Fuck it. I’m just gonna say it. I loved Wrath of the Titans. It was awesome. I ate it up. It was better than its predecessor (I know, that isn’t saying much), and it blew away the very low expectations I had for it going in. And now I will attempt to justify that opinion, because I can already feel you looking at me funny. Don’t judge me.
DISCLAIMER: I fully admit that my admiration for and enjoyment of Wrath of the Titans may have been artificially enhanced by the fact that 3 of the 4 trailers that ran before it were Prometheus, The Hobbit and The Avengers. The euphoria of seeing those awesome trailers in rapid succession may have clouded my vision for the following couple hours. If the Dark Knight Rises trailer were also attached to it, I may have just left immediately after the trailer reel. It would have been too much of a nerdgasm to handle. As such, I reserve the right to change my opinion on a second viewing of Wrath, if that viewing comes when I’m cinematically sober.
I’ll keep this as brief as possible, and it won’t be full review. I want it to be just enough to hopefully convince you to give it a chance, because a lot of people rightfully have reservations after Clash.
Like many, I was greatly disappointed by 2010’s Clash of the Titans after initially being very excited to see it, but for whatever reason, to this day, whenever it’s on HBO, I always end up watching the whole thing. At the very least, I keep it on as background noise while I work on the computer. I understand it’s a bad movie overall, but because I can watch it time and time again regardless and always be entertained, I’ve put it on my list of “Bad Movies I Love”, where it joins some elite company alongside the likes of xXx, Batman & Robin, Snakes on a Plane and the bad movie to end all bad movies, The Room. Since that first film wasn’t what I hoped it would be, I wasn’t too excited when they announced they were rushing a sequel into development (despite Clash‘s creative failures, it still grossed $493.2 million worldwide). I was even less impressed when they announced it would be directed by Jonathan Liebesman. However, that was before I saw his first big-budget spectacle Battle Los Angeles last March, a film I actually dug quite a bit. I think I’m one of 18 people in America who actually thought it was good, but see if I care. Fuck the system!
So even after watching the trailers, I expected more of the same Clash from Wrath. That still wasn’t gonna stop me from seeing it, because I’ve always been a huge fan of fantasy and mythological creatures and gods, demigods, all of that shit. It tickles me in all the right places. Wrath promised even more of all of that stuff than Clash, if only because bigger & more is what all major sequels do. Wrath takes place 10 years after the events of Clash. Perseus (with his brand new perm) has a son (whose mother, Io from the first movie, is now inexplicably dead), and is back to living the simple life as a fisherman, having declined Liam Neeson Zeus‘ invite to live amongst the gods. But Hades (the returning Ralph Fiennes) is back to his evil deeds, having made a sinister deal with Kronos (who is apparently the father of the gods, but was banished to the underworld prison Tartarus long ago, and I’m already forgetting why). Hades is giving Kronos some of his godly powers to free him (and the Titans/demons) from Tartarus. Yes, it’s as convoluted as it sounds, but long story short, Zeus convinces Perseus to come out of badass retirement for another mega quest, this time into hell, because Zeus alone is no longer strong enough to fight the good fight himself (due to the fact that humans have stopped praying to the gods, which is what gives them their strength, yadda yadda yadda, booba jooba yooba). Or whatever like that right there. It would be nice if the film had a plot that makes sense, but it doesn’t, so let’s move on…
Anyway, the movie is lean at just 99 minutes, but it’s almost all action and forward movement. No time for character development or real drama, which is one of the things that prevents a good film like this from being exceptional. The things I love about this movie are things I wanted to just like; the action, the creature design, the big stakes (gods dying, demons shooting out of the ground and wrecking havoc, two-headed beasts running amok through an innocent village), and the epic scope. Honestly, parts of this movie feel Lord of the Rings epic, notably all the stuff taking place in the underworld and the big finale. It was basically Mount Doom II. I was really, really impressed by the vision of it, and the visual effects throughout the movie are pitch perfect or as close to it as can be. There were several really awesome individual action shots, demonstrating Liebesman’s potential. I’m very excited to see what this guy can do if he’s actually working off a strong screenplay. He has good instincts for really dramatic, impressive effects shots. The buildup to the Cyclops forest sequence is really cool, and good lord, those shots of people using the gods’ weapons were badass. These are some of the coolest movie weapons in years. This isn’t too spoilerish, but the sequence where Perseus rides the Pegasus (love the fuckin Pegasus!) up at Kronos carrying that lightning rod spear (I’m forgetting what it’s called) was truly awesome. The locations on the Spanish Canary Islands are gorgeous and expansive, perfect for this story. The production design and costumes felt suitably big and expensive, whereas parts of the first movie felt cheap and unconvincing.
Finally, you really can’t go wrong anytime Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes are sharing the screen, and they have several nice scenes together here. Actually, they’re the only ones who get scenes with any dramatic meat to them. I challenge any red-blooded male to not get excited when the two of them put aside their differences and join the battle side-by-side against Kronos and the Titans at the end of the film. I was eating that shit up like it was a main course of stuffed crust pepperoni pizza with extra cheese, and chocolate cake with rainbow chip frosting for dessert. It’s easy to understand why they both came back for the sequel. Aside from the money, there was some really cool stuff for both of them to do here, stuff that actors rarely get the chance to do on the big screen. It was also cool to see Bill Nighy, one of the greatest character actors alive, chewing up the scenery as Hephaestus.
What didn’t I like? Well, Sam Worthington remains a charisma-free generic action hero, but this role doesn’t really require much acting. He’s mostly a stuntman in the movie, and he’s a pretty good one at that. Come to think of it, I want to see a Sam Worthington vs. Channing Tatum fight to the death to determine which of them gets the “Hollywood’s Dullest Movie Star” world championship belt. I didn’t like that they recast Andromeda (the beautiful Alexa Davalos in Clash, the beautiful but very different looking Rosamund Pike here), and really there aren’t any human characters here worth caring about. I don’t like that the climactic moment again features Perseus flying at the big boss character and killing it in one blow with his newly acquired superweapon. If there’s a Revenge of the Titans or Remember the Titans or whatever, I want the final battle to be an extended one-on-one fight with someone his own size. Paging Channing Tatum!
So there you have it. This is not the best movie of 2012 thus far, not even close, but it is my favorite. There have been better films (The Grey and Safe House, to name two), but if given a choice, I’d choose to watch this first above everything else that the first quarter of 2012 has had to offer. I realize I’m going to be in the minority with this opinion (Wrath is running a dismal 24% on Rotten Tomatoes at the time of this publishing), but even if you hated Clash of the Titans, I’m giving this one a strong recommend, so long as you manage expectations. If all you do is enjoy the visual effects and action sequences, you’re going to get your money’s worth. I didn’t see it in 3D, so I can’t speak to the quality of the 3D experience. There are a few movies this year I am going to see in 3D, but this was not one of them.
I look forward to seeing a third film to complete this series, and since Warner Bros. just lost Harry Potter and is about to lose Chris Nolan‘s Batmovies as its cash cows, the studio has few proven franchises left. If Wrath is anywhere near as successful as Clash worldwide, a third installment is all but guaranteed.
IMDb rating: 7/10