Monday, April 2, 2012

Movie Review: Wrath of the Titans

Saw this today. It was pretty decent, and I highly recommend just out-and-out disregarding its awful Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic scores. It wasn't film of the year (mostly) but it was decent enough to warrant seeing. I'll try not to spoil anything. Oh, and to be clear, I saw the NOT 3D version, so I can't judge it on that.

Plot: Confession time: I didn't see the Clash of the Titans remake that this is a sequel to. I DID see the original one with all the claymation though, so I'm not totally in the dark (that and I'm pretty okay at Greek mythology myself). However, I didn't feel at all left out of the story. They did a decent enough job introducing Perseus and his relevant backstory (son of a god, etc), and the specific events of the previous film matter little - "people know and revere him from back when he did that thing with the Kraken" is about as much as they go into the previous film. One piece is that, relatively early, he goes and gets his sword, and it's supposed to be a whole special thing (the sword is one of Perseus' divine gifts) and that's really the only thing they don't explain. The movie doesn't at all highlight the sword though, so it's okay.
This sequel fast-forwards time a bit, to a time when the gods have ceased being worshiped, and are falling out of power, meaning that soon they will be mortal. Hades and Ares are working together to betray the rest of the gods (namely Zeus and Poseidon) to resurrect their bound father, the titan king Kronos. To be clear, they (Hades, Zeus, and Poseidon) are the ones who did the binding, so this is pretty much an awful idea.
After his town is ravaged and his son nearly killed by the Chimeras released by Hades, Perseus is forced to go out on a quest to rescue Zeus from Hades and Ares before Kronos finishes absorbing his divine power and returning to life.

So it does pretty good. The first film highlighted Furies, Stygian Witches, Pegasus, Djinn, Medusa, and the Kraken, and the second film gives us an equally generous dose of mythological creatures, featuring Chimeras, Pegasus, Cyclopes, a Minotaur, Makhai, and of course Kronos, and that doesn't even take into account all the god-battling Perseus does this time around. To be honest, I don't think they did that much straying from the actual myths, though there was SOME, of course. I wasn't actually unhappy with any of the depictions save for the Minotaur, the rest of them were pretty sweet! The Cyclopes were excellent, and Kronos was pretty cool, although they needed to use more of their Chimeras. But the Minotaur bugged me - he looked human-ish. I always prefer the minotaur to be a literal anthropomorphic bull. This guy didn't make that much sense, and just wasn't really impressive. They give us a big cool labyrinth scene, and then only have the minotaur in one room. But this movie isn't alone in human-form minotaurs.
That's actually my next point: the movie does nothing to really stand out from other modern Greek myth action flicks. When Clash came out, it was a new thing, no one was doing movies with Greek myth heroes. Since the first one though, we've had things like Percy Jackson and Immortals show up, so they really needed something to say "This is what makes OUR franchise special!" Percy Jackson was modern-day stuff, so it's a bit different. Immortals though is where I'm going to draw a bunch of comparisons. Immortals was, in every way except sheer monster-SFX-awesomeness, a better movie. Immortals' story was easy to comprehend and grounded in the human side (which is what these demigod stories are supposed to be - I think that's what they were going for with the whole "just wants to be a fisherman with his son" thing, but it didn't work), the choreography and brutality of the fight scenes in Immortals were simply better overall, and that movie didn't feel so, I don't know, rushed I guess. Immortals also had a human minotaur by the way.
That's another point though, the rushed feeling of the movie. There are a number of scenes, especially near the beginning, that just needed a few more seconds to really flesh things out. They jump into a place, give an expository sentence, and jump to the next. Ick. They needed to give a LOT of the scenes room to breathe, and that breathing room would have been the place for character development among the humans. Of all of the characters, Agenor is the only one whose personality I really have a grip on. The whole relationship between Andromeda and Perseus is woefully lacking the whole time. They had a whole journey with the Cyclopes and the labyrinth bits and the time on the boat that they could have EASILY used for development.
Oh yeah, and the dialogue did not impress. At all. It got the job done, and that's where it stopped.
So what's my final word on the plot? Decent concepts, but the execution needed a lot of work. Still worth seeing though I'd say - I'm not mentioning the god bits here right now, and those are actually pretty damn good. Lots of cool mythological creatures stuffed in to keep interested with.

Acting: Okay, so we have Sam Worthington in the central role again. I haven't liked his acting since Terminator: Salvation (although everything else in Avatar was good enough that I could overlook him). He's just as much a meat-headed fighter as usual, and I don't like that since Perseus is supposed to be the guy who uses his cleverness to defeat these huge mystical beings. In this he just punches a lot of things in the head.
The chick playing Andromeda was pretty much unnoticeable, and Agenor's actor was notable mostly because the writers gave him more or less every good line they came up with. The dude Bill Nighy was playing was pretty great, definitely had the right sort of insane vibe down, liked him a lot. Ares was also a big meat-headed fighter, but he's supposed to be, so I guess it worked out.
And then you have Hades and Zeus. These guys were excellent in their scenes, easily the best parts if we ignore all the special effects. And I expected nothing less when the Liam Neeson and the dude who played Voldemort team up (I never would have guessed he was Voldemort unless I looked at his filmography btw, the Harry Potter makeup folks did a great job!). And this isn't even their first team-up - they worked closely in Schindler's List, for which they both won awards. In this movie, they had a whole Gandalf/Saruman vibe going and it was really fun.

Holy cow, looking at Liam Neeson's filmography, since when was a Taken 2 being made? Damn, now I'm excited! And of course I'm excited to see him as Ra's again in Dark Night Rises. It's a great year for Liam Neeson it seems!

Effects: This is, of course, the star of the show. Big magics, big creatures. It was pretty awesome. Something more subtle that I liked was that when the gods' main weapons (especially Ares' mace) hit things, you could feel the impact really well, it looked and felt like a god's weapon. In general, the effects were stellar.
Two complaints: One) Who thought it was a good idea to have a bunch of shots of a mountain sized enemy made of stone unleashing plumes of black sooty smoke everywhere near him and trying to make us watch a black speck on the screen who's supposed to be Pegasus? Because all that smoke really got in the way.
Two) A low-fi thing. In a late scene, Perseus has this really brutal fight scene. It's incredible the amount of punishment Perseus takes. And he DOESN'T REALLY BLEED. They NEEDED to give him more blood if they wanted it believable. I mean, yeah, he's half-god, but that's no excuse. Later on, right after this scene, he goes and runs through and around LAVA and gets ZERO burns. Come one, guys. Seriously.

Conclusion: Those are the main things I wanted to talk about!
Watch This Movie If You Like: Mindless action movies, mythological monsters, Greek myth (as long as you don't mind inaccuracies sometimes).
Don't Watch This Movie If You're Expecting: A masterpiece, a cheerful Greek myth film on the level of Percy Jackson, a brutal Greek war film like Immortals (it's somewhere between those two, btw, not a whole separate third category).
Overall Score/Grade: 7/10, B.

Post-Review Comments: Hey, we didn't get to do Dungeon World this week, Kris was too busy with schoolwork. I'm still doing those annotations, but I finished the second Phoenix Wright. God I love Maya so much as character, I'm gonna be so depressed when I run out of games with her! Thankfully, Phoenix x Layton has her, so with luck I'll get my fix of fun Maya dialogue. On the third game right now, then will probably replay the first since it's been a damn long time since I played it. THEN I'll move on to Apollo Justice. I'm going to see Rodrgio y Gabriela live on Tuesday though, so that'll be rad.

End Recording,

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