Wrath of the Titans Is Full of Awesome Monsters Fighting A Dour Hero
By Alex Cranz
Perseus stands out from the other heroes of Greek myths. He’s the prototypical Greek hero. In the entire pantheon he is the only one who gets a happy ending. He doesn’t murder his wife in a fit of madness and he isn’t crushed by his own rotting ship. He’s given a quest, eager to be a hero he embarks on the quest and accomplishes it and he and Andromeda live happily ever after.
But that was all changed in the 2010 film Clash of the Titans. Perseus was a reluctant hero, and instead of being one of the earliest heroes of the Heroic Age he was one of the last. A man desperate to oversee the twilight of the gods. Behind the scenes the studio made demands of the filmmaker and Andromeda, Perseus’s wife for the last two millennia, became a thinly drawn supporting character. Nothing more than a damsel in distress–without even romance driving her or Perseus in their actions.
Io, the chick Zeus once doomed to wander the earth as a cow, was added to the story as an Obi Wan-like spiritual advisor. The original cut of the film ended with her death and Perseus grieving and moving on in the arms of Andromeda. But no. The film needed a strong female character so both women’s characters were sacrificed so Io could become a fighter who dies and is resurrected as a gift for Perseus’s penis.
Wrath of the Titans is all about fixing the damage wrought by the 2010 film. Io dies off-screen and in a shocking turn of events is NOT murdered to provide angst for our hero. In fact her death has made Perseus a little bittersweet, but in her life she must have calmed the reluctant angsty hero of the first film, because he seems more a whole man now. Not reluctant for reluctance sake, but reticent because he’s a single father and he honestly doesn’t see how his deeds can compare to those of the gods.
Which is important because Zeus has come to rally him to his cause. Cronus, who in this alternate universe WASN’T killed by Zeus, is imprisoned with the other titans in Tartarus and they’re all about to break out. He needs every available body…even the demigods. Perseus says no, because heroes can never ever ever just say yes when called to duty nowadays. No they must be forced to fight by extenuating circumstances, in this case a two-headed fire-breathing bat dog nearly kills him and his son.
Yes. A two-headed fire-breathing bat dog. It. Is. Awesome. Like the other monsters of the film you can really feel that Harryhausen inspiration. While not as technically stunning as Harryhausen’s creatures from the original 1980 Clash of the Titans they’re nevertheless wonderfully executed and inventive creatures. In particular the two-torsoed titans that are featured in the climax feel like something ripped off of a Grecian vase.
But the real surprise are the other images. A god leaking lava like ichor onto the floor of Tartarus. You know how vast his power is by the volume of ichor. It gushes in waves and seems to run for miles. Cronus as a giant so tall he touches the sky. A god in repose as his brother lords over him. It’s what Tarsem Singh wanted to do with Immortals but never could quite succeed at. Some of the images in this big silly action film are as striking as paintings.
And some of the reimaginings of myths are so thoughtful–Bill Nighy who shows up as a mad and wirey Hephaestus and he’s so vastly different then my preconceptions of what Hephaestus is that I actually got a little giddy. Why has no one before painted him as a mad inventor rather than a hulking blacksmith? It is so different and yet so perfect. THAT is updating the Greek myths for the modern age.
Unlike Ralph Fiennes’s Hades. The distant, regal rapist of myths is once more painted as a petulant man child with a massive chip on his shoulder. Fiennes roots through the silly blueprint of his character to find some emotional truths and his scenes with Liam Neeson’s Zeus are nothing short of Shakespearian. But he’s less a Hades and more a Lucifer…which now has me wanting him and Neeson in some adaptation of Paradise Lost.
Rosamund Pike is also quite Shakespearian in her delivery, despite playing a warrior queen. The role of Andromeda was recast and Pike is a smooth fit into the franchise, at home with the stilted dialogue and making delightful faces every time a cyclops snarls in her face. She’s another example of the franchise attempting a strong female character. But where Io was a spiritual guide thrust into the role of action heroine and romantic foil, Andromeda is a sassy, vibrant queen desperately trying to keep her kingdom alive. Her lobbing arrows at monsters and running straight into Ares’s mace actually makes a bit more sense. Where often heroines of her ilk are hyper competent women who blindly follow the less than able hero, she’s a genuine supporting character to a legitimate hero.
Though of this cast Sam Worthington might be the weakest link? His charm seems forced at times. Many of his scenes are shared with Pike and an ebullient Toby Kebbell and they play well off each other and are so damn ingratiating that Worthington seems almost a mire next to them.* Part of it is just the character. Perseus is a grim man on a mission. A prehistoric Commander Shepherd. There’s no sense of wonder when he faces off against gods and monsters. Just a stark sense of necessity in his actions. And he’s never allowed to develop outside of his relationships with his father and his son. So even though he makes sexy eyes at Andromeda and you know they’ll end up making out by the end of the film it feels perfunctory rather than organic.
But that’s the problem with this whole Titans franchise to begin with. As cool as it is and as much fun as I had watching it (and picking out all of the inaccuracies) I never felt like I was watching a fantasy film. These are dour takes on Greek mythology. Modern reboots that wear away at the originals until only a skeleton remains, and fleshed again in something quite humorless….but really awesome looking.
- Like the last film this one suffered some major cuts. Clash of the Titans was retooled to the point that it was unrecognizable, but it looks like Wrath just cut some scenes of other gods–including Athena! I’ll miss her.
- Everyone keeps praying to Ares in the film and the Greek mythology nerd in me feels compelled to point out that Ares was not actually a god warriors prayed to. He was considered kind of crazy and a force of nature. Instead they prayed to Athena.
- Edgar Ramirez makes a great Ares in this…even though he’s emo as hell.
- Jonathan Leibesman also directed the humorless Battle: LA which leads me to suspect that the lack of humor in these films is a hallmark of his. Which may worry you if you like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He directs that next.
- I really want a film set in this world where Rosamund Pike and Toby Kebbell go on wisecracking adventures. Sam Worthington can play their grumpy friend.
*I thought about calling him a black hole, but he’s not THAT bad.