Wrath of the Titans (2012) Review
Wrath of the Titans was directed by Jonathan Liebesman (Darkness Falls, Halo), written by Dan Mazeau and David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick (Orphan, Aquaman) and stars Sam Worthington (Clash of the Titans, Man on a Ledge), Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl, Jack Reacher), Toby Kebbell (Blood Myth, Kong: Skull Island), Edgar Ramirez (Bright, Point Break), Liam Neeson (Schindler’s List, Cold Pursuit), Ralph Fiennes (Coriolanus, In Bruges), Bill Nighy (Pokemon: Detective Pikachu, Valkyrie) and Danny Huston (The Aviator, Angel Has Fallen). It’s about a now settled demigod being called into action when the gods of Olympus lose control of their monsters and once again threaten the lands with destruction.
The Plot: For those who complained about the lack of camp in the first installment of the supposed franchise, there’s “Wrath” which offers less attention to its narrative in service of its character moments and action sequences. It provides the adventure and some interesting decisions but goes broader to less successful results.
After settling down since the events previous, Perseus (Worthington) is informed by his father Zeus (Neeson) that the walls of Tartarus are falling after the gods have been receiving fewer prayers than ever, and Perseus will again have to pick up his sword and protect humanity. It’s due to the waning influence of the gods that Hades (Fiennes) and Ares (Ramirez), son of Poseidon (Huston), have made a nonsensical deal with Kronos to let him free to stay immortal, killing Poseidon and capturing Zeus to drain his powers.
Perseus now must tread a similar journey and fight the armies of evil while amassing allies in the form of Andromeda (Pike), now in command of an army, and fellow demigod Agenor (Kebbell) to enter Tartarus with Hephaestus (Nighy) to collect the weapons of Zeus and Hades to stop Kronos’s reawakening.
While the plot is too similar for comfort, the journey there is made more interesting with those McGuffins and the fact that Wrath of the Titans actually takes its adventure where it sets out to, showing some grandiosity to go with its stakes in ways that the first movie, and many other movies in general, refuse to, which is worth praising even if the story itself is bland.
The Characters: Since most of the characters are already established, Wrath of the Titans can lean into developing their relationships more, which it does to a point, but the movie takes longer to bring itself to do so, whereas Clash was more effective with introductions and motivations.
Perseus settled down after Clash with Io, but his wishes to live life as a man came with the price of continuing to witness death, this time Io being the recipient after birthing Helius. Perseus is a little older, a lot more experienced, more self-deprecating and just as good in combat as ever. There’re elements of his previous arc placed here that are accelerated with the pace, but the movie doesn’t stop there and furthers his journey of discovering more about manhood and godliness that keeps things a litter fresher than expected.
Andromeda doesn’t have the same dynamic with Perseus as Io, instead of being a shepherd of sorts along with a romantic interest, she’s kept in the heat of battle, a far cry from her royal position of the last movie that isn’t explained in any great detail. Agenor on the other hand, is a proper supporting character, given a shifty yet endearing quality to mask his insecurity about being an unknown demigod. He’s not relegated to comedic relief though, with his father being a god, he’s capable of impacting the story with his skill at navigation being logically integrated and his arc of confidence justified in a similar way to Perseus’s from the first.
Ares is, unfortunately, the least developed despite being the main antagonist for most of the runtime. He’s naïve to a fault and it’s a trait, along with his obvious lust for war, that’s never reasoned beyond being born that way. Zeus and Hades do get more shading with their fears of being forgotten, unleashing monsters ad nauseum to retain a feeling of power and the legacies they desire. Most of these characters are satisfying but the flaccidity of Ares is a major problem.
The Action: Perhaps in direct response to those who lamented the lack of traditional titans and a world-ending scenario in the first “Titans”, Wrath of the Titans ups the ante with more creatures, a vaster adventure, and a less human scale of threat that may have been a detriment if the movie elected not to keep said ante in the frame.
A fight with a chimera is the reintroduction to the world, and it’s weaker and far less impactful than the intro of Clash, as is the death of the god Poseidon, creating a clunky and less coherent opening than desired. After these stumbles have been traversed, Wrath of the Titans has action on par with Clash, this time daring to do some battles differently and integrating the action and adventure similarly.
Once the heroes have arrived on Hephaestus’s island, Wrath of the Titans sets up a Predator-esque forest full of traps and cyclopean guards only there for defence, backing down once they’ve been shown the heroes’ purpose. It’s less memorable than the giant scorpions of Clash, but still a solid action scene. The traversal of the labyrinth of Tartarus is the highlight of the action, having a shifting maze that isn’t limited to horizontal travel, with Hephaestus’s design going vertical and changing the walls constantly while Perseus and company try to reach the center. The final battle is CG-laden, but it’s well-directed, designed, and has a culmination of all the plot elements of both films, ending on a high note.
Wrath of the Titan’s action is dirtier and more brutal than the first, taking the movie to more interesting settings for its action yet never surpassing the simple charm of the remake, though still good popcorn fun.
The Technics: Like the first, the scope is large, offering real locations mixed with fantasy and mythology to create a to-the-point actioner that’s here to deliver spectacle reminiscent of times past. Wrath of the Titans is better from a physical and technological perspective, with even more (still) impressive CGI, set design, and choreography. The major flaw is that the details aren’t as fleshed out compared to the already spartan original despite its simplicity. It’s still a technical marvel but doesn’t stick its landing thanks to weaker characters and desire for a scale that at times loses sight of its characters.
Wrath of the Titans is a satisfying and enjoyable fantasy actioner with a retreaded story and a weak antagonistic motivation and (generally) weaker characters, yet its better production facets, further willingness to embrace the brutality of its premise, and campier tone allow for another fun, though less memorable sword-and-sandals epic.
Wrath of the Titans is available on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital from Warner Brothers.