Thursday, April 19, 2012

Wrath of the Titans

2012, Jonathan Liebesman -- theatre

The Clash of the Titans remake from 2010 left what could be called an absence of impression upon me.  Fact of the matter was I couldn't remember the film at all, so I had convinced myself that my lack of memory of the film meant it must've been an utter failure, and a complete piece of shit.

Imagine my surprise upon digging through my old blog archives to find that I kind of liked it.  Okay, perhaps "kinda liked" is too strong... more appreciated the technical side of it (having watched in 2D rather than the universally panned 3-D conversion) but was all to aware of its failure in storytelling. 

Having absolutely no fondness for the first installment, expectations for the second installment weren't even low, they were nil.  I flat out ignored any set reports, any buzz, any reviews, and kept myself detached entirely from trailers and commercials.  I just didn't care, and didn't have any desire to see it.  But the power of free passes beckoned, and with a willing -- nay, eager -- compatriot in David to go with, off I went.

And I'll be damned if I didn't like it. 

While I'd like to tell you what's different between Wrath and Clash, obviously, given my lack of memory of Clash (there was precious little recall happening whilst watching the latest), it's a dicey proposition.   What I appreciated most about this latest production was how streamlined and focused the story was.  It's a bare bones adventure plot that starts at point A, points at point B and moves unwavering towards it.  Most films of this sort get sidelined by all sorts of diversions, and for some the diversions make the story, and for others it kills it.  Wrath goes virtually diversion free.  It does so by sacrificing a lot of in depth character and relationship building, but it's also not entirely necessary.  In this case the minimal amount it provides is about all it needs.  Anything more would more than likely be hokey or painfully weak but left as primarily glances or the briefest of exchanges, it actually has more meaning.

There's a "troubled relationships between fathers and sons" aspect to the film, as Zeus (Liam Neeson) is captured by his brother, Hades (Ralph Feinnes) and offered up as a sacrifice to their father, the Titan Chronos (yes, there's an actual Titan in this one) as he shows signs of breaking free of his prison.  Hades is joined by Zeus' estranged son, Ares (Edgar Ramirez), while his other, beloved son Perseus (Sam Worthington) is his only hope.  Perseus reluctantly accepts the quest to abandon his own son rescue his father.  Joined by the son of the recently slain Poseidon, seeking to honor his own father,  and Andromeda (Rosamond Pike), whom Perseus should fall in love with any minute now, they set off for the Underworld, encountering obstacles such as the Cyclopes giants, the Minotaur and, of course, Ares before the big final battle against an unleashed Chronos.

Unlike the last film, there's more right than wrong here, even though the story itself isn't remotely connected to the myths.  Set at a time when belief in the Gods are dwindling there's a lack of power available, which makes the displays of them all the more impressive.  Chronos particularly was a visual wonder, an oozing molten mess, standing tall as a skyscraper, absolutely monstrous and seemingly unstoppable.  The display of abilities by Zeus and Hades, equally, was impressive, with a nice distinction in the effects of their powers.

After the fact I learned that the film was the product of Jonathan Liebsman, director of the equally focused and direct Battle: Los Angeles (which astute G&DSD readers will recall being the inspiring film for this blog).  Suddenly my enjoyment of this film made a lot more sense.  Liebsman is proving that an idea doesn't need to be complicated to work as a film and that with good direction, relentless action can create a momentum all its own that doesn't need to be overwhelmed with forced drama or cliched character distractions to be appealing.  Sometimes simpler is better.  In this case, it's certainly better than what came before.

We're not talking anything groundbreaking, anything challenging here, just enjoyable, escapist, at times pleasing and awe inspiring entertainment.  Sometimes that's just good enough.