An improvement upon its predecessor Clash of the Titans only insofar as this sequel doesn't sully a beloved original, Wrath of the Titans delivers blockbuster bluster with single-minded blandness. Jonathan Liebesman's follow-up to Louis Leterrier's largely dismissed 2010 remake trades heavily in divinity but cares little for human emotions or relationships, all of which prove to be just time-filler in between cacophonous fight sequences that, as before, are primarily inspired by video games. Liebesman rampages about with CG-ified abandon as he charts the go-here, then-go-there efforts of Zeus' (Liam Neeson) half-god son Perseus (Sam Worthington) to save the world from the behemoth Kronos, whose hellish-but deserved-imprisonment is compromised by the gods' weakening power, the humans' lack of faith, and the nefarious machinations of Hades (Ralph Fiennes) and Ares (Édgar Ramírez). Frenzied set pieces pile upon one another, yet the invincible hero and his distinct lack of affecting dramatic stakes—isn't the fate of civilization supposedly hanging in the balance?—render the mayhem hollow sound-and-fury. Though it boasts esteemed thespians and a release date that gets the jump on the summer competition, this perfunctory action-adventure isn't likely to make more than minor waves at the box office, even among its target teen audience.
At Wrath's outset, Perseus is a devoted single-dad fisherman, free to find new love by that most convenient of sequel-plot developments: since Clash, his wife has inexplicably died. He's reluctantly called into combat duty to rescue Zeus from incarceration at the underworld titan prison Tartarus. To get there, Perseus teams up with Agenor (Toby Kebbell), the scoundrel son of deceased Poseidon (Danny Huston), as well as his new romantic interest, warrior Princess Andromeda (Rosamund Pike), and the trio is pitted against a gaggle of mythical creatures that include a fire-breathing two-headed beast, a slobbering, gibberish-spouting Cyclops, and a snarling Minotaur. These adversaries have been designed for maximum gnarliness but, alas, never feel real. Throughout, there's a distinct sense that the actors are operating on a slightly different spatial plane than their digital adversaries. Liebesman's orchestration of these action centerpieces is far more lucid than his intolerable shaky-cam in Battle: Los Angeles, but he retains a fondness for shooting combat with ground-level handheld cinematography, random POV shots and aerial vistas of war-torn cities in flames—stylistic signatures that do little to break up the crushing monotony.
The Playstation series God of War and its re-imagining of Greek mythology as a grungy maelstrom of action-horror is Titans's guiding source of inspiration, never more so than during a labyrinth scene when the walls and floors start to shift about, necessitating platform-hopping and corridor-running. But while Liebesman's staging of hand-to-hand skirmishes is clunky, at least it's not as dull as leading man Worthington, who despite working with Fiennes, Neeson, Ramírez and Bill Nighy—illustrious hams competing for the most over-the-top performance—continues to be a charismatic black hole. Still, no amount of soulfulness could render these proceedings deeper than a baby pool, as Wrath gives only cursory lip service to the anger, betrayal, resentment and forgiveness in this epic conflicts between fathers, sons and brothers. That might be tolerable if the action itself was great, but this ho-hum chaos made of Lord of the Rings leftovers inspires—if not outright wrath—then certainly indifference.
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Cast: Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes
Director: Jonathan Liebesman
Writer: Dan Mazeau, David Leslie Johnson
Producers: Basil Iwanyk, Polly Johnsen
Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of fantasy violence and action
Running time: 99 min.
Release date: March 30, 2012