Envisage, if you will, a dog – the breed is unimportant – walking across a field. Then imagine said animal stops, its hind legs tremble slightly and a giant turd leaves the anus of the beast and rests on the grass. Picture that turd. Now, place your fictional canine a few steps away from the defecation and repeat. The same comically concentrated look on the dog’s face, the same shaking back quarters and similar faecal matter emanating from its rear end. Finally, tell me which one is better? The first pile of steaming shit or the second.
That’s the challenge faced by film goers this weekend when asked to qualify if Wrath of the Titans is in any way superior to Clash of the Titans.
Set a decade after Clash, it’s a bad time to be a God. For some reason, let’s say Richard Dawkins has been doing the rounds, a lack of prayers have made the Gods powerless. The rest gets a little Albert Square so try and keep up. Ares, jealous of his brother Perseus, teams up with his Uncle Hades to sacrifice his father Zeus’ soul to his grandfather Kronos. Perseus then teams up with his cousin, Agenor, to rescue his dad. Got that. Good. And Gemma Arterton couldn’t be ballsed to turn up so her character is killed off and the love interest becomes Rosamund Pike’s Andromeda, who hopefully isn’t related to anyone because by the end of the credits her and Perseus are probably doing stuff even the Greeks don’t look kindly on.
The biggest axe you can really grind about the film is it’s all incredibly paint by numbers. It’s 10 minutes of dull exposition, followed by 10 minutes of Sam Worthington fighting a two-headed firey furry beast. Followed by 10 minutes of dull exposition, followed by 10 minutes of Sam Worthington fighting two giant Cyclops. Followed by 10 minutes of dull exposition, followed by 5 minutes of Sam Worthington, Rosamund Pike and Toby Kebbell recreating the trash compactor scene from Star Wars: A New Hope, followed by five minutes of Sam fighting a minatour.
By the time Sam fights his brother on the lava planet of Mustafar before, you guessed it, he has a final ruck, this time with a Balrog on the Pelennor Fields, you may have even switched off enough to enjoy the visuals, which are a huge improvement on the first films.
In other words it’s a much shinier turd. It’s when you switch back on and notice all these lame Star Wars/Lord of the Rings comparisons (including two dialogue exchanges verbatim from George Lucas’ saga) that it hits you just why the Titans films are such a pointless exercise. You’d root for Luke and Frodo until the end of days but you just don’t give a flying fuckhorse about Perseus or anyone on-screen.
Which is doubly surprising when you think of the likeable cast on display. Despite a hokey exchange of “Let’s have some fun” between Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes (subtext; “Please don’t judge us!”) watching Oskar Schindler and Amon Goethe go at it again, even in a piece of fluff like this, is worth a quid or two. Toby Kebbell and Bill Nighy, the latter representing the ‘Grim oop North’ brigade in the United Accents of Benetton, also try their hardest to inject a little ra-ra to the Wrath. Their labours prove less successful.
But without any genuine joy or character/audience engagement you have to question what the point is in spending $150m on a film whose legacy will barely last the weekend. The answer? Very little point. Very little point indeed.
A big pantomime performance of a film. Whether clashing, wrathing, dancing or prancing these Titans are as lifeless as a Harryhausen skeleton with nobody to finger it. The feedback from the first film appears to have been, “less Odyssey. more explodey.” People like explodey.