What is it about ripe, stinky Hollywood cheese that makes so many grand, respected actors willing to cast off all ego and make zestful fools of themselves?
Every actor worth his salt has made them — big, overblown, blockbusters glutted with spectacular set pieces, half-baked stories and incessantly intrusive special effects. So perhaps we might understand the big-paycheck lure to Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Danny Huston and “Avatar” hero Sam Worthington that was proffered by the incoherent mess of “Wrath of the Titans,” the bigger, louder, bolder follow-up to the 2010 cheesefest, “Clash of the Titans.”
(Perhaps the childlike taglines for these two groaning curiosities give some clue as to their simplistic ambitions: “Titans Will Clash” and “Feel the Wrath” Duh.)
In addition to the huge star power that went into the making of this de facto sequel (along with the Big Three top liners, there's a sly turn by the ever wily Bill Nighy, an appealingly earthy contribution from Toby “War Horse” Kebbell and a brisk, feminist touch from pretty, buff Rosamund Pike), there are enough computer-generated effects to overload an entire trilogy and a 3-D aspect that's mildly entertaining (rocks hurtling toward your face) but offers nothing original.
The story spins several classic and made-up aspects of Greek mythology and turns the thing into a standard-issue sword-and-sandal epic — complete with rugged hero (Worthington's brusque Kraken-killer Perseus), fading Greek gods (Neeson's sage Zeus, Fiennes' hideous Hades and Huston's waterlogged Poseidon) and a slew of swirling, snarling, pirouetting, slithering, thudding CGI monsters (multi-headed Chimeras, lumbering Cyclops, bullish Minotaurs, and legions of fierce, duel-torso Makhi warriors).
Trouble is, the CGI effects are so jittery and busy that they overwhelm the actors (even titans like Neeson and Fiennes; even a brash mug like Worthington). The action moves swiftly but not very cogently through some pretty intricate and interesting sets (note especially the interlocking, puzzle-like Underworld labyrinth). And the computer monsters are filmed with such glancing, breathless speed that we never have a chance to see them clearly and register how horrid and appalling they're supposed to be.
It's a puzzle and a shame, really. A puzzle because “Clash of the Titans” was so roundly booed by critics (although blindly embraced by international audiences) that you'd think a sequel would be a dubious project. A shame because there are some positive things going on here — a fresh breath of humor from Nighy as the demented inventor Hephaestus and from Kebbell as Poseidon's ne'er-do-well son Agenor, a snarling villain turn by Edgar Ramirez as Zeus's evil son Ares, and pretty impressive sets and costumes.
But “Wrath of the Titans” never reconciles its campy impulses with its bully-boy briskness or its self-serious haminess. While it might have been ham and cheese on wry, instead it's just an overstuffed hoagie that's merely hokey.
— Dennis King
‘Wrath of the Titans'
Starring: Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Toby Kebbell, Rosamund Pike
(Sequences of fantasy violence and action)
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