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Dustin Putman

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Wrath of the Titans  (2012)
1 Stars
Directed by Jonathan Liebesman.
Cast: Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Rosamund Pike, Bill Nighy, Edgar Ramirez, Toby Kebbell, Danny Huston, John Bell, Lily James, Alejandro Naranjo, Freddy Drabble, Kathryn Carpenter, Sinead Cusack.
2012 – 99 minutes
Rated: Rated PG-13 (for violence).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, March 30, 2012.
When 2010's inferior remake of 1981's "Clash of the Titans" came to theaters with forceful box office numbers that speedily deflated once people got a look at its rushed, chintzy, glum, shark-jumping, headache-making 3D post-conversion, the thought of a sequel was non-existent. Sure, it's worlds better on Blu-ray in 2D, filled with detailed visual extravagance impossible to have noticed in theaters, but not even sterling high-def marks can fix a half-baked, one-note script. If a follow-up to a movie that few people liked seems unlikely, consider that money talks and "Clash of the Titans" earned a spectacular $493-million internationally for studio Warner Bros. Two years later, along comes the catchily-titled "Wrath of the Titans," a more-of-the-same time-waster that starts well, slows to a crawl, and ends in indifference. To the relief of no one, it's in faux-3D again, but who would want to pay exorbitant premium prices for that? Rest assured most multiplexes are offering the more desirable 2D option. You know, for those that like their time wasted.

Roughly ten years after half-human/half-God Perseus (Sam Worthington) saved the world from the Kraken, he has settled down to care for son Helius (John Bell) following the premature death of wife Io. In the interim, it turns out, people have stopped praying, the mounting lack of belief threatening the immortality of the Gods and unleashing demons across the land. Perseus' father, Zeus (Liam Neeson), seeks his aid, but he is reluctant to help until Poseidon (Danny Huston) shows up with word that Zeus is being tortured in the underworld by both brother Hades (Ralph Fiennes) and Zeus' own wayward son Ares (Edgar Ramirez). To defeat Cronus—the almighty dark Titan God that could spell doom for the earth—Perseus will need to travel into Hades' lair. Unable to do battle alone, he is joined in his otherworldly travels by Poseidon's son Agenor (Toby Kebbell) and sword-wielding queen Andromeda (Rosamund Pike).

"Wrath of the Titans" was directed by the hit-and-usually-miss Jonathan Liebesman (2011's "Battle: Los Angeles") and scrawled out by David Leslie Johnson (2011's "Red Riding Hood") and Dan Mazeau. These are perhaps not the most comforting forces in Hollywood to both continue and revive a series that wasn't necessarily meant to be a franchise to begin with, but there you have it. Pleasingly, for at least a good half-hour, the film shows a vital pulse, no more so than during a set-piece where a fire-breathing hydra attacks Perseus' village. Shot in bravura extended takes that must have been no easy feat to pull off, the scene is notable for its minimal editing, its inventive complexity, and the coherence with which it positions all the players in the sequence like pieces on an extensively thought-out chess board. Why aren't more action scenes made like this nowadays? The shaky cam and ultra-fast cuts have got to go. Case in point: a later interlude involving a minotaur that is so haphazardly shot by cinematographer Ben Davis (2011's "The Rite") one cannot even make out what the heroes are fighting until it's motionlessly laying dead on the ground after the fact.

In a film where Hades portentously announces without tongue placed firmly in cheek, "It has begun," as a harbinger of the apocalypse, dialogue and nuance of character aren't high up on the makers' to-do list. Imagine, though, what such a picture of this sort might be like if it did give the viewer someone to emotionally invest in. Food for thought. As Perseus' perilous trek continues, the pacing stops dead in its tracks with the appearance of Hephaestus (Bill Nighy), who leads the warriors into a labyrinth sequence so dreary and slow and uninspired it'll have even the most patient souls hoping for surprise David Bowie and Jennifer Connelly cameos. Everything finally leads to the third-act face-off with Cronus. What ought to be a fearsome, suspenseful show-stopper, however, turns into a botch job. Poorly conceived to be far too large in contrast to the humans, Cronus never is able to comfortably share the screen with anything else and remains so lumberingly huge that all it can really do is stand in one place and swing its fiery arms. Even the Kraken finale in "Clash of the Titans" was more satisfying than this build-up to nothing.

Overlong at 99 minutes, "Wrath of the Titans" follows the same predictable formula as its predecessor as Perseus is pitted against a cavalcade of beasts. With sturdier momentum, it might have worked on a pulp level, but director Jonathan Liebesman grows lazy very quickly, each challenge less thrilling and formidable than the last. His cast, including returning protagonist Sam Worthington (2012's "Man on a Ledge") as Perseus and a sorely mishandled Rosamund Pike (2011's "The Big Year") as Andromeda, have little to do but look brawny as they wait for their stunt doubles to take over. Liam Neeson (2012's "The Grey") and Ralph Fiennes (2011's "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2") hold on to their dignity as warring brothers Zeus and Hades, despite the latter basically playing Voldemort all over again—only this time with a nose. "Wrath of the Titans" looks good in the midst of a lot of dirt and brimstone, and the effects work is solid. Unfortunately, these positives are negligible when hung upon a skeleton of a script that is silly and mindless, but ultimately not much fun. Without that, what's the point?
© 2012 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman