This weekend I went to see Wrath of the Titans with my friends Kaye and (the sadly blog-less, ha!) Lori. Wrath is the sequel to the 2010 film Clash of the Titans, the remake of the 1981 film of the same name. Now the only thing I like about the original Clash is its little stop-motion animated monsters (they are Ray Harryhausen classics after all) -- in all other respects I prefer the remake, which turned out to be a surprisingly fun and entertaining popcorn flick.
Now Wrath is a ridiculous movie. COMPLETELY RIDICULOUS (much like its predecesssor). If you're a serious student of mythology these are most assuredly not the films for you. But if you are in the mood for an action movie, with lots of flash and spectacle (and lava, in this case), this movie delivers on that score. Of course the main reason I wanted to see it was Sam Worthington as Perseus. I think he's adorable. ADORABLE. And this movie is kind of interesting because it gives Perseus a shade or two of vulnerability. Opening ten years or so after Clash, we learn that Perseus has done his best to live a completely normal (i.e. human) life, working as a fisherman and doing the single parent thing, raising his young son Helius (John Bell) alone following the death of his wife Io (Gemma Arterton). Side note: I thought Io was immortal, but apparently when Zeus brought her back at the end of Clash she became human again? I'M OVERTHINKING THIS.
Fatherhood has apparently really mellowed Perseus out when it comes to his own father Zeus (Liam Neeson, looking remarkably like Moses), as the daddy issues that consumed Perseus for most of Clash are largely absent. Yay for father/son bonding! HOWEVER, Zeus's favorite demigod son is still reluctant to embrace his divine(r) half, even though the world is apparently going to friggin' end because the gods have fallen out of favor and that means Kronos (and all evil Titans) are going to be unleashed on the earth, destroying humanity. So all that really means is that there's NO MORE OLYMPUS and all of the gods (except Ares, Posiedon, Hades, and Zeus) are apparently already DEAD. How this came about is never really detailed, however my theory is since Luke Evans' film career (he played Apollo in Clash, the most interesting god IMO) is taking off the filmmakers figured WHAT'S THE POINT in even trying to maintain Olympus. Wrath's loss is Middle Earth's gain, lemme tell you. Also, Zeus is no longer blindingly SHINY, and this makes me sad. But whatever, I still have Sam Worthington and he is ADORABLE with curly hair, even if as Perseus, his determination to live a normal life means he has really let his fighting and winged-horseriding skills go.
|Look! I am ready to play Moses!
So OF COURSE Perseus should've listened to Zeus, because weird two-headed creatures pop out of the earth and go all crazy over his fishing hamlet. Whoops. Perseus leaves his son in the care of John Thornton's mother...I mean Clea (Sinead Cusack), some random woman whose apparently become Helius's adopted grandmother. When he tries to make contact with Zeus, Poseidon (Danny Huston) shows up instead with the horrible news that Hades and Ares have made a deal with Kronos and taken Zeus prisoner, and if he wants to defeat Kronos he has to take his trident to one of his own kids, some guy named Agenor (Toby Kebbell) -- AND THEN HE TURNS TO DUST (traumatic, no?).
Somehow Pegasus knows Perseus needs him which is good because Pegasus is COOL, so Perseus rides off to find his cousin, who is apparently attached to the Greek queen's court. The queen is in the battlefield, fighting off random creeptastic creatures, and she turns out to be JANE BENNET...I mean Andromeda, only this time Andromeda is played by Rosamund Pike and not Alexa Davalos. (I didn't remember this in the theater, so when Andromeda and Perseus are making eyes at each other and dancing around the issue of this oh-so-obvious mutual attraction, I didn't remember THERE WAS A HISTORY THERE. Apparently getting saved from the Krakken inspired Andromeda to become a kick-butt warror queen. More on her in a second.) Perseus's cousin turns out to be some sort of leech or something, but that's okay because he's really good-natured and provides some comic relief. (He may look familiar to those who've seen War Horse.) He just needed A CAUSE to set him on the right path! So yay, now everyone who wants the earth to LIVE has a plan: find a way into Tartarus and FREE ZEUS (who is being drained of his powers, horrors!).
Now it's time for the quest to COMMENCE. Everybody piles on a ship (which reminds me of Jason and the Argonauts) and heads off to find the fallen god Hephaestus, because he designed Tartarus so of course he can get them in. But that's easier said than done since he lives on an island protected by Cyclopes, which is a pretty neat little action sequence (and reminds me of the second Percy Jackson novel, The Sea of Monsters, which is weird because now a period mythology film is taking its cues for a YA novel? LOL). Cue the second surprise of the movie -- Hephaestus is a wee bit crazy and he's played by Bill Nighy, AND I LOVE BILL NIGHY, so the next few scenes are awesome. Not only did Hephaestus build Tartarus in his heyday, he's responsible for the Big Three's signature weapons -- the lightning bolt (Zeus), trident (Poseidon), and pitchfork (Hades), which when combined, form the Spear of Triam which is the only thing that can defeat Kronos, and surprise, surprise, Perseus is the only one capable of wielding it.
So everybody goes to the entrance to Tartarus, and the revolving "puzzle door" entrance and the subsequent layout of the labyrinth are really pretty cool. But before we can get to the maze Ares (this time played by Edgar Ramirez) shows up, and he has become a ROYAL JERK since Clash, consumed with daddy issues since he's a god and Perseus is only HALF-god but dad likes him better and DANGIT, THAT'S NOT FAIR RIGHT?!?! Sadly Hephaestus sacrifices himself in order to give Perseus, Andromeda, and Agenor a chance to enter the maze safely, and all I've gotta say is this film had far too little BILL NIGHY. *sigh* So ENTER THE MAZE, and like I said I think the design is really quite cool, and the whole experience is very stressful for everyone since they're seeing things and the walls are trying to crush them, etc. But I can't help but feel that somewhere Theseus is upset that he got gypped out of a film deal. Whatevs, though, because Perseus takes care of that pesky Minotaur gatekeeper thingy and Zeus gets rescued BUT IT IS TOO LATE because Kronos has SUCKED OUT MOST OF ZEUS'S POWERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! EEEPPP!!!!
What's interesting about this movie is the overall theme of familial reconciliation and sacrifice (along with a healthy dose of family dysfunction). Hades (Ralph Feinnes), who caused all of the problems in Clash, even has a change of heart here, sacrificing a good portion of his power for his brother, and they end up having one last hurrah on the battlefield. And of course there's the issue of the problem with parental favoritism, as that clearly sent Ares off the deep end. In that respect I think Wrath improves on its predecessor by deepening its characterizations and their motivations to some extent. (Also an improvement -- the score by Javier Navarrete, who provides a more traditional, rousing adventure movie score than its predecessor got.) Of course along with that there's a lot more explosions and fighting and special effects -- and the last battle, especially, was just a bit too much. Kronos the lava monster really overwhelmed the screen, losing the human characters -- and while I realize all of that is to be expected in a movie of this type, I prefer the one-on-one confrontations, such as the final Ares vs. Perseus battle, which actually has a bit of depth to it since Perseus is fighting for his father and his son.
So slaying Kronos and seeing his daddy turn to dust has made Perseus realize that it is HIGH TIME he quits fighting the inevitable. All of this means the fishing gig is out and he needs to step up and embrace his inevitable destiny as a LEADER OF MEN. This is a handy realization because of course Amdromeda might like to make him her king if HE WOULD JUST KISS HER ALREADY...and after being egged on by Agenor, he finally makes that happen, and I am really happy about that so all is well. But then the filmmakers decide to stress me out by having Perseus give his sword to his son, and leaving me wanting to yell "don't pass the torch!!!! don't pass the flippin' torch!!!" Because people for as much fun as these two Titans movies can be, of this I am convinced...we don't need Revenge, Return, whatever of the Titans with Perseus junior. That would just be a bit too much. Leave me with the happy thought that Perseus and Andromeda are going to rule Greece and I'll be ecstatically happy . :)