Sunday, April 8, 2012


If you applauded the larger-than-life heroics in “Clash of the Titans,” you’ll probably embrace the derivative exploits “Wrath of the Titans” (**1/2 out of ****) delivers in less time than the original.  Greek mythology tales have never really gone out of fashion. The spectacle of warriors wielding weapons forged by the gods against supernatural monsters reached its zenith during the early 1960s when the Italians produced a plethora of sword and sandal sagas about Hercules, Goliath, Maciste, and Samson.  These epic adventures didn’t take themselves as seriously as their contemporary counterparts have. Most recently, “Troy” (2004), “Alexander,” (2004), “300” (2006), “Clash of the Titans” (2010), and “Immortals” (2011) have been released. “Wrath of the Titans” qualifies as an above-average entry in the CGI special effects laden genre where gods, men, and monsters scrimmage.  Don’t confuse “Wrath of the Titans” with last year’s similarly themed “Immortals.”  Comparatively, the two PG-13 rated “Titans” spectacles are considerably less savage and sadistic than “Immortals.”  While “Clash of the Titans” served as an origins epic, “Wrath” concerns most of the same characters about ten years later. 

In “Clash of the Titans,” the infant demigod Perseus was condemned to die with his mother in a casket plunged into the sea.  Miraculously, Perseus survived.  A humble fisherman, Spyros (Pete Postlethwaite), rescued Perseus and adopted him.  As he grew up, Perseus shunned the gods until Zeus recruited him to save the city of Argos.  Hades, the cruel god of the Tartarus, loosened the legendary sea monster the Kraken with Zeus’ blessing to destroy the city of Argo if the citizens didn’t sacrifice Andromeda.  Defiantly, Perseus and several Argos soldiers embarked on a quest for anything which would enable them to kill the Kraken.  Ultimately, our resourceful hero tangled with the malevolent Medusa.  Half-woman and half-snake, this deadly dame had scores of vipers sprouting from her head rather than curls.  A mere glance at Medusa’s face would petrify any mortal.  Ingeniously, Perseus found a way to decapitate Medusa without eyeballing her.  Perseus saved Princess Andromeda from a fate worse than death and defeated the enormous creature with Medusa’s head. 

“Battle Los Angeles” director Jonathan Liebesman’s “Wrath of the Titans” emerges as a polished but predictable fantasy that imitates its predecessor.  Everybody who made “Clash” doesn’t show up for “Wrath.”  Happily, Sam Worthington returns as Zeus’ rebellious son Perseus who wants little to do with his all-powerful patriarch.  Instead of a boot camp cut, Perseus has a perm that makes him look like Gordon Scott of “Goliath” fame.  Perseus prefers to fish on the seas instead of parade around Mount Olympus.  Despite the tragic death of his wife Io (Gemma Arterton) in “Clash of the Titans,” Perseus has a son, ten-year old Helius (John Bell of “Battleship”), to raise alone.  Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, and Danny Huston reappear respectively as Zeus, Hades, and Poseidon.  Rosamund Pike replaces Alexa Davalos as Andromeda.  This time around Andromeda is more pugnacious.  Decked out in combat regalia, she leads her army into battle against the Titans.  The biggest difference now is that the gods are losing their power because humans aren’t praying to them.  Places of worship lay in ruins. When humanity doesn’t offer prayers to the gods, the power of gods wane, and “Wrath of the Titans” marks a turning point in the franchise.  

If the third entry in the “Titans” franchise—“Revenge of the Titans”--materializes, Zeus and company may appear only as memories.  Presumably, Hades won’t be able to summon another colossal beast from the bowels of the Underworld.  Like its predecessor, “Wrath of the Titans” concerns father and son issues as well as brother versus brother scores.  We learn that Zeus and company endured quite a family feud that ended with them imprisoning their evil father Kronos in Tartarus.  Essentially, Kronos constitutes the equivalent of the Kraken.  Since all blockbusters struggle to top each other, “Wrath of the Titans” pits Perseus against Kronos. Kronos doesn’t want to demolish a single city.  He wants to wipe out mankind.  Whereas the Kraken was a giant sea beast, Kronos is a towering fire god.  Scenarists Dan Mazeau, David Leslie Johnson, and Greg Berlanti make Kronos the equivalent of a lava-spewing volcano.  Earlier, the Kraken made a pretty formidable foe.  One glance at Kronos, however, is enough to make you change your underwear . Imagine what Hellboy would look like if he were the size of Optimus Prime in the “Transformers” movies, and you’ll have a good idea how this immense fiend stacks up to ordinary mortals.

Perseus sets out with Poseidon's illegitimate offspring, Agenor (Toby Kebbell of “RocknRolla”), and Queen Andromeda (Pike) to not only rescue Zeus but also to destroy Kronos.  Earlier, the treacherous Hades and Ares (Édgar Ramírez of “Domino”) double-crossed Zeus and imprisoned him in the Underworld.  Our heroes embark on a scavenger hunt for items.  Along the way, they confront a couple of angry Cyclops and take a beating from them until they befriend them as they did with the giant scorpions named Scorpiochs.  Agenor helps Perseus find the fallen god Hephaestus (Bill Nighy of " Valkyrie "), and Hephaestus shows them the best way to enter Tartarus since he designed it. Eventually, Perseus learns that he must synthesize Zeus’ Thunderbolt, Hades' Pitchfork, and Poseidon’s Trident as a weapon to vanquish Kronos.  In “Star Wars” fashion, our protagonist must take a fiery ride on Pegasus down Kronos’ gullet to dispense the fatal blow.  

“Wrath of the Titans” is amusing hokum.  The stupendous CGI special effects make this 99-minute opus worth watching.  Perseus cuts his teeth on the Chimera. This two-headed, airborne beast with a snake head on its tail attacks him first and then he tackles a couple of towering Cyclops. The maze that our indestructible hero blunders through is more interesting than the Minotaur which he dehorns.  Liebesman stages these audacious battles with vim and vigor.  Perseus looks woebegone by the time he delivers the death blow to his adversary.  “Wrath of the Titans” tops “Clash of the Titans.”

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