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Movie Review: Loud, Aggressive WRATH OF THE TITANS Fufills Its Summer Movie Ambitions

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It was about midway through Wrath of the Titans when I realized something.  See, the plot revolves around gods Hades (Ralph Fiennes) and Ares (Edgar Ramirez, from Carlos) kidnapping Zeus (Liam Neeson) to revive their imprisoned father Kronos (a CGI sprite), and Hades was delivering a Bond villain-type speech to Zeus when it occurred to me:

Wrath of the Titans marks the first time that Fiennes and Neeson have shared the screen together since 1993’s groundbreaking Schindler’s List.

This is not knowledge one should bring to their Wrath of the Titans viewing.  Not because the associated subject matter is depressing (although, gosh, nothing says “summer movie blockbuster fun” like thinking about a graphically extreme Holocaust drama), but because the difference in quality is great enough to make Wrath of the Titans seem much worse than it actually is.

Here’s the thing: you could do much worse than Wrath of the Titans.  Granted, you could do much better, but I’ve long reconciled myself to the fact that most CGI spectacles hew closer to, say, this or its 2010 predecessor Clash of the Titans than to Rise of the Planet of the Apes or Inception.  To its credit, Wrath of the Titans runs barely ninety minutes, showcases a lot of stuff blowing up in enjoyably grandiose ways, not least of which includes the film’s ridiculously capable supporting cast overacting wildly as Wrath‘s various gods and demigods.

I mean, you could do Hamlet with this group of thespians.  In addition to Fiennes, Ramirez, and Neeson, Wrath of the Titans doubles down and throws in Rosamund Pike, Danny Huston, and the great Bill Nighy, who gives the movie its biggest jolt of unpredictability as Hephaestus, the gods’ master inventor.  It’s no small feat; director Jonathan Liebesman (replacing Louis Leterrier) tosses in Cyclops attacks and frighteningly devious labyrinths and a skyscraper-sized Big Bad (the aforementioned Kronos), yet Nighy’s doddering, gently crazed Hephaestus makes the biggest impact.

You wish Nighy could have gotten more screentime (he’s only in Wrath of the Titans for about ten minutes, and when he checks out, I confess my attention does, too), or even Toby Kebbell’s wry Agenor; either actor would be an improvement over Sam Worthington’s bland Perseus.  While quite credible in smaller indies like Texas Killing Fields or Macbeth, his affability doesn’t pop in big budget epics like this and James Cameron’s Avatar.  You always wonder what Russell Crowe was doing that he couldn’t be bothered to play Perseus (or, rather, how much money he wanted that the financiers were unwilling to pay) – Worthington has the looks and accent, but little of the innate charisma.  In fairness, he’s a little better here than he was in the first Clash of the Titans – Wrath turns Perseus into more of a bruiser, as opposed to Clash‘s sensitive warrior – but he still doesn’t elevate the character past its comic-book motivations.

And really, Worthington’s deficiencies only do damage when he’s given exposition to deliver (his blah romance with Pike; any time monsters aren’t destroying the landscape).  90% of the time, he’s a prop, necessary only to give the special effects the appropriate weight and scale, and he performs that function admirably.

Wrath of the Titans is very much a product of our times: it’s the adventure movie as theme park exhibit, a perpetual motion machine divorced from emotional resonance or thematic gravity.  That might seem harsh, but Wrath of the Titans is really no worse than the John Carters and Underworld Awakenings and Fast Fives that Hollywood so loves.  The film is just the way of the now, and it’s either panic, or stop worrying, and learn to love the bomb.

Warner’s Blu-ray offers a visually extreme digital transfer; director Liebesman likes to boost grit and dirt and flying natural debris.  The picture could be problematic, but it’s still clean and sharp.  The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is a horse of a different color, though; this thing is a beast, both aggressive and clearly defined.

What supplements exist are solid.  The disc has two Maximum Movie Modes, one focusing on the mythology aspects of the film (“The Path of the Gods”) and one dealing more with production details (“The Path of Men”).  You can toggle between the two while the movie plays, or you can watch the individual featurettes as separate Focus Points.  The Blu-ray also has about ten minutes of deleted scenes and offers DVD and UltraViolet Digital copies.

Wrath of the Titans is big, loud, and dumb, but it’s aggressively all three things and is – as these types of flicks go – not particularly offensive.  Again: you could do worse.

Own Wrath of the Titans on Blu-ray Combo Pack and Digital Download on June 26th.  Click HERE for Amazon’s listing.