Yes: it’s better than Clash of the Titans. No: it is not quite a good movie. Yes: there are actual Titans in it! No: There’s only one (the title’s still bullshit), he pops up at the end, and is taken out fairly swiftly.There is a vague semblance of a story, which is an improvement on the first one’s hastily reassembled mess of a narrative. Hades and Ares team up against Zeus and the other gods to revive the fallen Titan (and Zeus and Hades’ old man) Cronos to protect their immortality, which is threatened by mankind’s increasing ignorance to the gods. Ah, an allusion that the first movie actually happened! But let’s not kid ourselves, these movies are about three things; epic boss fights, recontexualized Greek mythology, and Sam Worthington’s angry face (peppered here with an excellently “Greek” mullet). Speaking of Worthington, I am actually warming up to him now that he is losing his stoic “James Cameron thinks I’m a leading man oh boy oh boy oh boy” paralysis, and is actually injecting some humor and pathos into his performances. His relationship with his son is the closest the film gets to conveying actual emotion (half-god Perseus is forced into battle to protect his human son from the apocalypse), and their scenes would’ve rendered the film a laughable dud had Worthington not, apparently, learned some lessons in appearing endearing on film. Liam Neeson and Ralph Finnes effortlessly own the film, once more, as Zeus and Hades, with their fraternal conflict (and unlikely camaraderie, proving for the best scene in the film, ruined in the trailers) giving the two actors something jucier to work with this time around. Danny Huston actually gets lines this time as Poseidon, Toby Kebell and Bill Nighy show up as comic relief, and Edgar Ramirez broods his way through his role as Ares, the villain and neglected son of Zeus.
But this is a film focused on spectacle, and thankfully, it does deliver. There are massive, massive battle scenes with a sense of scope that outdoes the previous film, as well as director Jonathan Liebsman’s own Battle: LA. Never lingering on the dismissible plot for too long, the film is permeated with fight scenes, monster encounters, and rapid location changes, including an extended section in Hades. While the action is nice and PG-13, it is still fairly clear, and consistently exciting. But I’m not detecting a high level of enthusiasm from anyone concerning this movie, and my screening was so empty that the handful of rows in front of me were completely empty (very rare for tentpoles like this in NYC). Which brings the question; why? Why make this movie? A precious few genuinely liked the first one, but I think even they would be hard pressed to defend the movie as anything more than a moderately enjoyable big-budget take on Greek archetypes (as well as the film they were remaking). Did they really think people would line around the block to see a sequel with the kind of reviews and fanfare that movie received? If so, are they considering a Green Lantern sequel? This reeks of studio executives (read: board members) trying to keep their jobs by flaunting numbers and saying “Look! Number one made x dollars, so clearly if we sequelize, we will make 2x!!” Completely disregarding the complete public and critical disinterest in such a project, they dumped hundreds of millions into this thing thinking that no one was going to be turned off by how terribly the first one was received. It just seems freaking stupid; if Anchorman 2 wasn’t just greenlit, I would wonder how studios jump to give the go ahead on huge, rushed (the first film came out March 2010), unwanted sequels, and can’t scrap up 40, 50 mil for a flick that fans genuinely are chomping at the bit for. But alas. Long story short, wait for Blu.
Slightly Recommended to fans of the first one, of popcorn Greek epics more trashy than Troy, but more classy than 300, or of Worthington, Neeson, or Finnes. That aformentioned scene where Neeson and Finnes warrants another mention, because it is the one moment in the film that is an A+ rabble-rouser (hence it’s inclusion in the marketing), and is the culmination of everything good about either of these movies. You’ll know it when (if) you see it.