Last of the Monster Kids

Last of the Monster Kids
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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Recent Watches: Wrath of the Titans

Wrath of the Titans” is a movie I had absolutely no intention of seeing. The first film wasn’t the biggest piece of shit I saw in the theaters that year but was far from the best. It couldn’t stumble up the minimum requirement of energy to top the guilty pleasure low standards set by the original. Even the monster-filled trailer wasn’t enough to fool me into seeing this one. However, it was enough to fool ever-present movie-watching pal and vidcast co-host JD, who will apparently see any movie if it deals with Greek mythology. I agreed to accompany him strictly because he was paying for tickets and buying me dinner afterwards. (This was even more necessary considering the theater we choose was only showing the movie in 3D.) Anyway, “Wrath of the Titans” is about as uninspired as you'd expect a sequel to a crappy remake to be.

In the year between the last film and this, Perseus has fathered a child, lost a wife, and grew a headful of willowy Harry Hamlin hair. The Greek Gods are even further in decline then last time. Serial assholes Hades and Ares screw over their brother and father Zeus in order to release an actual titan, Kronos, who is depicted here as a giant lava monster. The reasoning behind this is flawed and unimportant. The rising of a titan has caused monsters and shit to break out all over the place, forcing Perseus out of retirement for one more job. A wacky rag-tag group of heroes are assembled, monsters are fought, quests are embarked on, mystic items are retrieved. The same typical fantasy clichés that hack writers have been recycling since at least the 1960s are all trotted out.

The writing is incredibly lazy. The way our pre-assembled group of heroes march from one area to a next, fighting a different monster in each, really makes this feel like less of a movie and more of a series of boss battles. There is a blatant deus ex machina at the end there. A series of objects that really weren't all that important suddenly become the key to defeating the villain about halfway through, apropos of nothing. We never find out how our characters discover this information.

Ares is an awful villain. Edgar Ramirez plays him as a heavily-accented, whiny, snot-nosed brat mad at daddy. Just last year, "Immortals" show the real destructive capabilities of the Gods, what with Ares falling out of the sky and exploding everyone's head literally before they knew what was happening. In this movie, Ares and Perseus wrestle. Straight-up wrestle, with body slams and everything. If they had gone all the way with the Greco-Roman wrestling thing and had both actors be naked during their final fight… Well, that really wouldn’t have been much of an improvement, but at least it would have been unexpected. Its weak sauce is what I'm saying.

It’s not like “Immortals” was exactly a great movie either but it’s definitely shaping up to be the best of this current slate of “300”-spawned, Greek-mythology inspired special effects film. Tarsem has more visual ingenuity in his little finger then this douchebag Jonathan Liebesman has in his entire body. The direction is really bland and uninspired. The visual presentation is incredibly flat. There’s a lot of rich colors in the Mediterranean landscape but you’d never know by looking at this movie. In the last act, when a human/monster war breaks out, the movie finally falls into the grimy, shaky-cam aesthetic preferred by Liebesman’s mentor, Michael Bay. It’s the same visual palette the director previously used in his equally loud and boring last film, “Battle: Los Angles.”

The special effects are sporadic. Kronos looks cool, especially the way the lava he throws solidifies in mid-air. There's some decent 3-D moments, of shit rushing at our faces, like a horde of dead bodies or a sliding, shifting labyrinth. However, the Cyclops are portrayed by far more squishy CGI, slightly above what your PS3 can produce. The two headed, four-armed giants that appear near the end aren’t much better. There's a scene of a God jumping around that looks like they couldn't rush fast enough to CGI the wires out. A really shitty minotaur is lobbed into this thing too. It looks like Master Blaster from with a tree growing out of his head. Honestly, that's the best they could do? The minotaur in "Your Highness" was better then that. Overall, the whole maze sequence, while kind of neat on a conceptual level (though sort-of ripped off from "Hellboy") adds nothing to the movie except run time.

In the last twenty minutes, this goes from being incredibly boring to kind of hilarious. Zeus, who has spent most of the movie chained to a wall getting his energy drained, gets a boost from Hades. Sporting brand-new Armored Power-Ups, the two gods march across the battlefield, pimp-slapping monsters. In general, there’s so much talk in this movie about energy draining and swapping and power running low, that the screenplay really does seem to have been influenced more by video games or second-rate anime then actual film or mythology. (I suppose this will only get worst in time, as screenwriters who spend more time playing video games then watching movies or reading books enter Hollywood’s writing pool.) Perseus and the chick are forced together in a romance really clumsily. His relationship with his son is incredibly stilted. There's a moment near the end that I suspect was meant to be touching but comes off as awkwardly funny. ("Take the sword. Come on, take the sword. Jesus, take the fucking sword!")

Sam Worthington, surprisingly, is the least of this movie's problems. Liam Neeson, usually so shameless about appearing in schlock like this, actually does seem embarrassed. At about the time he's kamehameha-ing lightening around the battlefield with some really subpar special effects, if you looks closely at his eyes, you can actually see him thinking, "My God, what the hell am I doing with my life?" Or maybe it's "When is lunch?” Or “They better be paying me a lot for this." Ralph Finnes has no such moment of realization. His soul must have died years ago.

The chimera sequence near the beginning isn't bad. Bill Nighy has a pretty funny small supporting role as a de-godded Hephaestus. The movie has some sub-Russell Brand British comedian playing a comic relief character who is mostly awful but gets off one or two funny lines. The movie isn’t very long either, which helps a lot. They make fun of the robot owl from the original again too, because clearly this is such an improvement.

I actually fell a sleep for a few minutes about a half-an-hour in. That never happens to me and says less about my lack of sleep and more about the quality of the film. “Wrath of the Titans” is thundering and loud but utterly boring. It’s brainless but not due to a lack of brains on the production side, simply due to a lack of interest. It’s depressing too, when you realize millions of dollars were spent to make such subpar shit. Also depressing: The worldwide market seems to eat up this crap in high amounts. A third film isn’t out of the question, though the ending would probably make it difficult from a narrative perspective. (Not like that’ll stop them.)

Dinner was good, by the way. I had apple-glazed pork chops stuffed with homemade dressing. JD had meatloaf in gravy. He totally owes me now too. I think I’m going to force him to see “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” with me. That’s a sequel to an underperforming would-be blockbuster that will probably be just as bad as the first film. I am, in defiance of logic and reason, kind of looking forward to it though and JD couldn’t care less. Revenge truly is a fruitless path.

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