At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Wrath of the Titans “2012”

MPAA Rating: PG-13/ Genre: Action-Fantasy/ Stars: Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Rosamund Pike, Toby Kebbell, Bill Nighy, Édgar Ramírez, Danny Huston, Lily James, Matt Milne, Alejandro Naranjo, John Bell, Sinead Cusack, Spencer Wilding, Martin Bayfield/ Runtime: 99 minutes

I think it is safe to say that when it arrived in theaters back in 2010, the remake of 1981’s Clash of the Titans was one slice of cinematic pie that opened to a flurry of negative feedback from both critics and the by and large movie going public and also was at the heart of immensely debated fallout surrounding its utilization of 3D due to both how sloppily it was done and how it looked when watched in your friendly neighborhood movie theater. Suffice it to say it wasn’t too surprising to learn that Warner Brothers decided to nearly wipe the slate clean when it came to the 2012 follow-up. A wipe that got us a new helmer, new writers, new creatures to behold, and a saga this time around that was darker and less sprawling in nature. Yet with all of that being said, the question still remains: is Wrath of the Titans the improvement Warner Bros. and audiences were hoping it would be? Well I’m not going to lie to you reader: in some aspects this definitely is an improvement. Indeed the cast does better work, the dialogue is actually passable, and the stakes in this actually feel like they’ve been elevated. On the other hand, there are aspects of this slice of cinematic pie that are not improved. This would include the fact that, despite a bigger scale, this film’s narratives and locales feel dimmer, the monsters with one possible exception are nowhere near as riveting let alone terrifying, and its moments of combat feel like the filmmaking crew has played God of War way too much for their own good.  Yes I guess the ends justify the means here, but can we really say this slice of cinematic pie is tougher let alone more intelligent? Pleasssseeee don’t kid yourselves like that movie lovers. Indeed it may be a toss-up by and large, but at the end of the day Wrath of the Titans really is just giant idiotic Greek mythos popcorn movie fun.

The plot is as follows: Wrath of the Titans opens a good solid decade in the aftermath of the events of the first one which saw, spoilers, our main hero Perseus, a son of the Greek God Zeus, take down the horrific Kraken and in the process save the life of Princess Andromeda from most assuredly meeting her end. Oh and also choosing not to rule by her side, rejecting an invite from his dear ol’ dad to come to Olympus, and instead deciding to live a reclusive lifestyle of a fisherman and raise his son as far away from the land of gods and creatures as he possibly can. Well that was fun while it lasted. I say that because we soon see that Perseus is firmly pushed out of his self-exile when Hades backstabs Zeus with the aid of Ares, and then heads to let loose the infamous titan, and dear ol’ dad, Kronos from his prison in Tartarus. Yet due to the gods losing their hold let alone power due to man’s belief in them dwindling by the day, Hades is trying to cobble together a partnership of sorts with Kronos and as such has agreed to give him Zeus’ remaining power in exchange for a chunk of the planet to rule when Kronos takes things over once more. Of course, this is a plan that Perseus may have one or 2 problems with. As such, we see that with Andromeda and Poseidon’s reluctant child, a guy named Agenor, as partners on his adventure, we soon witness as Perseus undertakes a quest to locate the Earth-bound deity named Hephaestus in order to make his way into Tartarus’ infamous Labyrinth, save Zeus, defeat Ares, and in the process find the trinity of pieces to a weapon known as the Spear of Triam which is the only hope that mankind has potentially stopping Kronos and his nefarious machinations for good…

Now Perseus might be the dictionary definition of a conflicted protagonist, but at least he gets along with fate fairly amicably. Indeed he twiddles his thumbs, he dawdles around, gets a nice visit from father Zeus, slaughters a monster, has a quick conversation with Poseidon, and promptly assembles a list of people and things to aid him in his quest to thwart Kronos. Heck he is even gifted with Poseidon’s trident so he has a decent weapon to start his quest on. Thus, it shouldn’t really shock and/or surprise you any to witness our intrepid hero leave his son to watch over the old homestead, climbs onto his faithful steed Pegasus who literally looks as if he has done next to nothing in the past decade except wait for his master to step back into the saddle again, and head straight away for a camp of soldiers led by Andromeda to get his quest underway proper. Thus with a pair of allies joining the fray, we soon witness Perseus’ attack strength increase, his health bar go up, and even acquire a bar for magic in the process. Then in the aftermath of going up against some level-concluding bosses, we see that our hero is able to get the pieces of the weapon he needs put together in order to face the final boss. A level that sees Perseus go through a vicious sand storm, lava blasts, Mt. Everest-size fists to get to the Titan’s purported weak spot all while a Greek God or 2 do their part to aid him as well as his more Earthly bound allies who engage in combat with a multitude of Kronos’ sword-wielding minions.

In case that aforementioned sarcastic description didn’t make it clear, I think it should be said that if you have any ever at any point in time played any of the games in the God of War franchise let alone Fight of Gods or Age of Mythology to name but a couple, I think you will find this slice of cinematic pie eerily familiar. That is because when one takes the time to view this film, one will find that it is very much the cinematic equivalent to playing one of those videogames. Not a bad thing because those games are all wonderful to play, but a videogame nonetheless. Indeed there are weapon modifications, attack strategies, different levels, items needing to be gathered, and a whole host of NPCs all wanting to aid in the adventure. Suffice it to say then that with a whole generation of gamers at the frontlines of the land of movie magic firmly requesting a legitimately good cinematic videogame adaptation and none (as of this writing to be found though that might change after I see the new Mortal Kombat), the pattern of making slices of cinematic pie like this will surely go on. I mean for me on a personal level, I can say that a few of these ingredients on display actually aided my level of enjoyment toward this movie quite a bit. I mean even at my age of less than 3 decades (what you actually thought I was going to write my age there? Nice try.), I can still pick up a video game controller and have fun thus a movie being a bit like a videogame is not exactly as bad as it sounds at times to me. At the same time though, this concept really doesn’t give this follow-up anything particularly resembling gravitas. Rather, it makes one villain something out of a cartoon, the Labyrinth at the heart of the story something that would frustrate even the best player of Tetris, another creature clearly looks like a man in a painfully bad costume, and the final baddie is one who is thwarted way too easily. I mean all of the other villains in this are, to some extent or another, actually kind of intimidating, but this one? Not even close.

With that in mind, I am pleased to let you know that the vast majority of the constructive elements in this one are better than they were before. In regards to performances, Worthington actually does decent even if his role is one he has played before (and no Avatar is not his best performance. The only incredible performances in that slice of cinematic pie were the money it earned and its visual effects work). We also see that screen icons Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes are actually given bigger roles this go-around, Pike is a much better Andromeda than Davalos was back in 2010, Ramirez makes for a worthy and wonderfully slimy nemesis, Kebbell is roguishly charming, and Bill Nighy is just a treasure who makes any film he is in that much better. Of course also aiding that is the fact that this slice of cinematic pie’s screenplay is leaps and bounds better than the first film from 2010. Indeed omitted are the vast majority of the elements that are groan worthy, omitted by and large are a lot of the forced winks and nods towards the original from 1981, omitted are all the unnecessary to the narrative deities, and omitted is a lot of what made the first one a bit difficult for some audiences to sit through. Thus with more in the way of positives to work with, we see that this film’s cast is able to play their parts a lot more efficiently as well. Just as good is the fact that this film’s helmer is able to prove his mettle and then some against the previous film’s helmer in the vast majority of necessary arenas. With all of that at play though, it still must have been disheartening for Warner Bros. to see this film make only 300 million worldwide, but at the same time that’s better than nothing…..

All in all I think it is fairly easy to say that the 2012 slice of cinematic pie that is Wrath of the Titans does manage in some respects to be a welcome improvement on what we got with Clash of the Titans, but ultimately still isn’t as great as it arguably could be either. Yes the acting and the script in this are leaps and bounds improved, but the work done in regards to visuals, how the creatures in this film look, and the moments of combat between the monsters in this literally look like something from God of War, and even more disheartening, give off the vibe that was exactly what was intended by the filmmaking crew. Suffice it to say that if you even remotely liked Clash of the Titans then you will most assuredly enjoy this movie. If you gave Clash a passing glance and moved on well then at least try to sit through this one. However if you view Clash with nothing more and nothing less than pure rancor and hostility then definitely pass this one up as well because it most assuredly is not the slice of cinematic pie for you.  Make of that therefore dear reader what you shall. On a scale of 1-5 I give Wrath of the Titans “2012” a solid 3 out of 5.