Few would argue against Clash of the Titans being anything but trash, what with its cheesy dialogue and anorexic plot. Still, it was at least entertaining trash, thanks in part to the remarkable action sequences and the thrill of watching Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes ham it up as warring gods Zeus and Hades. Sadly, those thrills all but evaporate in Wrath of the Titans, the loud and agonizingly dull sequel that inherits all the problems that plagued its predecessor — and then some.
Set a decade after the events of the previous film, Perseus (charisma vacuum Sam Worthington) is now a fisherman living with his son after the death of his wife. Though appearing to be done with the heroic nonsense at first, Perseus bolts into rescue mode after daddy Zeus (Liam Neeson) gets imprisoned in the underworld by Hades (Ralph Fiennes) and Ares (Edgar Ramirez), who plan on using the old man’s power to unleash Kronos, a colossal lava monster that makes the Kraken look like Mickey Mouse.
A hero can’t possibly travel alone in this type of swords-and-sandals actioner, so Perseus is joined by crop of stock archetypes posing as characters. These include warrior queen Andromeda (Rosamund Pike) who by the time the film is done will be expected to fall madly in love with Perseus; fellow demi-God Agenon (the usually reliable Toby Kebbell) who functions as the film’s comic relief; and a few unfortunate souls who solely exist to get mauled in grisly fashion by a Cyclops, Minotaur or a scenery-chewing Bill Nighy.
Nighy, who showboats as Ephestus, a crackpot inventor who holds the key to save Zeus, may be over the top, but at least he seems to be trying. I couldn’t say the same for Neeson and Fiennes, who collect their hefty paychecks by spending a good chunk of the film resolving their big brother-little brother issues, and then delivering ridiculous lines like, “We had powers like this when we were young. Let’s have some fun!” The biggest disappointment however is seeing the gifted Ramirez (Carlos) wasting his talent grunting and pouting as one the most under-cooked villains in recent memory.
Director Jonathan Liebesman, who takes over directorial duties from Louis Letterner, brings the same rote, chaotic style he employed in his previous film, Battle L.A., meaning the action scenes are energetic but disorienting and unnecessarily infected with shivery-arm syndrome. While this keeps the attention away from the cardboard cutout characters, it chokes the film from offering up any suspense whatsoever. Even Clash of the Titans, silly as it was, had the Medusa sequence. Wrath of the Titans might not be as embarrassing as such recent big budget misfires as Green Lantern, Cowboys and Aliens or Battle L.A. but its existence is frivolous.
Cast: Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Sam Worthington, Edgar Ramirez, Bill Nighy.
Director: Jonathan Liebsman.
Screenwriters: Dan Manzeau, David Johnson, Greg Berlanti, Beverley Cross.
Producers: Basil Iwanyk, Polly Johnsen.
A Warner Bros. release. Running time: 99 minutes. Intense sequences of fantasy violence and action. Playing at: area theaters.