevate the character. Worthington is just along for the ride.

Thankfully, around this sucking void of blandness we do have real, good actors picking up the slack. Although I don't think Alexa Davalos is a bas actress, her version of Andromeda was nowhere near as lively or interesting as the version of character given to us by Rosamund Pike. This Andromeda has spunk and spirit and acts like she really could lead an entire army on her own. This is the Andromeda we needed, the heroine to balance out Perseus. Joining them is Toby Kebbell's Agenor, who is so great as the comic relief. He's the goofball, the clown, and Kebbell clearly had a lot of fun with the role. These two add the spice that Worthington lacks, making the film much more watchable, at least when it's just the three of them on a hike.

Where the film falls down is in its action sequences. These are just so much CGI claptrap, splashed upon the screen in the hopes that the loud cacophony of sights and sounds with distract us from the very basic "go fetch a McGuffin" plot line. We get heroes fighting CGI cyclopes, heroes getting lost in a CGI labyrinth, heroes fighting a CGI minotaur, heroes fighting a CGI Titan. It's all very animated, but it lacks any substance or sense of reality. It's action without weight, not helped by the fact that so much of it looks fake. The CGI simply can't get over the uncanny valley this time, this despite an increased budget. It's hard to see where the money was spent.

Alongside all this, though, is the fact that the plot never really gives us a reason to care. Sure, Titan against Earth, we get that. But the motivating factor is that the gods are losing their power and dying. Is that supposed to make us sad? The gods, as shown to us in the first film, are dicks. It's hard to imagine anyone shedding a tear over Zeus or Ares or any of them. Yes, them dying off means Chronos can rise, but that doesn't mean we want the gods around. If the point is to save the gods because, well, they're the gods, the film never makes that case, and it really needed to so that we invested in everything going on.

In fact, the film does so little groundwork for its own story that a late game twist (giving our heroes the edge in the process) lands with a thud because it comes out of nowhere. The film really wants us to care about these people and what they're doing, but the basic story is so linear, and so under-baked, that it's hard to. We like Andromeda and Agenor because they're played by charismatic actors. We tolerate Perseus because he's at least doing stuff. It's just hard to care about anyone else.

I would rate Wrath of the Titans as a better film that 2010's Clash, but that previous film set such a low bar you'd expect anything to exceed it. This sequel isn't great, but it's far more watchable than the previous film. They still both lack the charm and watchability of Clash of the Titans '81 though.