Wrath of the Titans
Directed by Jonathan Liebesman
"Is it too heavy," Perseus asks his young son Helius in the last scene of Wrath of the Titans, referring, ostensibly, to the sword he's just handed him and the symbolic weight of the responsibilities that come with it, but probably also to the foregoing 90-minute mythology mashup—a sequel to 2010's remake of 1981's video store classic Clash of the Titans. "No," replies Helius, clutching his new sword confidently in the movie's final, franchise-forshadowing shot. And he's right; for all its flaws (of which it has more than it has ancient Greek monsters), this blockbuster doesn't suffer from the same irksome heaviness as its predecessor, which took itself much too seriously. Wrath at least acknowledges its ridiculousness. "So you're Perseus," says Agenor (Toby Kebbel). "'Release the Kraken' and all that?" If only the object of its self-referential humor weren't such a flimsy predecessor.
Titans is above all else a series about the stability of lineage, about the importance of venerating one's elders one's superiors, and one's deities—hence Perseus's (Sam Worthington) threefold devotion to his father Zeus (Liam Neeson). The wrath of the apocalypse-wreaking Titans comes about because humans stop praying to the gods, thus weakening their power and allowing the demon inmates from the giant jail at the center of the earth to escape. (Democratic though they may have been, ancient Greeks apparently didn't believe in prison reform.) As the symbolic fabric of society begins to crumble, so too does the planet's crust. Wrath's climactic baddie isn't a tentacled sea monster, but an enormous humanoid made of molten lava who emerges, kicking and belching fire, from the belly of mother earth.
The liberties that screenwriters Dan Mazeau and David Johnson take with mythological narratives might have been less grating if the dialogue with which they do so weren't so comically limp. Even Neeson, Hollywood's go-to angry dad, seems less than fully faithful in the text. As in the first film, his scenes with Ralph Fiennes (playing Hades) are the best here, particularly a sequence in which they skip across a battlefield dispatching four-armed enemy warriors with a flick of the wrist, like Jedis from a time not quite so long ago. The Zeus-Hades relationship and a Cube-like labyrinth sequence just about manage to keep our interest, but the gods will be dead to most viewers long before the Titans' wrath runs its course.
Opens March 30