Expectation can be a terrible thing. Certainly in the case of the Clash Of The Titans remake, there was great concern from many people, including myself, about how things such as the artistry of Ray Harryhausen could be replaced by CGI. Or how the film ever hoped to capture the sense of wonder and excitement that a film made nearly three decades before had managed to maintain.
Certainly 2010’s Clash had the elements in place to have me onside – a solid director who’d injected some heart into The Incredible Hulk and had a solid action background, as well as a sterling cast headed up by the mighty Liam Neeson, a man who’s seldom made a film I haven’t loved.
Sadly the result was a flat, below average yarn with substandard effects and appalling 3D, that left many of us with no real interest in any further films. The box office on the other hand was quite the success, so regardless of any critical response, production started on a sequel in the form of Wrath Of The Titans.
The immediate hope for Wrath was that with no comparison to any previous film, and after a weak first entry, expectation would be lowered. Thus, the filmmakers would be liberated from any original constraints and free to forge their own exciting adventure tale, learning from the mistakes made a couple of years ago. Thankfully I’m pleased to say that is exactly the case, and I’ve never known a sequel to so painstakingly try to better every weak element from the first outing, resulting in a much better and well rounded film as a result.
Wrath Of The Titans is far from a masterpiece, but it’s a solid amount of fun that ironically felt more authentically eighties in its sense of adventure and fun, than its predecessor. Wrath whips through its 100 minute run time, delivering some great action set pieces, while the cast seem to have a ball with the overblown theatrics inherent to the films’ very nature, instilling some much needed levity into the franchise.
The plot is as straight forward as you’d expect. A quick voiceover by Zeus (Neeson) gets things rolling immediately, and no sooner have we caught up with Perseus’ now-humdrum life as a fisherman with a son (which quickly explains the fate of Io, in case you were wondering where cheeky, cockney knife fighter Gemma Arterton was), than all hell is breaking loose as creatures start escaping from a hole in the wall to the underworld. A quick bit of conspiracy later and the only person able to put a stop to the diabolical shenanigans is Perseus, who must set out on a quest, collect a rag tag group of warriors, grab some fancy weapons and kick some mythical behind.
Yet despite the familiar plot, the new Titans film really is an improvment. And here’s how.
Let’s start with Perseus, who in Clash was whiny, sulky and responsible for causing a lot of problems by refusing to deal with his paternal problems. In Wrath, Perseus only plays the reluctant hero for a matter of minutes, but as soon as a flaming beasty threatens his son, he’s armour suited up and headbutting monsters in the blink of an eye.
Sam Worthington seems designed for action brutality, yet is an actor that continues to grow (if you haven’t seen The Debt yet, it’s his finest hour and an overlooked gem), this time around injecting Perseus with a much needed element of world weary humour, while even pulling off having hair – a prospect I found utterly disturbing by its novelty.
And speaking of the opening set piece, it’s a cracking, visceral and thrilling start which immediately set my mind at rest regarding both the potential 3D and CGI issues, bettering every part of Clash in a matter of minutes. I should disclose that I had the pleasure of watching Wrath Of The Titans on an IMAX screen, which I’m aware doesn’t make a film better by its nature (I’m looking at you,Transformers 2) but it really couldn’t help but elevate the size of the spectacle. It also helps with the 3D, which isn’t too bad, words that don’t often escape my lips.
The size of the screen is fairly unforgiving though, and yet the CGI creatures and scenes of destruction looked fantastic. Director Jonathan Liebesman injects the same sense of dirt and grit into them that he managed in Battle: Los Angeles, with the grubby and slightly disturbing Cyclops encounter being a particular highpoint.
Likewise, for a director that seems to be a master of exploding debris, the 3D gets a much needed boost, aided by monster limbs being dismembered, spitting fire, and racing point of view shots into the labyrinths, at times making the film fittingly feel like a thrill ride. There’s still not enough Pegasus for my liking, though.
The dialogue unfortunately remains, for the most part, fairly terrible, but at least the cast seem to acknowledge the fact and skip through the clunkier parts with a sense of fun and some barely constrained smirks. At one point Agenor (Brit Toby Kebbell, fulfilling the comedy fool role) turns to Perseus and asks him not to give ‘the big speech’, which was either improvised, or the script writers decided they were best off getting to the next scene of carnage as soon as possible.
Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes get adequate screen time, bringing their usual and effortless gravitas to certain moments, while also getting one particularly scene of pure geek joy to cut loose in. It was also a delight to see the criminally underused Rosamund Pike getting to play a lead action role on a very big screen again, having grabbed my affections in Die Another Day some years ago. I also nearly forgot to mention that Bill Nighy pops up, playing a deranged, northern weapons maker, so for those of you who enjoy his random appearances in the likes of Underworld, it’ll be another fine addition to the ham canon.
I really wanted to like 2010’s Clash Of The Titans, but just couldn’t. In Wrath Of The Titans though, its earnest attempts to better that film have resulted in a thoroughly enjoyable b-movie adventure, which is a consistently fun and at times a spectacular ride. It knows its limitations, but makes the most of a solid cast and the chance to revel in some epic encounters.