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"WRATH OF THE TITANS"
(2012) (Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson) (PG-13)

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QUICK TAKE:
Action: The demigod son of Zeus is reluctantly pulled back into battle as he must free his father from treacherous relatives who are trying to release the monstrous ruler of the Titans and thus bring about the end of the world.
PLOT:
It's been a decade since Perseus (SAM WORTHINGTON), the demigod son of Zeus (LIAM NEESON), defeated the mighty Kraken and thus saved humanity. Rather than join his father among the gods, Perseus chose the life of a village fisherman and widowed father to 10-year-old son Helius (JOHN BELL). But Zeus now needs Perseus' help as it seems the various gods are losing their powers due to humans no longer praying to them. With less control, they run the risk of the long imprisoned Titans gaining more power and thus running roughshod over them and Earth's mortals.

But Perseus wants no part of that, thus forcing Zeus to travel with his other son, Ares (EDGAR RAMIREZ), the god of war, and Zeus' brother, Poseidon (DANNY HUSTON), to meet their sibling Hades (RALPH FIENNES), the ruler of Tartarus. Zeus long ago sentenced Hades to the world of the dead to watch over their captured and imprisoned father, Kronos, ruler of the Titans. But this meeting is a trap as Ares conspires with Hades to capture Zeus and allow Kronos to drain the god's powers to the point that the Titan will be able to free himself.

Poseidon manages to escape and alerts Perseus about what's occurred. Realizing the stakes, the reluctant hero sets off to find his cousin and fellow demigod Agenor (TOBY KEBBELL) in hopes that he'll be able to lead them to Hephaestus (BILL NIGHY), a weapons maker and blacksmith to the gods who might have a solution to the quickly escalating problem.

With the aid of Queen Andromeda (ROSAMUND PIKE), Perseus and Agenor set out to do just that, all as Kronos continues to sap Zeus' power and thus grow closer to freeing himself and unleashing death and destruction around the world.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
There's a moment in the second half of "Wrath of the Titans" -- the big-budget sequel to 2010's clunky but nearly half-a-billion dollar grossing "Clash of the Titans" -- where things look like they'll finally get an injection of some much-needed life. Sure, there's already been plenty of action up to the point, with the promise of lots more to come, including something that would seem certain to rival or exceed the David vs. Goliath conclusion of "Clash" (although, alas, it won't include a phrase as catchy as "Release the Kraken!").

In the scene, returning character and reluctant demigod hero Perseus (Sam Worthington) is in dire need of finding Hephaestus, the former god and blacksmith to the others, previously known for forging Zeus' thunderbolt, Poseidon's trident, Hades' pitchfork. And that's because Hades (Ralph Fiennes) and Zeus' treacherous son, Ares (Edgar Ramirez) have conspired against Zeus, chained him up in Tartarus, and are letting his long-imprisoned father (a monstrous, rocky monster known as Kronos) suck away his powers to enable the fiery beast to free himself.

All of this is due -- we learn from narration by none other than Zeus (Liam Neeson) himself -- to the fact that humans are no longer praying enough to the gods, thus diminishing their power and running the risk of all sorts of demons being unleashed on the world. Alas, no amount of praying to the gods of cinema will save or raise this pic from mediocrity, although there's a flicker of hope that things might get better.

And that's when we realize that Hephaestus -- once found with the help of Queen Andromeda (Rosamund Pike, with flawless skin despite being out on the battle front all of the time) and wily thief and fellow demigod Agenor (Toby Kebbel) -- is played by none other than Bill Nighy. If there's anyone who might be able to make this bloated spectacle interesting, it's someone like Nighy (the aging rock and roll legend in "Love Actually" and Davy Jones in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" flicks).

Alas, and despite initially doing something of a split personality take on the character, we then see that he's really just talking to the robotic owl from the earlier film (as well as the original 1981 movie of the same name). But this time the owl isn't talking back or even moving, and instead is simply present as a mechanical entity, symbolic of the pic being all technology with no heart and nothing interesting to say.

As a result, and as was the case the last time around, we're not presented any reason to care about the characters, their plight and goals, or anything else about the film. Yes, plenty of people end up in perilous situations, be that from the 2-headed, snake-tailed fire-breathing Chimera to a trio of Cyclopes, a minotaur, some odd things with two spinning torsos and four arms atop two legs, and the gigantic Kronos who leaves a magma style swath of destruction with the swipe of one of his hands.

But none of it's remotely involving. The plot -- courtesy of new to the fold scribes Dan Mazeau & David Leslie Johnson -- is convoluted yet boring and the direction -- from new helmer Jonathan Liebesman -- simply fails to grip the viewer like a good action pic could and should do.

It certainly doesn't help that Worthington (who's now appeared in some monstrously successful box office hits yet still probably can't be identified by name by the majority of moviegoers) similarly fails to engage the audience, even with the tacked on subplot of him being a widowed father to a 10-year-old son (John Bell). He runs, ducks, fights and gets bashed around a lot, but rarely has an action hero been so boring.

Neeson and Fiennes provide a little bit of gravitas to the proceedings, but are stymied by the script, which also holds true for Kebbell who tries to bring some humor into the mix but, like Nighy, simply can't get to the top of that mountain. Pike is pretty but otherwise wasted, while Ramirez is about as two-dimensional as they come.

Considering most of these characters are related to one another in some sort of familial way, one would think that alone could have offered something interesting be that Shakespearean or soap opera-ish. Unfortunately, the filmmakers are more interested in showing their latest technological marvel, once again in converted 3D (although it looks far better than in "Clash"), than emotionally involving us in any way.

Slightly better than its predecessor, "Wrath of the Titans" kills off enough major characters that one hopefully won't have to pray to the gods to stop another sequel, but I wouldn't be surprised if "Revenge," "Return" "Son of" or some similar titular introduction is already in the planning stages. This one rates as a 4 out of 10.




Reviewed March 28, 2012 / Posted March 30, 2012


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