- 'WRATH OF THE TITANS': Sam Worthington stars.
What's the ceiling on a movie called "Wrath of the Titans" anyway? The best you're going to get, likely, is about half-decent, which is where this particular movie called "Wrath of the Titans" lands. There are a million ways to screw up a movie of this type, and this version commits only a few of them. For instance. The story sets up a nifty labyrinth, then wimps out on it. The gods' waning powers are attributed to ebbing human faith — pray and they'll get stronger! — reducing Olympians to de facto Tinkerbells. The queen Andromeda, who is presumed to be Greek, has to ask who Hephaestus is, ostensibly on behalf of the audience, despite his status as one of the canonical ancient Greek gods. And perhaps it's unavoidable when you cast Sam Worthington as the lead, Perseus, but the hero speaks in an Australian accent.
But it does far more right, for a movie that's at least 30 percent video game. Fearsome monsters, clever battle sequences, a story that doesn't get overcomplicated, ubiquitous CGI that doesn't call undue attention to itself. In fact, it can be told in about three sentences. Perseus, the heroic half-human son of Zeus, is now a doting father. With the gods' influence waning such that they're actually mortal, Hades (the god) and Ares double-cross Zeus and hold him in hell to make way for Kronos, the mountain-sized father of the gods, to take over the world. With Zeus captive, Perseus reluctantly enlists the feckless half-human son of Poseidon (Toby Kebbell) to help him save Zeus and the world. (Bonus synopsis line: Chimera fight!)
Everyone of note is back for this sequel to 2010's "Clash of the Titans," even those you'd think would have better things to do: Worthington, Liam Neeson as Zeus, Ralph Fiennes looking like a de-dreaded Rob Zombie as Hades, and Danny Huston as Poseidon. The exceptions: They swapped Andromedas, trading Alexa Davalos (whose last film listed on IMDB.com is "Clash of the Titans") for the perfectly enchanting Rosamund Pike, and Tamer Hassan has been replaced with Edgar Ramirez as the brutish, brooding Ares. Pegasus returns as the F-15 of horses. Jonathan Liebesman again directs, seemingly with an Xbox joystick, piloting the camera, if you can call it that during elaborate computerized sequences, over and around battlefields and mountains and cavern chambers as if channeling a Pegasus-eye view.
Apparently it's easy to keep a cast together when your first go-round banks half a billion dollars, as "Clash" managed. It would be easy to sniff that this goes to show that people love the classics. In fact, it does. The polytheistic Greek tales are every bit as crowd-pleasing as the Marvel universe or a saucy telenovela. The gods are petty, lascivious and cruel. The heroes are flawed and love to decapitate monsters. In "Wrath," Perseus is too duty-bound to be that much fun, but Worthington is hard to loathe. His foil in Kebbell keeps them both honest: Worthington brings the gravity, the rakish Kebbell brings a wink. The former keeps the film from devolving into a cartoon; the latter, from self-parody. Maybe that, ultimately, is the best you can hope for when you walk into a movie called "Wrath of the Titans": That when you walk out, you don't feel had.