Wrath of the Titans

  • Reviewed by: Joe Marchese
  • Review Date: Jul 09, 2012
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Director

Jonathan Liebesman

Release Date(s)

2012 (June 26, 2012)

Studio(s)

Warner Bros. Pictures (Warner Bros.)

Review

Moviegoers experienced the fantastic, as the tagline went, for 1981's Clash of the Titans. The film boasted the final work of stop-motion animation pioneer Ray Harryhausen and a "Who's Who" of British thespians (among them Sir Laurence Olivier, Dame Maggie Smith, Claire Bloom and Sian Phillips) in a wondrous spin on Greek mythology also starring Harry Hamlin (L.A. Law) and Ursula Andress (Dr. No, Casino Royale).

If there was any surprise to Warner Bros.' 2010 remake, it was simply that it took so long to happen! The original, larger-than-life fantasy adventure flick written by Beverley Cross (ironically best-known for the English version of the farce Boeing-Boeing and the musical comedy Half a Sixpence) and directed by Desmond Davis was ready-made for the large-scale, 21st century remake treatment. The advances in special effects since the days of Ray Harryhausen alone would have made such an endeavor worthwhile. And when that film scored at the box office, a sequel was inevitable. Hence, 2012's Wrath of the Titans arrived, and the epic action spectacular has just as inevitably made its debut on Blu-ray.

A number of cast members from the 2010 Clash returned for its cinematic continuation. Liam Neeson once again filled Laurence Olivier's considerable shoes as Zeus, and Sam Worthington reprised Harry Hamlin's old role of Perseus. Wrath finds Perseus, the hero of the original, now a widower and trying to raise his son Helius (John Bell) and have a peaceful life. He wants nothing more to do with heroics and gods such as his father, Zeus. But Perseus is soon pulled back into his old role when his uncle, Hades (Ralph Fiennes), and half-brother Ares (Edgar Ramirez, replacing Tamer Hassan from Clash) deviously plan to free the evil Kronos from his prison in Tartarus. Perseus must then reunite with Queen Andromeda (Rosamund Pike, replacing Alexa Davalos from Clash) to rescue Zeus and prevent Kronos from being freed.

Wrath of the Titans closely follows the blueprint of its predecessor. Why tamper with the proven formula? It has the same blend of familiar mythological characters with fantastic creatures. Wrath also expands the cast, with an enlarged role for fallen god Hephaestus (the always-delicious Bill Nighy) plus a trio of Cyclopes, a chimera and even the fabled Minotaur. As a quest film, it doesn't shy away from emulating the more successful moments from its predecessor, including the climactic sequence in which Perseus takes to the skies on Pegasus to defeat a giant foe. In Clash, it was the Kraken and in Wrath it is Kronos.

Despite being full of epic and mythological figures, Wrath just doesn't feel that big, however, in the hands of director Jonathan Liebesman (Battle: Los Angeles, Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning), replacing Clash's Louis Letterier. Liebesman does manage a consistent tone; when he offers in the Blu-ray's special features that he sought to meld a "gritty and spontaneous" style with "old Hollywood spectacle," you'll agree that he largely succeeded. There are some impressive sets, too, like the dilapidated Mount of Idols early in the film. But the scale of the world seems far too small. As the film travels from place to place very quickly (despite being told that one location is very far out to sea!), it lacks the scale and weight of other, similarly-styled quest films like Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy. The special effects are the main attraction of a film like this, and they range from very good to merely middling. The sequences involving Kronos in Tartarus and the battle with the two Cyclopes are well done, but the fight with the Chimera and some of the final battle with Kronos fighting a large army both have an overly CGI feel.

The screenplay by Dan Mazeau and David Leslie Johnson also relies on the formulaic. Kronos never seems a formidable enough foe to Perseus despite being physically as large as a mountain; in addition, the war god Ares comes off as more whiny than truly fearsome. Wrath does, mercifully, hint at some deeper connections in its text and meaning, but barely scratches the surface of the nature of relationships between fathers (Zeus/Perseus and Perseus/Helius) and brothers (Zeus/Hades and Perseus/Ares), and the reality of a world turning away from the gods they once worshipped. These intriguing themes are placed on the back burner in favor of big, colorful action sequences; would that they could have co-existed.

The cast brings the most thrilling moments to life. Worthington does the reluctant action hero well and brings a bit of gravitas to the part. Neeson, Fiennes and Nighy all seem to relish their roles as Greek gods and savor the over-the-top and melodramatic dialogue. In particular, Fiennes' Hades has a solid arc from the beginning to the end, starting out as a stock villain but later confronting fear - something Hades has not known before. The charismatic, knowing Neeson brings the necessary presence to Zeus, the leader of the gods.

The video on the Blu-ray is very good without any major defects, as should be expected from a modern big-budget studio release. The details are all sharp and colors all pop. The lava scenes in Tartarus look particularly striking and appropriately exciting on BD. There is also a 3-D version of the Blu-ray, as Wrath was post-converted to 3-D for its theatrical release. Wrath is similarly excellent on the audio side. The DTS HD Master 5.1 surround mix throws action to you from each speaker, and every sound is crisp. It's not hard to imagine that you are in the middle of the giant-scale battles, thanks to this immersive mix. Subtitles are available in English SDH, French and Spanish.

Two Maximum Movie Modes are the BD's central special features: The Path of the God and The Path of Men. Gods focuses on the mythology behind the characters and includes interviews with mythology scholars as well the actors and creators of Wrath. Men focuses on the production of the film and features interviews and commentary from just about everyone you would expect. Though you choose one of these paths at the beginning of the film, you may switch between them at any point. They occasionally merge and present the same content. Both are fairly good looks at the film, but Gods has the edge for entertainment value as the historical approach is slightly different than what is usually expected on a feature such as this. Of course, the most substantial downside to Maximum Movie Mode is that the screen often splits into three parts and each part whirls around; it can be difficult to know what you're looking at depending on the size of your display.

During the Maximum Movie Mode, there are also 10 Focus Points. These offer about a half-hour total of in-depth coverage of certain topics, including background on certain characters like Agenor, the son of Poseidon (played by Toby Kebbell in a fun turn). These are viewable separately from the main menu. Finally, there are 3 deleted scenes present which total 11 minutes. None of the deleted scenes are missed in the main picture and just add some shading. Unfortunately, no trailers for Wrath or any other promotional material are included.

Wrath of the Titans is a well-made if rather generic action film, flirting with some deeper meaning but opting, in the end, simply to move onto the next set piece. Still, this adequate sequel to 2010's Clash of the Titans is an intermittently fun romp. Should you wish to savor those moments time and time again, it's available in multiple home video formats: Blu-ray 3D combo pack with standard Blu-ray/DVD and Ultraviolet copy, Blu-ray combo pack with DVD and Ultraviolet copy, a Blu-ray with Ultraviolet copy only, and as a stand-alone DVD. The gods likely won't frown upon your purchase!

Joe Marchese

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