Sam Worthington portrays Perseus in "Wrath of the Titans." (Warner Bros. and Legendary…)
Did the ancient Greeks think in terms of sequels? The ongoing adventures of their mythological gods certainly lend themselves easily to serialized entertainment. And so following the box-office success of 2010's "Clash of the Titans" comes the more-of-the-same sequel "Wrath of the Titans."
Directed this time out by Jonathan Liebesman, the film lacks inspiration or zest in storytelling, performance or action. This is pure product, a movie desperately without energy or enthusiasm of any kind.
The new story opens with our hero Perseus (Sam Worthington) as a widower and single father, his curly proto-mullet signaling that he has given up on soldiering and is determined to live as a simple fisherman. That is, until a multi-headed creature invades his village and he reveals the powers he possesses as half-man, half-god.
His father, Zeus (Liam Neeson), is himself engaged in a battle with his brother Hades (Ralph Fiennes) and full-god son Ares (Edgar Ramirez), who are plotting to release the imprisoned Kronos, which would let loose an apocalypse. Or some such.
There is a lot of business in the film, written by Dan Mazeau and David Leslie Johnson from a story by Greg Berlanti, Johnson and Mazeau, regarding powers and loyalties lost, siphoned and regained, a jumble of plot mechanics that seem guided mostly by the expediency of a given scene.
Early implications of a subtext on religious faith — the gods lose their powers if the people do not pray to them — are quickly disregarded.
The supporting cast is full of interesting performers given precious little to do. Bill Nighy plays a wily inventor-architect not unlike his role in "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy." Rosamund Pike replaces Alexa Davalos as Andromeda, who has been transformed from a lady-in-waiting type to a headstrong, battle-ready empress.
Ramirez brings an unexpected charismatic sensuality to his warrior role, at times seeming like a worker on the factory floor pacing himself too quickly compared with others on the line — apparently no one told him to keep a lid on it.
Likewise, Toby Kebbell, as half-god Agenor, brings a badly needed comic energy. Lunchtimes around the catering cart with this bunch likely had more drama, humor and action than the film they all ended up in.
Although it clocks in at little more than an hour-and-a-half, the pacing of the film feels off, both fast-moving and terribly slow at the same time. (And, yes, the kitschy mechanical owl from the Harry Hamlin-Laurence Olivier 1981 original "Clash" again makes an inert cameo.)
As the story jumps from set-piece to set-piece, one monster to the next, there is no sense of ongoing adventure, just a checklist being ticked off. The mythology of the ancient Greeks is ultimately no match for the industrial imperatives of modern Hollywood.