Film Review: Wrath of the Titans

Greek gods and demigods return in a spiffed-up adventure involving Hydras, Cyclops, and Kronos himself. Strong 3D effects help make this worth seeing.

Critics scoffed at 2010's Clash of the Titans, but its gross of close to a half-billion dollars almost guaranteed this sequel. The good news for theatres is that Wrath of the Titans is more of the same, only with louder, splashier special effects. Viewers luck out as well, thanks to a streamlined screenplay, tight editing and focused directing.

Wrath picks up a few years after Clash, with Perseus (Sam Worthington) working as a fisherman and raising his son Helius (John Bell). When Zeus (Liam Neeson) asks for help dealing with the villainous Titans, Perseus turns his father down, despite the god's warning that the release of Zeus’ father Kronos from the underworld could destroy mankind. Zeus is subsequently imprisoned there by his jealous brother Hades (Ralph Fiennes) and demigod son Ares (Edgar Ramírez). The chained god's strength is sapped in order to free Kronos.

Perseus is drawn into battle anyway when his village is attacked by a multi-headed Chimera, an exciting scene that makes good use of both 3D effects and old-fashioned stunt work. To free his father, Perseus teams up with demigod Agenor (Toby Kebbell), the son of Poseidon (Danny Huston), and Andromeda (Rosamund Pike, replacing Clash's Alexa Davalos), a queen trying to hold her army against superpowered foes.

The heroes' journey takes them to "The Fallen One," the god Hephaestus (Bill Nighy), who is hiding on a remote island. To reach him, they must cross a forest booby-trapped by Cyclops, another scene that effectively melds live action with CGI. Hephaestus holds clues that will help the heroes through a labyrinth in Tartarus, the massive prison holding the Titans.

Wrath of the Titans has its tongue-in-cheek moments, but the filmmakers largely downplay irony for straightforward storytelling. If the effects sometimes overwhelm characterizations (particularly in the cases of Ramírez's Ares and Spencer Wilding's Minotaur), Neeson and Nighy still make strong impressions in their roles. Worthington is capable enough as Perseus, despite a script that concentrates more on his concussions than his dialogue.

The film's effects are surprisingly good throughout, especially compared to recent lackluster 3D outings. Director Jonathan Liebesman (Battle: Los Angeles) minimizes poking and thrusting at viewers, relying instead on ashes, embers and dust to give the screen the illusion of depth. When the 3D tricks, like the boulders and streams of fire that rain on Andromeda's soldiers, do arrive, they come off splendidly.

Wrath of the Titans
may not be the most accurate account of Greek mythology, but it does offer a good crash course in how epics like The Lord of the Rings got some of their inspiration. And if it takes some narrative short-cuts with the classics, the film more than compensates with strong action and effects.