I was completely and totally ready to give Wrath of the Titans the benefit of the doubt. After re-watching Clash of the Titans I realized that a large part of my immense hatred for the film was the rushed and awful post-production 3D. Don’t get me wrong, the film was still atrocious, but being able to see a movie clearly really helps it out a lot.
As such I believed that the folks behind the movie probably learned a lesson or two not only about 3D, but about how to make a coherent film with a plot that makes sense and action that’s interesting. I can say that the folks behind Wrath of the Titans did indeed learn how to make post-production 3D look way better. Unfortunately this appears to be the only lesson they learned. Wrath of the Titans is proof that while ugly pictures make a bad film worse, prettier ones don’t make a bad film better.
Wrath of the Titans
Director: Jonathan Liebsman
Release Date: March 30, 2012
If Wrath of the Titans has a story it is not one held together by such pesky ideas as logic and narrative structure. No, this story is cobbled together to get people from one action set piece to another and if that means literally teleporting characters places with little to no explanation then that’s what is going to happen. We find Perseus (Sam Worthington) retired from being half man/half god and living in a seaside village with his son. His father, Zeus (Liam Neeson), pays him a visit one day and tells him that the god’s powers are weakening and that is causing the prison where Chronos is held to collapse. Perseus is at first reluctant to help his father, and Zeus is captured by Hades (Ralph Fiennes) and Aries (Édgar Ramírez) defeat Chronos. When Perseus’ son is attacked Perseus sets off on adventure to rescue Zeus from Hades (both the place and the god) with the help of Queen Andromeda (Rosamund Pike) and his cousin Agenor (Toby Kebbell).
If your Greek mythology is a little weak Chronos is a Titan and the father of Zeus, Poseidon and Hades. The three betrayed Chronos and the rest of the Titans and imprisoned them. That’s pretty much all you need to know because the rest of the movie would cause any classics professor to start having seizures in his theater seat it rewrites the original stories so terribly. I don’t know that much about Greek mythology, but even I was feeling slightly offended for the religious myths of an entire civilization.
It’s not just the bastardization of the Greek myths either, the writing itself is actually laughably horrible. This is so clearly a screenplay by committee (IMDB lists five writers, which means there were probably 10) that you can actually see where one guy came in and added what he thought was a catchy one-liner to spice things up. But it wasn’t a catchy one-liner, it was simply bad writing. From the get go Worthington is spewing some of the worst lines in action cinema. (slight spoilers) His closing statement to his son where he confirms that a sword he just gave him is indeed heavy, but does it as if the tepid line has some actual meaning had the audience bursting out in laughter (/slight spoilers).
Maybe the bad writing would have been one of those things you overlook if the action had been tolerable or the plot had made any sense at all. The story rambles on through one action set piece to another that are so poorly put together you have almost no idea what is going on. At one point a group of people is being attacked by a cyclops when out of nowhere a second one appears. However, director Jonathan Liebesman handles his scenes so poorly that it’s unclear that there are two cyclops at all and where anyone in the scene actually is. Characters seem to teleport (at one port literally) to wherever is convenient for the next shot with little regard for the audience’s understanding of a sequence. Just like the story each sequence is simply a mash of cut together sections that really don’t create a cohesive whole.
I did say, however, that the 3D looked better, and it definitely does. Of course handing a person a turd to eat and then handing them a normal sandwich is really going to make that sandwich look like the greatest filet mignon on earth. Liebesman uses his third dimension in many of the standard ways: flying us through tunnels, having things point out of the screen and trying to make large, sweeping vistas more impressive. It looks really good overall, and in fact at points he uses it creatively by adding some dust or ashes to the foreground that build up a scene, but mostly it’s a useless pretty that does almost nothing for the film. After seeing Scorsese use 3D so magically in Hugo this looks like a child with a new toy, not a director making a film better through a new technology.
It is, of course, unfair to compare Wrath of the Titans and Liebesman to one of the greatest directors ever, but even if we compare this film to other standard action fare it is truly bad. The actions is muddled, the story makes absolutely no sense, the direction is all over the place, and I didn’t even get into how truly bad every single actor’s performance is throughout the film — Worthington actually talks in something akin to Batman’s voice in the Nolan films. When the best part of your film is useless, but pretty, 3D there’s a serious issue. When your movie makes no sense it’s a big problem. When your movie is Wrath of the Titans it just should not exist in the first place.