“WRATH OF THE TITANS” – 2 1/2 STARS

Apparently I was one of the few who liked 2010’s “Clash of the Titans”, a remake of the 1981 mythological action film. In fact, one of my biggest disagreements with critics centered around their brutal reviews of that movie. I like the remake because it never pretended to be anything other than what it was. It was a fantasy monster picture in the same vein as the first “Clash of the Titans”, “Jason and the Argonauts”, and the “Sinbad” films. In many ways the remake was an homage to that old genre, replacing the classic stop motion animation with computer-generated imagery. The movie wasn’t a deep, intellectual exercise nor was it intended to be. It was a fun popcorn action flick that reminded me of those old films I grew up with.

That brings us to “Wrath of the Titans”, an original sequel that tries to strike the same chords as the first film but ends up falling short. The sequel starts at least 10 years after the ending of the first movie. Perseus (Sam Worthington) has settled down in a small village where he fishes and raises his son Helius (John Bell). Zeus (Liam Neeson) pays him a visit and tells him that the walls of Tartarus are falling and the God’s powers to stop them is limited due to the lack of prayers from the humans. Zeus’ brief words are really the only introduction we get to story. There’s practically no setup at all. Perseus first refuses to get involved choosing to stay and raise his son instead. But when the walls of Tartarus fall, monsters are unleashed across the earth and one attacks Perseus’ village. Of course this gets him immediately involved.

Much like the first film, “Wrath of the Titans” turns into quest movie. Perseus teams up with Queen Andromeda (Rosamund Pike), Agenor (Toby Kebbell), Poseidon’s demigod son, and several token tagalongs to stop the fire monster Kronos from being freed from Tartarus. To do that they will need three weapons that will join together to form the Spear of Triam. Much like “Clash”, the journey takes them to several locations and they encounter several different creatures. But unlike “Clash” the creatures and the battles with them just aren’t that impressive. I still remember the extremely cool scorpion battle sequence and the fight with Medusa from “Clash”. There isn’t a single creature battle here that I’ll even remember a year from now.

It’s not that the creatures look bad. In fact, the CGI special effects are very well done. The creatures look amazing, feature fluid movements, and they blend in perfectly with the environments. The camera often times turns away or jerks at just the right moments to help the scenes look more realistic. The problem is the scenes aren’t choreographed that well. Another problem is that there really weren’t that many new creatures. Every creature in the film was shown in the trailers and I was disappointed that I wasn’t surprised with a few others. But the CGI is exceptional in creating some wonderful environments and landscapes. The group has to make their way through a rubik’s cube-like labyrinth that looks fantastic. Tartarus also looks great and I was really impressed by some of the sweeping overhead shots of some of the battle sequences.

While the story lacks a good introduction, some of the characters lack development. Neither Andromeda or Agenor are developed to the point of feeling like important characters. I think back to Perseus’ fellow journeymen from the first film. There were several of those characters that I liked despite their limited screen time. That’s not the case here. But the movie does ease up on the cheesy lines especially between gods. Ralph Fiennes is back as Hades and his conversations with Zeus as considerably less corny that before. Fiennes and Neeson are actually quite good and I did enjoy the powerless gods angle.

“Wrath of the Titans” does capture some of what I liked in the first film. It’s still a straightforward popcorn action picture that doesn’t try to be anything else. The story is simple but it still manages to provide some fun. The creatures look amazing even if their fight sequences aren’t as exciting as they should be. This Perseus is a kinder and gentler Perseus and in many ways this feels like a kinder and gentler movie. It has some nice eye candy and a few pretty cool moments but it lacks the kick and the grit of the first film. Even with its fun scenes and shiny coat of paint, I just can’t help but see “Wrath of the Titans” as a disappointment.

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