Reviews

'Wrath of the Titans' Desperately Wants to Be Epic

Unlike Clash of the Titans, which stacked the deck with mindless action, Wrath of the Titans features more walking. A lot more of it.


Wrath of the Titans

Director: Jonathan Liebesman
Cast: Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Rosamund Pike, Édgar Ramírez, Bill Nighy
Rated: PG-13
Studio: Warner Bros.
Year: 2012
US date: 2012-03-30 (General release)
UK date: 2012-04-02 (General release)
Website
Trailer

Poor Perseus. If there’s one thing Wrath of the Titans wants us to know, it’s that it’s not easy being a demigod. As personified by Sam Worthington, rugged and equipped with an Australian drawl that jars against the allegedly ancient Greek backdrop, all he really wants to do is fish. Since the events of 2010's Clash of the Titans, Perseus has lost his wife, Io (read: Gemma Arterton couldn’t be roped in for a sequel), but has an adorable little kid (John Bell), who’s the apple of his eye and crafts wooden weapons for him.

Tranquility, inevitably, doesn’t last long. The plot kicks in when Liam Neeson’s Zeus shows up, decked out in full Monty Python beard and doing his most determined Gandalf impression. Neeson also provides an opening voiceover, recounting the plot of Clash (this is helpful because, really, who can remember anything about it aside from the smudgy 3D?). In Clash, Neeson lent a bit of dignity: here he embodies fatherly righteousness, putting him centre stage and pitting him against Hades (Ralph Fiennes, wisely toning down his 2010 performance).

Here Hades has colluded with the god of war, Ares (an atrocious turn by Édgar Ramírez), to release Kronos, a titan with the power to destroy Earth, currently imprisoned in the underworld. Throwing in a host of new characters with ridiculous names, the movie promises an epic adventure in the best swords-and-sandals tradition.

To that end, director Jonathan Liebesman and screenwriters Dan Mazeau and David Leslie Johnson draw on well known plot devices. Wrath of the Titans features a reluctant hero and a son in need of saving, as well as patricide, fratricide, crises of faith, and solemnly delivered pronouncements to gloss over its deficiencies of plot or other distinguishing features. Many of the roles are underwritten; the most egregious example is Perseus’ son, who appears only whenever the screenplay needs to raise the stakes for his dad and afterwards disappears into the background.

Despite the movie's familiar conflicts -- fathers and sons, men and gods -- almost all of its plot is instantly forgettable, an issue not helped by the occasionally murky cinematography. That said, Wrath demonstrates some sense of pacing, unlike Clash, which stacked the deck with action sequences, each one progressively more mindless than the last. As Perseus and his motley crew must make their way to the underworld prison of Tartarus, at the centre of the world, they encounter all sorts of sub-Lord of the Rings-style creatures and set-pieces. They also do a lot of walking.

At least Wrath takes itself less seriously than Clash, with a jokier tone and more breathing space between the onslaughts of CGI. Bill Nighy is enjoyable and eccentric in an extended cameo, and Rosamund Pike’s imposing eyebrows are fine consolidation for Gemma Arterton not being around anymore. At any rate, Pike’s performance is more physical than Worthington’s, who appears disenchanted with the entire exercise. But you can’t blame him for looking bored. Clash of the Titans took a critical drubbing but was still a surprise hit: it's a difficult act to follow. And so Wrath of the Titans is perhaps appropriately muddled. Elaborate but insipid, it's competent but relentlessly dull.

4

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image