Friday, August 17, 2012

Hellenic On Earth

WRATH OF THE TITANS

Now, I confess to thinking the remake of Clash of the Titans to have been junk.  I also think Sam Worthington is among the worst people working in films under the guise of the term 'actor'.  I've wondered what would happen if Worthington ever teamed up with the equally untalented Channing Tatum (my bete noir of screen personalities).  It would be a great contest to see which one of them was more wooden, stiff, and expresionless on screen.  Such a union could possibly lead to war, with Australia and America fighting to see whether Aussie Worthington or Johnny Reb Tatum are doing the greater damage to cinema.  Yet I digress.

Since Clash of the Titans made millions of dollars (mostly due to people being fooled into paying extra for rushed 3-D effects that added nothing to the film), there naturally had to be a sequel. Actually, Clash of the Titans hinted there might be a sequel, but I thought after how awful it was even the money-sucking studios would have some sense.  Alas, no, and thus we have Wrath of the Titans, which is a film that, for all the sturm und drang it pommels us with still leaves one feeling empty.

In any case, we now have the second part to the story of Perseus and his Olympian father, Zeus.  Perseus (Worthington), having decided to be an atheist (despite being half-god) is living the humble life of a fisherman with his son Helius (John Bell).  However, the widowed Percy (thus getting rid of a need to bring back the character of Io) is soon visited by his father, Zeus (Liam Neeson), King of the Gods.  Humans have started abandoning the gods, and with their lack of faith the gods are now becoming...mortal.  Not only that, but the power of the Titans grows, in particular that of Kronos, the father of Zeus and his brothers Poseidon (Danny Huston), Lord of the Sea, and Hades (Ralph Fiennes), dread Lord of the Underworld.

Prayers can bring the gods to the humans, but people don't pray anymore.  This will be important to the plot, so bear with me.

I digress to say that this line of thinking (the Greek gods can now be mortal) appears more Norse than Hellenic theology.  After all, the Scandinavian gods are the ones that will be destroyed by their enemies at Gotterdammarung, right?  In any case, I again digress.

Well, while Perseus refuses to help we find that our Greek God brothers are finding it difficult to hold things together.  Hades, however, wants it that way: he now gets vengeance for having been sent to the Underworld by Zeus and there is a coup led by him and Zeus' son Ares (Edgar Ramirez). 

Now the hope for both gods and men lies with Percy, his cousin Agenor (Toby Kebbel), the thieving, untrustworthy half-human son of Poseidon, and Queen Andromeda (Rosemund Pike), who is now a Warrior Queen rather than a damsel in distress.  In order to defeat Kronos and his allies (who have screwed their brothers and fathers to gain true immortality), they have to restore the Spear of Trium.

What, pray tell is the Spear of Trium?  Well, it's Poseidon's trident, Hades' pitchfork, and Zeus' thunderbolt all put together.  Okay...

From there, Wrath of the Titans has them enter the Labyrinth with a little help from Hephaestus (Bill Nighy) which takes them to Tartarus to fight Hades and Ares (the latter always resentful of how Zeus favored his half-human child rather than the God of War), and then comes to confrontation with Kronos.  Not everyone makes it out alive...

If that is only to assure us there won't be a third Titans movie, I'll praise Wrath of the Titans to the highest heights of Mt. Olympus itself.  Wrath of the Titans is almost obsessed with some very peculiar themes for an action film.

Primarily, there is a fixation with characters almost whining about how their father issues.  Perseus doesn't want anything to do with his father.  Zeus wants to keep his father locked up.  Both Hades and Ares want their daddy to love them more than their siblings.  I was beginning to wonder whether people were trying to work out their daddy issues within the story.

On the story itself, it is amazing that three people came up with an almost non-existent story (Greg Berlanti, Dan Mazeau, and David Leslie Johnson, with only the last two actually writing the script).  I say amazing because the story simply doesn't move.  There's no sense that anything is really connected.

Take for example Andromeda.  If one looks at the story we're watching, she really doesn't do anything.  She has an army, but that's dispatched rather quickly to just meet up with them two days later.  She never leads the army anywhere, she never actually does much fighting (apart from lobbing a few arrows Katniss-style at a couple of Cyclops), and while we're given the idea that Andromeda and Perseus are going for a big romance at the end (a kiss tells us that), we've never gotten any sense that these two people even KNOW each other, let alone fall or are or are still madly in love.

Even worse, the story constantly pounds us into thinking Kronos is this major threat, but when he finally emerges from his Tartarus tomb, he ends up looking like Parallax from Green Lantern.  He was never presented as a growing threat, let alone any kind of threat at all, especially given how quickly he was dispatched with the Spear of Trium.

Going on about how Wrath never did anything with its characters, we're suppose to have a climatic battle between Perseus and Ares, with the latter holding a major threat against the former (one guess as to what).  I had hoped that Perseus' lifelong struggle to keep Helius out of fighting would feature a part of this scene (given that was a constant: how Perseus didn't want his son to follow in his footsteps).  Instead, Helius is almost reduced to just being there, with nothing to do and nothing to add to the scene.

Bell, sadly, reminded me of the little boy from Superman Returns (whom I lovingly refer to as Isra-El), a character that is suppose to be important but only ends up wasting our time. 

Of course, in terms of acting it is difficult to say what even the most talented thespian could have done with such a lousy script.  If people with genuine talent as Neeson and Fiennes (who took on their Bartha roles with a sense of, 'we know it's junk but Daddy needs a new pair of shoes), what to make of people with virtually no talent like Worthington?

Worthington's Perseus looked less reluctant warrior than disinterested warrior.  Throughout Wrath he had one expression on his face regardless of the situation (which, not surprisingly, was the same expression he had in Avatar, Terminator: Salvation, or Man on A Ledge).  By this point in his career Worthington can't be bothered to even try to hide his Australian accent (which makes for about the only amusement in Wrath: trying to figure out how an Aussie got to Greece).   I figure that in an American production, there is at least an effort to try to sound like an American.  Worthington doesn't either bother or simply cannot, which makes his appearance (since I can't call it a performance) all the more perplexing.

Even his accent could be forgiven if he were able to express any emotion whatsoever.  Worthington just cannot act.  He might be nice to look at, but in all his films he's never been able to show any range.  Actually, Sam Worthington has never been able to show anything, period.

Kebbell either has a poorly written character (how else to explain how he went from Agenor the Inept to Agenor the Warrior in a beat) or...well, I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt only because the story gave him little to work with.   If only the script had tried to go into the relationship between all the characters more, or at least shown an evolution to them, we might have something to work with.  Instead, the script and director Jonathan Liebesman just went for the easy action scene, the quick-moving camera, and left us with a weird and remarkably boring film.

Wrath of the Titans might have been fun, but the decision to bring back one of the most stilted people working in front of the camera today, along with a menace that isn't very menacing, and moving things really fast (even at times, making things anti-climatic, such as when Hephaestus manages to hold the secret door longer which sucks the tension of the fight between the warriors and Ares) kills the movie.  Here is a fine example: Ares found them because one of their company prayed to him, letting him know where they were (a divine GPS, I imagine).  We didn't know who she was, or why she was, but no matter: Ares quickly dispatches her, so we need not worry about such things as character or plot in this film.

At least the failure of the 3-D effects in COTT led to a cynicism towards and decline of more 3-D spectacles, so perhaps something good DID come out of Clash.  What little 3-D there is in Wrath didn't help given that it was fine in 2-D and thus not worth spending more on it.

This is Sam Worthington's usual expression.
If Hollywood insists on casting him in adaptations of Greek myths, I have the perfect part for him...


After all, both are incredible pieces of wood.

DECISION: D-

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