Letter From The Editor - Issue 58 - August 2017

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Writing Fantasy

  
At The Picture Show
March 2012

Wrath of the Titans

The gods must be CGI

Unnecessary sequel 'Wrath of the Titans' offers more of the same

Wrath of the Titans
Warner Bros. Pictures
Director: Jonathan Liebesman
Screenplay: Dan Mazeau and David Leslie Johnson
Starring: Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Edgar Ramirez, Rosamund Pike, Toby Kebbell, Ralph Fiennes and Bill Nighy
Rated PG-13 / 1 hour, 39 minutes
Opened March 30, 2012
(out of four)

The special-effects extravaganza that exists only to highlight its special effects is a prototype I can only hope will someday die out. I am not optimistic. When digital effects are used - even in great volume - at the service of something else, the results can be extraordinary. I'm thinking of King Kong, A.I., The Matrix, Terminator 2 and the like.

But then you have movies like Wrath of the Titans, which despite the fact that many of its effects are pretty good, suck the enjoyment out of everything. I'd like to enjoy or appreciate quality effects, but the single-mindedness of the filmmaking approach of these movies prevents me from being able to do so. Quick example: For those of you who saw Van Helsing a few years back, do you remember anything about that movie but the CGI? Didn't think so.

Wrath of the Titans is in the same category. This is the sequel to 2010's sleeper Clash of the Titans, which capitalized on the post-Avatar craze of 3D action spectacles (not to mention Sam Worthington) and ended up being a monster hit. It took no great powers of inductive reasoning to realize that those who enjoyed the film probably weren't especially interested in character, story or thematic resonance, so we've been given more of the same in the sequel. Which means more of its meal ticket (CGI action punctuated by scowling) and a casual stripping-away of whatever doesn't fit that rigid objective.

And when it comes to fulfilling low ambitions, Jonathan Liebesman is Hollywood's new man, it seems. The director of Darkness Falls and Battle: Los Angeles is the new hack du jour, and has seemingly taken the Brett Ratner career strategy of latching on to existing franchises. Aside from the two aforementioned movies, he previously helmed The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, now he's got Wrath of the Titans under his belt, and his next project is the Ninja Turtles reboot. Just watch - a year or so from now, he'll sign on to direct a Commando remake or something.

I admit it's easy for people in my position to take potshots at directors from way out here in the gallery. Granted. But when Liebesman directs a blockbuster movie so cynically - with such dull joylessness that he's banking on attracting audiences anyway - he rightfully earns the criticism thrown his way. It's also true, after all, that people in my position are part of the ticket-buying public.

But I'm getting off topic.

There is a moment late in Wrath of the Titans where Zeus (Liam Neeson) turns to another character, smiles and says, "Let's have some fun!" Well, I wish. This movie never has any fun. It has no wonder or enthusiasm for its material (come on, this is Greek mythology we're talking about!), no creative ideas about its action or effects, and certainly no sense of humor. Instead, it's a bombardment of fantastical images, filled in with action-movie cliches remarkable only for their complete lack of self-awareness. ("You're our only hope - we need you to save the world!" Scenes like that.)

I'm going to summarize the plot and all its important characters in one sentence. Ready to see me give it a go? OK, here goes: Perseus (Worthington) teams up with Queen Andromeda (Rosamund Pike) and Poseidon's demigod son Agenor (Toby Kebbell) to save the universe after Hades (Ralph Fiennes) and Ares (Edgar Ramirez) join forces against Zeus (Liam Neeson) to bring Zeus and Hades' father Kronos back to life and effectively end the age of the gods.

Whew! Finished. Don't worry - the film doesn't bother to expand on any of its plot points much more than that sentence just did. So our bases are as covered as they're going to get.

As the duplicitous and arrogant Agenor, Kebbell is the standout of the cast - as he has been before in the likes of RockNRolla, The Sorcerer's Apprentice and War Horse. It's an underwritten role but he makes the most of it. Everyone else seems to be on autopilot.

I've probably made it sound like this is the worst movie ever, and it's not. As I've said, there are some nice special effects and even a couple of enjoyable action sequences. Let it be said that Liebesman's action directing has improved a bit since Battle: Los Angeles - which isn't saying much, but still. My issue isn't how terrible Wrath of the Titans is, but how very sick and tired we all should be with movies that do so little and aim so low.

Read more by Chris Bellamy


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