I can't decide whether Wrath of the Titans was a peculiarly bad movie, or a bizarrely great live action role playing (LARP) game. Actually it must have been a movie, because LARPers would have brought far more enthusiasm to the whole endeavor than Sam Worthington. They also would have made the fights zing with more excitement than the naked mole rat party that this flick offered.
Though this movie delivers a lot of great monsters and fantastic conceptual design (the labyrinth in Hades is particularly inspired), it falls down on the one thing that elevated its predecessor Clash of the Titans to "so bad it's good" status. And that one thing is a sense of fun.
I very rarely worry about actors' psychological states based on performances — even when they lose a zillion pounds for a role, or rumors fly that they've wandered around Beverly Hills naked except for clown makeup. But something about the lackluster way that Sam Worthington played Perseus in Wrath made me wonder if the dude was having a serious problem. Instead of jumping around like a hyperactive goofball with a sword, he plods through every fight — at one point he just scratches his shoulder under his armor instead of smashing a double-headed fire breather. I know his character is supposed to be unwilling to go to battle, but he just seems sort of tired and dejected the whole time. I mean, the guy doesn't even bother putting on a fake British accent so he can sound "ancient Greek."
Worthington's low-energy mega-blah infects the whole flick. There's no scenery chewing, though all the monsters drool a lot. Only Rosamund Pike as the powerful Queen Andromeda, who can really issue a nice blood-curdling battle cry, seems to know that she's in a movie full of monsters and mayhem. Everybody else is having ponderous daddy drama with the gods. Meanwhile, Zeus and Hades are having daddy drama with the titan Cronos. And just to get that quadruple daddy drama action, even Perseus' son is having sword issues related to old pops. There are like twenty way-too-serious speeches about fatherhood in this movie. You're going to leave the theater wanting to spank the bad drug dealer who brought the creators a pile of powdered buzz kill instead of nose candy.
So what actually happens? Unlike Clash, which had a tight little "go to hell and kill a giant monster" plot, Wrath is a little flabbier. People have stopped worshiping the gods, and so the gods are weak. Cue philosophical moment about gods and man and all that crap. Then some of the gods team up with their imprisoned daddy Cronos, whose plan is to destroy humanity. Perseus gets a visit from his father Zeus, who says, "Go help defeat Cronos," but unfortunately Perseus wants to stay home with his son instead of going to battle. Conflict! After some burnination from the gods vs. titans thing spills over into Perseus' fishing village, he decides to fight after all. Plus, Zeus has been captured by Cronos and his cronies. So Perseus goes on a quest to find his cousin, one of Poseidon's long-lost bastards, picking up the valiant Andromeda along the way. Their quest? Get to hell, rescue Zeus, and defeat Cronos. And do a bunch of other stuff.
During the meandering, there are monsters who look great but should have been funnier or more awesome. The cyclopses are supposed to be bumbling dumbasses, which is fine, but they never really achieve true slapstickery. But then Pegasus is played for laughs instead of grandeur, which is just plain wrong. Perseus should not look lame and uncomfortable when riding on the greatest steed ever. He should not make jokes about how uncomfortable it is, nor should Pegasus be treated like a jalopy. Plus, every single fight is great on the monster side and boring as hell on the human one. There is a lot of straining and falling over and gripping swords from the pointy end (you think I'm joking but I'm not). Every fight is basically somebody getting thrown on his or her head and then grunting. I wanted a little clashing of swords or at least jumping around!
That said, the final confrontations in Hades and the final battle when Cronos rises out of a volcano are totally worth the price of a bargain matinee. They are the perfect level of totally awesome, and there is a lot of zooming around in lava which looks great. I wish the whole movie had been as fun as the finale.
I think the problem with Wrath was that the movie took itself just a bit too seriously. All that stuff about fatherhood? We don't care. We just want to watch warriors fighting monsters. And gods fighting titans. And lava shooting everywhere while dudes with two torsos fling their swords around and horses with wings arc out of the sky like something out of the glorious, untrammeled imagination of an 8-year-old. Instead, we got middle-aged guys bitching about their backaches and gods grousing about how nobody respects them anymore.
Honestly, if you want to watch crazy spectacle with monsters and epic nuttiness, just go see John Carter this weekend. Wrath of the Titans should be a last resort if you are truly desperate for monsters — which it does deliver, though not with as much excitement as such an endeavor truly deserves.