Monday, April 23, 2012

Wrath of the Titans

Wrath of the Titans
Grade: C
Cast: Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Rosamund Pike, Edgar Ramirez, Toby Kebbell
Director: Jonathan Liebesman
Free Access Granted

In Ancient Greece, Homer’s memorized recitals of the stories of the heroes and gods certainly required an attention span. The Wrath of The Titans certainly does not. It demands only the attention typically demanded by modern Hollywood blockbuster screenwriting.

But would Homer, in all his “As I lay dying, the woman with the dog face wouldn’t close my eyes as I descended into Hades”-ness, have been better served by less longwindedness and more action? With three screenwriters and a focus group whittling his tales down to sixth-grade level? With Zeus turning to Hades before they run around tossing lightning bolts during the climatic battle and uttering that phrase that has echoed down through the ages: “Let’s have some fun!”

In fairness, Hollywood isn’t trying to make a story that will last down through the millennia. They’re shooting for two hours, tops. And while The Wrath of the Titans does nothing to crater your attention for that length of time, it doesn’t do much to earn it beyond the two-hour parking limit, either.

Something of a greatest hits of Greek mythology, The Wrath of the Titans pours enough mythological creatures into the story that you might think it’s Bella Swan’s new dating list. There are giant Cyclops, wraiths, minotaurs, and of course the flying horse, Pegasus. If they didn’t get into the first film, 2009’s Clash of the Titans, they must figure this could be the last chance.

Fans of Hercules and Theseus may be dismayed having their accomplishments credited to a different warrior. That warrior would be Perseus (Sam Worthington). After vanquishing the Kraken several years ago, the reluctant warrior must leave his peaceful life to help his father Zeus save the world from dastardly Olympian infighting. His brother Ares, the god of war, is plotting against the two of them. This is a perfect setup for Ancient Greece, the culture that gave us the "daddy issue.”

I might leave this film lost in a labyrinth with no string to lead it out except for one thing – the visual effects are rather brilliant. Kudos to visual effects supervisor Nick Davis and his team. They integrate the CG monsters smoothly into the “real” elements of the scene and find the right balance between spectacle and reality. The images own an enormous amount of visual detail.

I was also impressed, at times, by the art direction and cinematography. There’s a lovely earthen feel to the Greek infantry smudged in mud as they await battle. And some of the shots are really beautifullly composed. For instance, watch, for instance, the scene where Perseus lands the flying horse Pegasus into a phalanx of Greek soldiers. See how the camera glides – from the dismounting hero, down the line of kneeling soldiers. to a helmet planted in the sand, then upwards to a person walking back toward Perseus. It’s a well-thought-out and executed shot. Almost from the beginning, director Jonathan Liebesman and cinematographer Ben Davis plant little gems like this.

If only they had also planted little gems like characters you care about and action that matters.

No comments: