Wrath of the Titans (PG-13)
Carmike 10, Chapel Hills 15, Cinemark 16, Cinemark 16 IMAX, Hollywood Interquest, Tinseltown
Now we learn the secret of the dreadful Clash of the Titans. Its incoherence? Its soullessness? All by design.
We know this because the sequel, Wrath of the Titans, is just the same. Only worse, all frenzied aural assault and random visual chaos.
The franchise has, for this installment, been handed over to director Jonathan Liebesman, and he dials the obnoxious commotion up to 11. There's some sort of familial feud between Zeus (Liam Neeson) and his brother Hades (Ralph Fiennes), which ends up drawing Zeus' half-human son Perseus (Sam Worthington) into the fray, and Perseus into his own familial feud with his half brother Ares (Édgar Ramírez), also Zeus' boy (who is also feuding with Zeus).
And there's something about Tartarus, the gods' netherworld prison, to which big bad Kronos — divine dad to Zeus, Hades and Poseidon (Danny Huston) — has been confined by his sons. There's also a sham of a relationship between Perseus and his 10-year-old son, Helius (John Bell), which appears to exist only to help paint some strained metaphors about fathers and sons.
In some ways, it's the same story as last year's Immortals, except without the wonderful insanity and without the sense that anyone involved with making this movie had any reason to be here beyond collecting an entirely unearned paycheck.
Because, you see, Wrath is incompetent on the most basic levels. There's no physical or narrative context for anything. Characters and creatures pop into and out of scenes apparently arbitrarily. Motivations for gods, demigods and humans are nonexistent, so it hardly matters when they do a sudden 180. It's impossible to tell what's allegedly going on half the time, and the other half, we simply are given no reason to care about what's going on.
A fire-breathing monster suddenly blows itself up for some reason that, I presume, has something to do with something Perseus did to it, but I could not for the life of me tell you what that might be. And I could not for the life of me find a reason to even wonder. Perseus continues his whining from the first film about how he doesn't wanna be here and he doesn't wanna be doing that. He's the least engaging, least poignant reluctant hero I've ever seen on film.
Liebesman completely wastes the power of IMAX, avoiding all sense of scale or majesty and never bothering to make us feel like we're in the middle of the action. (This may be because he has no idea where the middle of the action is.) The 3D is again headache-inducing, as it was in the first film, tending toward wobbly and unfocused.
And yet, we are left with the sense that the whole endeavor thinks it's striving for emotional grandeur. It comes nowhere close to earning that, of course. Instead, this is a movie at once tediously earnest and nerve-wrackingly incomprehensible. So much so that, in the closing scene, as Perseus tells his young son that they can't go home again and prepares for another military attack, we literally have not the barest indication of a notion of what this is about. This situation is entirely contrary to what has passed for a resolution to the story.
It's bewildering. It's mind-boggling. It can only be the work of trickster gods attempting to drive us mad.