BAKER STREET | REVIEW
by Eric J Baker
When did B movies become 150-million-dollar epics? Wrath of the Titans has all the qualities of one (including the casting of semi-big stars in small parts to lend faux gravitas) but at 25 times the price. At least with B movies, whatever money the filmmakers have usually ends up on the screen. And if you spend wisely, 150M buys you a lot of Wrath.
This film resumes the exploits of Greek demigod Perseus (Sam Worthington), last seen in the Clash of the Titans remake two years ago, as he travels to the underworld to rescue his father, Zeus (Liam Neeson), who has been imprisoned by Hades (Ralph Fiennes) at the behest of their father, Kronos (good to see the Balrog getting work again). At its heart, Wrath of the Titans is a tender drama about everything getting smashed to fucking pieces or blown up, though these moments are contrasted nicely by whatever’s left collapsing on itself in a mushroom cloud of annihilation. In a clever subplot, lots of punching and stabbing happens.
You know what, though? As monster movies go, it ain’t that bad. Unlike the miserable Clash, the sequel’s story has internal momentum. The effects are far more detailed and photorealistic than in the previous film, the action is easier to follow, and the vibe is closer to Ray Harryhausen’s stop-motion B-flicks that inspired these remakes. Ralph Fiennes is less hammy this time around, and Rosamund Pike’s Andromeda is more enthusiastic and likeable than that of Alexa Davalos, the pretty piece of cardboard who played the role two years ago.
The franchise, if it can be called such, continues to suffer from the casting of Sam Worthington in the lead, though. Maybe he was blue lightning in Avatar, but it’s hard to imagine someone less charismatic being asked to carry a movie with this price tag. Harry Hamlin in the original Clash was Sean Connery compared to this guy. I’m probably two years too late to make this joke, but if Medusa had succeeded in turning Worthington to stone in the previous film, I don’t think we’d know the difference. Too bad Ryan Reynolds wasn’t available.
Perhaps Killough can explain to me how the movie business works. Wrath’s director, Jonathan Liebesman, is the auteur behind Battle Los Angeles, a B alien-invasion film that didn’t make a lot of money and nobody liked, Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, a 90-minute-long, nearly plotless sequence of people being graphically brutalized and mutilated, and Darkness Falls, a C horror flick about a killer tooth fairy that not even I am willing to sit through (you have no idea how damning that declaration is for a horror film). So why not give him a mega-budget blockbuster that could sink a franchise and bankrupt a studio if not handled properly, right?
I think I answered my own question. Michael Bay produced the Texas Chainsaw remakes. Jonathan Liebesman did not piss off Michael Bay. Thus, Jonathan Liebesman gets to direct blockbusters, however computer-generated they may be. Because you know what happens when Michael Bay is unhappy with you, right? You end up with a horse head in your bed.
Hell, I said something bad about Michael Bay when I worked for Circuit City, and look what happened to that company. You thought it was incompetent management, didn’t you?
I gotta stop talking about Michael Bay in my posts. It has become an obsession.
As for Wrath of the Titans, this might be the end of the line for this series. Unless it does exceptionally well overseas, will Warner Brothers want to dump another huge chunk of bank on a movie with such limited appeal? This film plays like Lord of the Rings lite, but it’s not based on one of the most beloved book trilogies of all time. It’s based on a quaint mythology flick from 1981 with charmingly bad dialog, a robot owl, and small fan-base of 40-something nerds, most of whom should admit that it’s more fun to fondly recall the film than it is to watch it.
Wrath features three female characters, two of whom have less than a half a page of dialog, so you can forget the Hunger Games crowd. Somehow, the filmmakers managed to make a sword-fight movie without an ounce of homoerotica, which means the jocks won’t be interested. And despite my claim that it isn’t as bad as the scathing reviews suggest, there’s little here to appeal to adults who never loved Seventh Voyage of Sinbad when they were kids. Or its sequel, Golden Voyage of Sinbad, gratuitously mentioned in this paragraph so I can tie This Week’s Brunette, Caroline Munro, to the story. I’d follow up with a joke about tying her to a bed as well, but she’s grandma-old now and I am not into the advanced cougar thing. Yeesh!
Using occasional PFC contributor Chris Cramer’s number scale movie-rating system (which I much prefer to Killough’s statistically invalid method, seen below), I give Wrath of the Titans a 43/100. While hardly a glowing endorsement, that is the middle quintile, which Killough deems “Nice.” Note that I’m three points away from “Meh,” so let that be your guide when you can’t bear to spend another minute with your dreadful relatives on Easter and venture forth unto the multiplex in search of a film.
May Zeus bless you in your quest.