By Shane M. Dallmann
Before I start in, please remember that while fan opinion on the remake of CLASH OF THE TITANS was split down the middle, I was part of the faction that did NOT have a problem with it–I thought it was a very enjoyable return engagement of freely-adapted Greek mythology which respected its inspiration.
Well, now we have the unprecedented sequel. Years after the “original” CLASH, Perseus (Sam Worthington again) is now a widower trying to raise a young son on his own. As the movie begins, he’s prevailed on to take a long journey in order to resolve the estate of an eccentric old widow…
…oh, wait–that’s THE WOMAN IN BLACK. Sorry. Actually, you can’t blame me for making the mistake… WRATH OF THE TITANS starts with the same “gloom and doom” atmosphere even before Perseus is dispatched on his journey… actually, he’s going to Hell in order to rescue Papa Zeus (Liam Neeson). See, now that most people have stopped worshipping the gods, not only are they reverting to mortality, but everything they’ve helped put together on Earth is starting to fall apart. An attempt to form a “band of brothers” (a reunion of Zeus, Poseidon and Hades) is met with resentment and bitter treachery, and (long story short), only the half-human sons of Zeus and Poseidon can hope to set things right. Opposing the deal is Zeus’s OTHER son Ares, and one of the new movie’s best ideas suggests that praying to Ares is the best way possible to get yourself wiped off the map…
Okay–the setup isn’t bad (even if it’s a little RETURN TO OZ dismal in contrast to the Olympian pleasures of both versions of the original). But WRATH OF THE TITANS has bigger problems than the cynically anachronistic dialogue, the largely uninteresting characters and a pointless SECOND cameo by Bubo the Mechanical Owl (we got it the first time, okay?). And it’s so simple to figure out…
Even the very WORST of the inspirational Ray Harryhausen features (SINBAD AND THE EYE OF THE TIGER, anybody?) gave you visual marvels to distract you from the banality of the characters (of course, the very BEST gave you enthralling tales even when the monsters had surprisingly little screen time–MYSTERIOUS ISLAND comes readily to mind… and to invoke something like JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS would be to erase the new CLASH movies from memory in an instant). What exactly is there to captivate you in WRATH? The new movie doesn’t even seem to want you to pay attention to the monsters!
Let’s see… there’s a two-headed, fire-breathing, flying chimera-something. You don’t get anything resembling a good look at it until the battle is nearly over. Some pale variation of Tim Curry’s LEGEND demon tries to jump Perseus (yeah, I know how that sounds) in the Underworld. You don’t get to see what he looks like until HE’s taken care of. You DO get a good look at the Cyclops family in what is probably the best extended sequence in the film. And yes, you DO get a good look at the fire-and-brimstone god Cronos as he rises to attack humanity near the end–he’s not bad, but he starts his assault by disgorging hordes of what appear to be double-bodied iron/fire warriors… well, good luck trying to catch a decent glimpse of any of THEM, either!
Whatever happened to the thrill of watching Talos approach? To the slow advance of the skeleton warriors? Of the griffin battling the centaur? Why can’t we take time to SAVOR the “titans” of the title? Why do we get “whipsaw” now-it’s-over crises? For that matter, what happened to the spellbinding Greek underworld and its series of never-ending challenges and punishments? Here, we get the typical ocean of fire and an ever-shifting Rubik’s Cube architectural perspective (perhaps that was for the sake of the converted 3-D, but trust me, you don’t need it here any more than you needed it the last time around).
WRATH OF THE TITANS set me up for a good, old-fashioned, mythological creature-feature. It didn’t have to be Harryhausen stop-motion, you understand… all it had to do was demonstrate why those classics worked as well as they did.