Sunday, April 22, 2012

Titan Status: Wrathful.

It was a moment of weakness, I swear! It was a rainy Sunday in Cannock, I'd already seen The Pirates! In an adventure with Scientists! and I thought, why not?

And so the road to Hades is paved with good intentions.

Wrath Of The Titans is pretty mediocre, though it doesn't have enough personality to be a truly terrible film. So, I'm going to restrict myself to a point about story vs spectacle

The film has one of the richest veins of metaphor and story in European culture as its inspiration. And squanders it in myth-mix 'n' match - here a cyclops, there a chimera - which makes for 'Dude it's...' recognition but no mystery, no reach for the epic. 

Indeed, Wrath's idea of epic is sacrificing script, characterization and a sense of wonder for its true Gods - sh*t blowing up and CGIdolatry. But the size of the spectacle does not equate to the amount of excitement caused. 

For example, the drive to Armageddon to action films is made unusually literal in Wrath by the climactic battle to prevent ambulant volcano and part-time Barry White impersonator Cronos from destroying the world. Flames rain down! Four handed monsters run amok! Winged horses! And it's boring. 

To take an extreme counter-example, Godzilla created more thrills using only a man in a rubber dinosaur costume, a Tokyo diorama and some poor lighting.

And the cast! Sam Worthington at least gets quality screen time. But why throw Rosamund Pike, Ralph Fiennes and Liam Neeson at a film - the latter two in rent-a-gravitas roles as a goateed Hades and hirsute Zeus - if you're not going to give them any decent lines? They are beards - designed to divert the attention away from the fact that Wrath is uninterested in words, character or even people at all.

 At this rate, I'll start to think that Volcano Boy Cronos is actually the most sympathetic character in Wrath, so before I do let's consider three small not-quite saving graces.

One, there are two a few decent set-pieces in search of a better film: a constantly moving labyrinth which serves as a secret passage to Tartarus is fun and well-animated. And a woodland battle with Cyclopses, [my precious] and giant log traps manages to evoke the spirit of Ray Harryhausen and the ewoks at the same time.

Second, Bill Nighy, channeling Tim The Enchanter from the Holy Grail to cameo as Hephaestus, and treating Wrath with exactly the respect it deserves. 

Finally, I shall never think of Ares again except as a particularly obnoxious professional wrestler.

PS - if you've made it this far, a bonus bit of particularly pedantic grammatical geekery. The film should be called Wrath of the Titan singular, since there is only one titan in the film - Cronos. Everyone else is either a god, a demigod, a monster or just plain human. 

Should I be more proud or more ashamed of myself for spotting that?

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