There’s a certain advantage an action film has over films of other genres: If it’s bad, it becomes funny. Compare that to the purgatory of an awful comedy or a muddling drama, and it’s apparent why, when a film like “Wrath of the Titans” mostly misses the mark, it still ends up being a relatively enjoyable experience.
Wrath of the Titans
At Quality 16 and Rave
Sam Worthington (“Man on a Ledge”) stars as Perseus, the reluctant hero of humanity who is pushed into a quest to save his father Zeus (Liam Neeson, “The Grey”) from the clutches of Hades (Ralph Fiennes, “Coriolanus”), who is attempting to raise the big baddie Kronos from his imprisonment in Tartarus. Perseus is joined by a ragtag group, including half-god Agenor (Toby Kebbell, “War Horse”) and warrior queen Andromeda (Rosamund Pike, “The Big Year”).
The story may be of questionable Greek mythological origins, but it has potential. The first combat sequence, in which Perseus battles a Chimera, is pulse-pounding, and it’s admittedly fun to watch Worthington put monsters in headlocks and be thrown about like a ragdoll. Sadly, the action doesn’t maintain, and “Wrath” decides to focus more on the anticipation before the fighting. It doesn’t work — it’s more fun to see Worthington go WWE on creatures from hell than to see his “range” of scared expressions.
Stone-faced Worthington is an enigma. In scenes with his son, Helius (newcomer John Bell), he reminds you why his most famous role relied on CGI emoting. But in the moments of physical expression, he excels. Perseus, after being thrown from the shoulders of a Chimera, rolls on the ground like a dad with back pain, his face showing that it really hurts. Also, he stays down almost a little too long (five seconds or so), making viewers appreciate that being a hero isn’t easy work. It’s a little funny and over-the-top, but it feels realistic.
Surprisingly, the supporting acting is also admirable (considering this is certainly a film one could phone in). Choosing Rosamund Pike to play Andromeda was an interesting choice, because she isn’t obviously hot — which is a good thing. She is more queen than model, grunting instead of posing. Her face also possesses a natural intelligence, not the sort of dead-eyed Megan Fox-ness that seems standard in certain action films.
Fiennes and Neeson are, predictably, the true forces of the film. Neeson (who is literally in every movie, but no one cares because he is so cool) is a fatherly Zeus, delivering wisdom and warnings in his graveled voice. Also, it’s exhilarating to watch him saunter across battlefields, force lightning-ing every villain in his peripheral vision. As Hades, Fiennes delivers his lines with such conviction — using eyes that turn from hatred to fear in a split-second — that you almost forget the script.
As for the script — the horror, the horror — no amount of acting chops can save this flimsy excuse for writing and dialogue. In the first scene with all the gods, they say “brother” more times than a frat house on Friday night (or Hulk Hogan every day of his life). Worthington, before he goes off to fight the final battle, declares he won’t be giving a big speech. It’s meant to convey that he is just a man of few words, but it seems more like the film’s writers are copping out of actually doing their job. Even when the film has quaint lines (Hephaestus describing how to seduce a mermaid, “The key is to talk to her friends.”), they are barely catchable, murmured in passing or crowded out by ambient noise.
“Wrath of the Titans” is the sequel to a remake that was only memorable because of special effects. While the actors perform valiantly, and the concept of half-gods battling for humanity is appealing, it’s simply never enough to cover the holes in the shoddy script. Even in the realm of gods, words are king.