Brown Bombast

For all the largeness, 'Wrath of the Titans' is weirdly not much fun.

Wrath of the Titans continues what the 2010 remake Clash of the Titans started. It brings back Perseus and takes him on yet another cobbled together quest that pits against a gauntlet of CGI monsters. The film strips the CGI blockbuster down to the basics, mostly removing all the extraneous elements leaving audiences with the beating core of the action film. But it also strips away much of the personality, resulting in a bombastic yet drearily brown experience. It will fill the need for CGI setpieces, but it seems unlikely to be remembered.

The heavens are in turmoil. Humans are no longer praying to their gods, depriving them of their power. Zeus (Liam Neeson) comes to his mortal son Perseus (Sam Worthington) to ask for his help in holding back the titan Kronos, who he fears might escape his prison in Tartarus. Perseus, determined to live a quiet life, refuses. But in Tartarus, Zeus is betrayed. As demons start wreaking havoc in the realm of man, Perseus is forced to call on the gods. A dying Poseidon tells him of Zeus’ fate, and Perseus goes on a quest to save his father and the rest of the world. He is sent to a mythical island, where he is to seek out a fallen god who knows the secrets of Tartarus.

The story here is merely a pretense for sending the nondescript protagonists through a series of CGI setpieces. It’s all very flimsy, and the progression of all of it makes little sense. This is most clear in the characters’ trip through a shifting, seemingly unnavigable labyrinth. The solution to the labyrinth seems to present itself willingly to the heroes once they’ve spent enough time in it, and they make it to the other side almost through no effort of their own. The characters are indistinct and largely interchangeable. Queen Andromeda, the sole female character, seems to be there just so Perseus can have someone to kiss.

To the film’s credit, it improves on the typical CGI-heavy blockbuster by being mercifully short. At 99 minutes, the film has little time to waste on the stilted drama and painful romantic subplots that tend to bog down other blockbusters. The film delivers on the action, building to a rather ridiculous third act crescendo that has the heroes facing down a world-ending threat. The effects are okay, but the direction tends to keep the camera too shaky to really appreciate it. There’s an early sequence that features a longer shot that trails Perseus as he chases down a monster. The film would have benefitted from more sequences like this one. But most of the fights are shot too close, or are just buried in CGI.

Like the first film, Wrath of the Titans is in 3D. Also like the first one, the 3D is utterly worthless. The franchise seems determined to drive the technology into the ground. The acting is a bit of a mixed bag. Sam Worthington is watchable but empty, lacking the sort of charisma that would distinguish him from the dozens of muscular actors that populate Hollywood. Rosamund Pike has a bit more personality, but the writing doesn’t support it. All of the heavy lifting is done by Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes, who are able to build a complete dramatic arc out of slices of performance.

It would be a bit much to call Wrath of the Titans a bad movie. It is big and loud and flashy, while still being short enough to not be an ordeal. If nothing else, it’s an efficient delivery system for a quota of CGI monster battles. If it were to be called anything, it would “indistinct.” The story is barely there, and the film as a whole lacks a personality of its own. The film is built around its effects, and while it can be impressive at times, for the most part it just seems like a bunch of nondescript people waving their swords in the air. For all the largeness, the film is weirdly not much fun.

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