Most everyone I know fondly remembers the 1981 version of Clash of the Titans. It had it all: Greek mythology, the Stygian Witches, Calibos, Medusa, the Kraken, giant scorpions and, of course, Bubo the mechanical owl. I watched this original version again, for the first time in 20 years, before watching Wrath of the Titans. I wanted to remind myself of the main story points and remember how much better it was than the remake. That was not the best idea. While it is still much better than the remake, the original really didn't stand up too well. Aside from Ray Harryhausen's effects work (his last before retiring), it's somewhat dull and lifeless. Harry Hamlin, with his bronzed, hairless legs, just isn't a hero that I care about. It's all too campy to take seriously as an epic adventure. That's to say that Clash of the Titans is not a sacred cow for me, so my feelings for Wrath aren't related to nostalgia for the original.
So let me be frank.
Wrath of the Titans is not a good movie. I could pick it apart one failed aspect at a time, but I'll focus on the biggest problem: the script. Wrath picks up several years after Clash with Perseus (Sam Worthington) raising his 10-year-old son after his wife's death. He has forsaken his father Zeus (Liam Neeson) and just wants to live as a simple fisherman, while ignoring that he's the son of a god. Meanwhile, Hades (Ralph Fiennes) and Zeus' son, Ares (Edgar Ramirez) lure Zeus to the underworld prison of Tartarus in order to use his blood to free the father of the gods, Kronos. None of this really matters, however, because the film is only interested in two things: 1) cliché' daddy issues and 2) giant monsters destroying shit with furious abandon. Guess which one of those things the film does well?
I'm just going to say it: Sam Worthington is perfectly competent, just as he was in the first film, but he doesn't have the charisma that it takes to bring Perseus to life in the same way that Harrison Ford or Mel Gibson did effortlessly in their day. In fact, he is a much better actor against computer-generated characters than he is with the flesh and blood actors in his films. He's done no favors by the script, which slows to a grinding halt every time Perseus stops to have a conversation. The dialogue is so poorly written that it straddles the line between tragic and absurd. The audience is never once invested in the relationship between Perseus and his son. (Aside from Worthington and the kid's complete lack of an on-screen connection), we're only given about 3 minutes of it before monsters start falling from the sky, rampaging the countryside. And then, all of a sudden, I cared again.
On the flip side, the action in this movie is beautiful. When you've got Worthington facing down a fire-breathing Chimera or Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes wielding the power of gods against four-armed rock demons, and you're watching it in 3-D IMAX with 50,000 watts of sound making your nose bleed, it's really hard to give a crap about the story. Just keep bringing on the giant monsters, please. When Worthington (along with film-stealing actors Bill Nighy and Toby Kebbell) is fighting armies of demi-gods or soaring through the air on the back of a Pegasus, the movie works pretty damn well as a crowd-pleasing adventure film. It's a really nice feeling... until Worthington opens his mouth and it's all ruined by cardboard dialogue read by a Styrofoam actor.
Like I said, Wrath of the Titans is not a good movie, but I doubt you were really expecting one, anyway. Based on my re-watch of the original and the remake, my expectations were so unbelievably low that as long as there were no cameras in the shots, I could enjoy myself. And I did. It was better than awful, but much worse than good.
Wrath of the Titans
Starring Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Bill Nighy, Edgar Ramirez, Toby Kebbell and Rosamund Pike.
Directed by Jonathan Liebesman.