For a sequel bursting and ablaze with special effects and offering far better 3D this time around – as it wasn’t done haphazardly in post production, director Jonathan Liebesman’s take on Greek mythology is surprisingly bland. Unfortunately for him, it’s a combination of bland script and even blander lead in Sam Worthington. Worthington is like the Nigel Mansell of the acting world; performing adequately and a rather likeable chap but never setting the world (or screen) alight.
It’s as though Liebesman relies heavily on his effects to inject excitement into Wrath of the Titans as the rest is a confusing and often eye-torturous visual muddle that smacks of the hell-fire visuals of Lord of the Rings – and you expect Frodo to pop up at any second and save the day too.
In the sequel to Clash of the Titans, and a decade after his heroic defeat of the monstrous Kraken, demigod Perseus (Worthington), son of god Zeus (Liam Neeson), wants to live a quiet fisherman’s life with his son, Helius (John Bell). But a struggle for supremacy between the gods and the Titans and a weakening deity devotion from humanity sees a deadly alliance form between Perseus’s uncle Hades (Ralph Fiennes) and estranged brother Ares (Édgar Ramírez) to resurrect their ferocious leader, Kronos, father of the long-ruling brothers Zeus, Hades and Poseidon (Danny Huston).
After Poseidon’s death, Zeus is captured and his godly powers are siphoned to bring Kronos back from the dead. It is down to Perseus to save his father, the gods and humanity, with help from his wayward cousin, demigod Agenor (Toby Kebbell), Queen Andromeda (Rosamund Pike) and toolmaker to the gods Hephaestus (Bill Nighy), before the Titans’ strength grows stronger.
The sequel is all about its visual glory, and is perfectly suited to an IMAX screen for grand, eye-goggling effect. The downside to this is Liebesman’s choice of frenetic camerawork (by Ben Davis) in the first attack scene to depict utter chaos sets off a bout of motion sickness which has you playing catch-up afterwards as your sight attempts to return to normal. It’s near impossible to decipher any detail at this moment, which is a shame for getting a sense of the terror to come – and there are some interesting, two-headed beasts sent from the underworld to attack, but you have little time to register exactly what Perseus and townsfolk are up against before careering into the next shot.
The design in the film is pretty spectacular, recreating the earthy look and feel of ancient Greece, but again, you can’t help making comparisons with LOTR and Gandalf the Grey and Saruman when Neeson and Fiennes appear on the screen, confronted with the scorching, volcanic presence of Kronos. Even the usually captivating evil that the real-life, gentle Fiennes seems to offer up on tap – after Voldermort and other such characters – is sadly missing in this. It’s all rather camp in fact, with big names in tunic fancy dress. Oh, and just exactly why Kronos is so dangerous to gods and man is never fully realised too, in all the time it takes for his rocky presence to awaken.
Kebbell and Nighy provide the intentional comedy factor, but mumble off into the distance with their lines all the time, like sorry and forgotten Life of Brian extras. Pike provides the glamour and sense of purpose and strength – taken over from Alexa Davalos in the last film. Indeed, the choice of cast is a fitting one, but it just goes to show how a bad script can spoil an affair. However, Worthington, though a calming presence in the midst of visual bedlam, just falls short of the mark of being a convincing hero and worthy victor – he’s just too laid back to rally us together at the sound of the war cry, and it’s left to Pike/Andromeda’s leadership and determination in the battle scenes to get the juices flowing.
For all its obvious faults, Wrath is still highly entertaining though, because of the latter and the silliness and camp factor. It’s a lesson in producing effects for the even bigger IMAX screen too – and when is best and best not to use frenetic camerawork and choppy editing values. Expect an action-stuffed 3D extravaganza with very little subtext to it – minus eight-legged horses and double vision of the 2010 film, and you’ll come away with a smile on your face but strained eyeballs and a queasiness in the belly.