>> Wrath of the Titans (5/10)

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There’s a moment in Wrath of the Titans when Zeus tells Perseus that he hopes that one day he’ll realize the strength that humans have. Only, Perseus already learned this lesson in the first film, and Zeus should know that. Heck, not even a couple of minutes before, they were discussing Perseus’s willing choice to stay human instead of embracing the god-side of his demi-god status. It’s an early sign of the overall laziness on display in Wrath of the Titans— a ninety-minute headache of exploding dirt that feels more like an obligation than an actual movie.

Sam Worthington can’t even be bothered to disguise his Australian accent this time out, because, really, who cares? Ralph Fiennes certainly doesn’t, shedding his balding, creepy, whispery Hades performance from the first film so that he can say his lines and get back to his trailer. Even Liam Neeson’s Zeus is made kindler and gentler by the toothless screenplay, a story which takes some of the malevolence that makes Greek gods so interesting and replaces those character strokes with exploding dirt.

The plot is explained through hurried expositional dialogue at the start of the film. The old gods are dying because nobody prays to them anymore. Imprisoned titan Cronus offers any god who will free him from Tartarus the opportunity to live forever under his lava-soaked rule. Also, because the gods are dying, monsters are coming out of the ground (just cuz). Perseus grabs his (god-given) things, and we’re off. Don’t stop to think about any of it; let’s get this over with.

All of this is just sort of said out loud, never explained by showing us anything (the near-total lack of gods is just one sign of the film’s overall cheapness).  As such, we start the movie off on such a clumsy foot that there will be no recovery, only stumbling. We tumble in the dirt from scene to scene – gods grow weaker, Perseus draws nearer, until the finale which manages to rip off the finale of its predecessor by having Perseus on the back of Pegasus fly around and around a giant, slow-moving, roaring monster.

The effects work is quite solid, even if director Jonathan Liebesman tends to shoot them as obscurely as possible. The camera is constantly up close and moving, reducing the monsters (and most of the action) to a series of noisy blurs. It looks like a cheap way to construct an action scene — explode some dirt, shake the camera around, cut and print. Those action sequences, the completely vacuous storyline, the oddly limited cast, and the repetitive locales all add up to something that feels startlingly cheap.

Sure, Clash of the Titans may have been a cash-in on an established name, but they worked harder to make it feel like an actual movie, perhaps knowing fans of the original would be eyeing the remake with fanboy scrutiny. Wrath is the cash-in on the cash-in. I think that’s what makes me so angry with the film. It’s a film more beholden to a limited budget and a tight schedule than a desire to entertain. It’s more concerned with getting your money one time than getting your attention a second time later. That’s a huge problem.

5 on a 1 to 10 scale