Thursday, March 29, 2012

Wrath of the Titans

And Your Role Is To...?

Once bitten, twice shy. I suppose the really bad 3D effects in the Clash of the Titans remake two years ago made me steer really clear of yet another post-production 3D conversion effort in this follow up sequel, and going by the looks of it, there isn't really much to provide that depth of field, nor effort in the way it's shot to exploit the 3D format, other than to rake in extra dollars since the 2010 version did so to have green lit this total imaginary Greek mythology scribed by Greg Berlanti, David Johnson and Dan Mazeau, who between them have written stuff like Green Lantern, Orphan, and Red Riding Hood. But one thing's for sure, gone is the direction and focus on pure action, and in comes a semblance of a stronger storyline.

The theme about fathers and sons cannot be more pronounced in Wrath of the Titans, set 10 years after the first film, that harks back to the Greek mythology origins of the splitting of powers between Zeus (Liam Neeson), Hades (Ralph Fiennes) and Poseidon (Danny Huston) when they condemn their father Cronos into the depths of Hell, and Zeus having to play Hades out by making the latter lord of the underworld. So the balance of power has remained as such, until Zeus walks into a trap as planned by Hades and Zeus' son Ares (Edgar Ramirez) the god of War because of his jealousy of Perseus (Sam Worthington), the new favoured son of Zeus. With Zeus entrapped to sap his life force and powers for Cronos, the plan is to release Cronos back into the world to destroy everything in the known universe.

The saviour is of course demi god Perseus, who now is a father to Helius (John Bell), his son with now deceased wife Io, conveniently written out because of Gemma Arterton's non participation, and to steer the romance in this fable back to between Perseus and Queen Andromeda, who's now Warrior Queen and played by Rosamund Pike. And Perseus can't save the world alone because he's only a half-god up against the might of Ares, Hades and Cronos, so he has to team up with another demi god, the son of Poseidon, Agenor (Toby Kebbell), who will lead them to Hephaestus (Bill Nighy), who holds the key to safe passage to the Underworld where Zeus is imprisoned. The quest this time, as you can see, is kept quite linear and straightforward, which makes it extremely easy to follow as the dots get connected in the most simplest of fashion, keeping in constant reminder of the theme that deals with the squabbles between family members, and fights between envious siblings.

And not only is the story kept simple, the battle scenes here were also cleanly designed without complication, unleashing new beasts yet to be seen in the Clash of the Titans film, involving ugly two-headed hounds from hell, battles with one eyed cyclops, and of course, big daddy himself who seemed more smoke and mirrors, especially since the strategy involves something that's very close to Star Wars' destruction of the Death Star. I can't fathom why there are so many complaints about the big minotaur fight unless you're watching the film really close to the screen. Some easter eggs continue from the first film, such as the presence of mechanical owl Bubo, and Pegasus having a little bit more personality though still sidelined as being nothing more than air transportation.

Sam Worthington looked like he's enjoying much of the adventures of Perseus this time round, playing the man who walked away from his new found fame as the Kraken slayer, to return once again from his life of being a simple fisherman, and taking up arms and fight to save the world against the titans in the film (collectively inclusive of the other monsters in the film). With the gods severely weakened because nobody prays to them, the role of Perseus and Agenor, for slight comic relief, may pave the door to follow up films that deal more with demi gods than those residing in Mount Olympus. Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes had a lot more to do here also in expanded roles, with the final act providing the opportunity for one last hurrah that is surprisingly moving.

Perhaps the miscast here would be Rosamund Pike's Andromeda, with the idea of a Warrior Queen being a departure from Andromeda's usual role of the damsel in distress, but this film still being more testosterone suited instead. She doesn't get to do much given her very human abilities, and is there as token romantic interest with a romance that isn't strong to begin with, coupled with a sagging mid-section that involves hallucination en route to the Underworld that got abandoned before it even begun for her character. Her troopers too in the final battle scene didn't get to do much despite much posturing for nothing, and were relegated to mere cheer leaders for the most part, grateful that someone else had stepped up to the plate and did their fighting for them instead.

Still, if compared to the rather disastrous Clash of the Titans 2 years ago, Wrath of the Titans is a leg up in terms of storytelling, and didn't have an albatross of the superbly nostalgic 1981 version hanging around its neck to be compared to. The fights also didn't get obsessed with wanting to be bigger, faster and more CG-laden, and the combination of a more focused plot and theme, with better designed battles that adhered to the mantra of keeping it simple, proved to be a winner for this Jonathan Liebesman directed follow up. Recommended for being that far out, imaginary modern take on Greek mythology that played on the what-if scenario.

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