"Wrath of the Titans"
Warner Bros. Pictures
1 hour, 39 minutes
I remember when I was a kid, movies about Greek mythology were just about as good as it gets. Great stories. Heroes. Villains. Monsters. It was awesome. I saw the original "Clash of the Titans" when I was 8 years old in a packed theater. My mother and I had to sit in the front row, and I loved every minute of it.
There were certainly some differences between movies back then and today, of course. For one, the effects weren't as good, but I think that maybe that made the movies a little sweeter, somehow. Less time was spent on the terrifying reality of whatever beast it was, and more time was spent on character development. The other difference was that there wasn't the glut of superhero films the way there are today. The only real superhero fantasy we had of any kind of quality was "Superman," and he was just a little square. Great, but not really out fighting giant monsters or six-headed dragons.
The more recent incarnations of the Greek mythology movies have lost their charm and focused so much on the ability to bring monsters to life, that they've completely lost the stories they were trying to tell. This is true of the 2010 version of "Clash," as well as this year's ridiculous "Immortals" and finally, this week's "Wrath of the Titans."
"Wrath" begins with a brief review of the Titans themselves, basically Zeus and Co.'s forbearers, and then dives right in to the action. With almost no preamble, Zeus appears in the home of Perseus, the half-human, half-god son of the ruler of Olympus and all the gods of the pantheon. Perseus, if you're not familiar, previously fought a bunch of monsters in order to tip the scales in a battle between Zeus and Hades, God of the Underworld. Now, still somewhat bitter about being half-divine for some reason, Perseus has declared his retirement from adventuring and just wants to be a quiet fisherman with his young son at his side.
Zeus, however, has other plans. Seems that people's lack of faith in the gods is weakening the great prison of Tartarus, where the Titan Kronos is held captive. Kronos, the father of Zeus, Hades, and Poseidon, wants to be free so he can wipe Earth clean of gods and men and let chaos reign. Not a fun guy, by any means. Zeus wants Perseus to fight alongside him and rebuild Tartarus, but our hero would rather fish, so it's a no go.
Zeus, to his credit, decides to try and keep Kronos held captive anyway, but after a series of double-crosses, betrayals, and lightning-bolt blasts, the old man is taken captive. Shortly after this, and I was unclear as to why this happened, a giant double-headed beast called a Chimera attacks Perseus' village, forcing him to journey to Tartarus, fighting monsters the whole way, to save his father and the day. Yawn.
It's not that the story the filmmakers are telling is bad one, though it is a bit old hat. It's that there is no attempt to involve us in the characters. I only knew anything about these incarnations of Perseus, Zeus, and the Warrior Queen Andromeda because I'd seen the previous "Titans" film, but still had little reason to care about them. I can't imagine what I would have thought walking into this movie fresh. The director and screenwriters are so eager to get us into the action, into the effects-scenes, which are, admittedly very good, that they forget about the reason we're there at all. Or maybe they didn't. Maybe they know that the only reason anyone is going to see this movie is for the effects. Maybe character development is a luxury that they can't afford.
It's too bad this film is so weak, because I was looking forward to it quite a bit. I was convinced that "Wrath" would be better than its predecessor because it wouldn't have to be beholden to the 1981 movie, as was the case in 2010. Instead, this film steals liberally from the tales of Theseus and a dozen other Greek heroes to create a hodge-podge plot and warmed over characters. That I was forced to watch the movie in 3-D only added insult to injury.
"Wrath of the Titans" isn't horrible. Aside from a lot of blowing sand, it looks pretty good, and some of the action sequences are not bad. But from the awkward humor to the continuing disdain for the characters (Pegasus, the flying horse, appears out of nowhere with no explanation as to where he'd been or how he got the word to join the fight), I just couldn't buy it. Rather than stir my blood, "Wrath" did little more than draw my ire.
"Wrath of the Titans" is rated PG-13 for fantasy violence and creature scares.
Chris Jenness is a freelance graphic designer, artist and movie buff who lives in Nikiski.