Release Date (UK) – 30th March 2012
Certificate (UK) – 12A
Running Time – 99 minutes
Country – USA
Director – Jonathan Liebesman
Starring – Sam Worthington, Rosamund Pike, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Toby Kebbell, Bill Nighy, Edgar Ramirez
In 2010 Louis Leterrier’s Clash of the Titans, a remake of Desmond Davis’ 1981 film by the same name, hit cinemas in an attempt to follow up the success of Zack Snyder’s iconic 300. The film unfortunately failed to receive much critical acclaim and yet its modest commercial success has allowed Warner Bros to follow it up with a sequel, Jonathan Liebesman’s Wrath of the Titans.
Again centred around the demi god Perseus (Sam Worthington), who has decided to live the life of a fisherman and decline his father Zeus’ (Liam Neeson) invitation to join him on Mount Olympus, Wrath of the Titans is set roughly 10 years after the original. Perseus’ wife Io has died, and Perseus now cares for his son Helius (John Bell), in a small fishing community whilst Princess Andromeda (Rosamund Pike), who Perseus saved from the Kraken in the first film, is now Queen Andromeda and leader of the mortal alliance against the various monsters that plague their world. Meanwhile Hades (Ralph Fiennes) and Ares (Edgar Ramirez) plot to betray Zeus, Poseidon (Danny Huston) and the rest of the Olympian Gods by unleashing Kronos, leader of the Titans and father of Zeus, Hades and Poseidon from his prison within Mount Tartarus. After Zeus is imprisoned, Perseus is forced to travel deep into the underworld, aided by Andromeda and Agenor (Toby Kebbell), son of Poseidon, to save his father and prevent Kronos’ release.
The plot, like Leterrier’s Clash of the Titans, is particularly linear and intentionally simplistic to allow room for the various visual set pieces which utilise the extravagant nature of Greek mythology. Whilst these set pieces occur more regularly in Liebesman’s film and are more extravagant in scale, the preoccupation with visual effects serves only to destroy any continuity between the two films and to negate the main qualities of the first film.
Upon its release Clash of the Titans was unfairly criticised for its rather brash framework, Leterrier’s film did offer little in the way of narrative substance and there were a number of poorly constructed scenes, yet despite these discrepancies there was a wonderful pace and fluidity throughout the film. Furthermore Clash of the Titans utilised the still underused Ancient Greek setting effectively, as an Ancient Historian I was pleased by the various cleverly integrated references to Greek myth. Hollywood is packed with a number of unimaginative action adventure films that offer little in the way of originality and yet they are often welcomed with open arms if they feature one of Hollywood’s flavours of the months, Leterrier’s film offered something different and it should be praised as a result.
Furthermore Leterrier’s concentrated focus on Perseus and his gang of Argives, which included Draco, Solon, Eusebios and Ixas played excellently by Mads Mikkelsen, Liam Cunningham, Nicholas Hoult and Hans Matheson respectively on their quest ensured a sense of continuity. Clash of the Titans was a film centred effectively around one particular Greek myth which allowed time to build on the central characters, whereas Wrath of the Titans ignores the relationships established in the first film. Most notably Perseus was hell bent on destroying Hades after the god of the underworld had ruthlessly killed Perseus’ entire family, and yet there is no mention of vengeance in the sequel, and instead Liebesman attempts to bring in every and any Greek myth to allow for grander action sequences.
Instead of carrying on from Clash of the Titans Liebesman’s film is completely detached and there are very few indications (other than character names) that we are still in Ancient Greece. Wrath of the Titans has more in common with Michael Bay’s Transformers Revenge of the Fallen, in that from start to finish it is an uncoordinated amalgamation of action sequences which centre on big monsters hitting other big monsters wherein it is difficult for the audience to care in the slightest what is going on.
It is unfair, however, to completely dismiss Liebesman’s film on this basis. The action sequences and visual effects are impressive; in particular Perseus’ arrival on an island inhabited by the monstrous Cyclopes, which includes a very entertaining sequence where Agenor is trapped in a cage in the trees and a towering Cyclops pounds out of the mist. Although again in the fight that follows we have no idea who the few hoplites are that aid Perseus, it is very difficult to care for the heroes when we don’t know their names or faces.
Frustratingly the backing cast on show in Liebesman’s sequel is of the highest standard with Ralph Fiennes, Bill Nighy and Danny Huston all involved. Yet the preoccupation with visual effects means the cast are given little opportunity to shine. In fact it is difficult to spot the Oscar winner out of Sam Worthington and Ralph Fiennes (something you should never struggle to do), though this is through no fault of Fiennes but as a result of neither actor having the opportunity to do anything well or anything badly. Toby Kebbell does manage to add a few comical moments but the actors really are an afterthought in Liebesman’s sequel.
Wrath of the Titans is a disappointment, if you enjoyed Clash of the Titans you will undoubtedly be frustrated by the lack of effort to link the two films and whilst those who purely desire a visual spectacle will be temporarily entertained, Wrath of the Titans will unfortunately be lost and forgotten quite quickly. If you enjoyed Transformers Revenge of the Fallen or any of the Captain America/Iron Man superhero esq action films focused primarily on visual extravagance then you may wish to check Wrath of the Titans out in its full visual 3D glory but fans of films set in the Ancient world beware, Wrath of the Titans seems to forget its focus; Tarsem Singh’s Immortals is a far greater recent addition to the ‘Swords & Sandals’ genre.