It's rare to find a sequel that surpasses its predecessor, let alone matches it in terms of entertainment value. Of course, when that predecessor is to be the miserably boring 'Clash of the Titans (2010),' a remake of the 1981 favorite, it's not really much of a challenge to do better. The remake's only claim to notoriety is not featuring any actual Titans and for being an even bigger waste of your time in 3D. The implied 'Clash' was more of a mild quarrel. Its follow-up, 'Wrath of the Titans,' fixes all that, starting with a more menacing title and a story from a trio of writers which lives up to its promise.
To be sure, there is a whole lot of wrathful behavior going on in this story about the strained relationship between siblings, and at a surprisingly but mildly deeper level, the distant bond of father and son. Granted, much of it is physically expressed by the incessantly enraged face of Sam Worthington reprising his role as the demigod Perseus, leaving behind a titanically deep furrow on his forehead. Even when he's relaxing by his seaside home and fishing with his ten-year-old son, Helius (John Bell), the man barely ever breaks a smile and seems to live with a thick air of furious apprehension, as if knowing before we do that something major is about to go down. As might be expected, his overprotectiveness is justified when a chimera suddenly ravages his village and threatens the life of his son. What is a pacifist fisherman with the power of the gods supposed to do?
Part of the problem with the first movie — of which there are a few — is the general lack of interest. It dwells too long on stupid, shallow dialogue, and makes audiences wait for the spectacular action, which is the primary reason for watching it in the first place. The filmmakers of 'Wrath' correct this by jumping into the CGI spectacle sooner, as in the chimera scene, and moving into the heart of the plot with a more energetic pace. In the first few minutes, Zeus (Liam Neeson) and Poseidon (Danny Huston) are betrayed by their brother Hades (Ralph Fiennes) and Zeus's son Ares (Édgar Ramírez). Don't get me wrong, the dialogue is still pretty stupid and shallow, but South African director Jonathan Liebesman ('Darkness Falls,' 'Battle: Los Angeles') has us overlooking the script's banality by hastily moving from one plot point to the next yet slowing down for a staggeringly splendid clash against the mightiest Titan of them all: Kronos.
During this rather amusingly entertaining battle, a human army readies in the sidelines, mouths agape at the magnificence of an erupting volcano and seeing a gargantuan god spew lava and ash everywhere. They are led by the lovely Rosamund Pike, who looks absolutely stunning no matter how much dirt and mud they fling at her face. Ms. Pike replaces Alexa Davalos as the princess now turned Queen Andromeda who was meant as sacrifice to the Kraken in the comparatively boring remake. This time around, the monarch joins Perseus's adventure into the underworld in hopes of rescuing Zeus from captivity and stopping granddad from escaping his eternal prison inside Tartarus. Unfortunately, her character often feels like an inconsequential tagalong rather than someone who provides a real benefit to the dangerous journey. The same could be said of Agenor (Toby Kebbell), Poseidon's own demigod son, but at least he's "The Navigator." Bill Nighy also makes an appearance as a fallen god but definitely serves only to add another plot device which further complicates the narrative.
The other problem with 'Clash' is that we are never in doubt of Perseus's abilities to defeat the Kraken, especially when the answer for the monster's destruction is literally spelled out to him. In 'Wrath,' the hero still comes out on top, but the exact details for arriving at that conclusion are fairly unpredictable, which is refreshing. As the story develops, the chances of a happy outcome look gloomy and the fight against Kronos actually grows dire. The whole thing is satisfying enough though a bit clunky in a couple spots, but the subplot with Hades and Zeus helps to some extent in making this fantasy adventure more tolerable — or at least give Fiennes and Neeson a few moments to shine together. This isn't great cinema and is the furthest from the best film we've seen so far this year — or likely the rest — but it makes a decently good time killer and it's certainly an improvement over its predecessor.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Warner Home Video gives fans three buying options for 'Wrath of the Titans' on Blu-ray: a single-disc Movie Only edition, a two-disc combo pack and a 3D Blu-ray combo. All three come with codes for an UltraViolet Digital Copy. For this review, the three-disc combo pack is under discussion. Inside a normal blue keepcase with a lenticular slipcover and on a flipper, the first two are Region Free, BD50 discs and the third a DVD-9 copy of the movie. After a skippable 3D promo, the screen switches over to a ugly and generic 3D main menu.
'Wrath of the Titans' brings the chaos to 3D Blu-ray with a mostly good but highly-detailed 1080p/MVC encode. Presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and in spite of the darken glasses, the picturesque cinematography of Ben Davis comes through and looks spectacular. Fine lines around foliage and the stone houses are sharply defined while threading and the smallest smudge remains distinct and unmistakable, revealing lifelike textures on the faces of actors.
The high-def transfer displays pitch-perfect contrast, with crisp, brilliant whites throughout, providing the video with plenty of pop. Colors are rich with a varied palette of vibrant primaries and full-bodied secondary hues. Black levels appear slightly deeper and more intense here than its 2D counterpart, but that could very likely be due to the glasses. Shadow delineation is quite strong though not perfect in few spots.
Like its predecessor, this sequel was originally shot in 2D and later converted to 3D during post-production. But unlike the first movie, the presentation is much improved with a greater sense of depth and dimensionality throughout. Several areas unfortunately don't benefit from the technology, looking somewhat flat. This tends to happen most in dialogue scenes. Once the action picks up, the video is suddenly deeply layered with an admirable impression of distance and good separation between objects. The best sequences taking advantage of the added depth are inside Tartarus, making the cave prison more spacious and immense than before, which 3D enthusiasts are sure to enjoy.
The mayhem continues with an exceptional DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack that fills the room with the chaos of battle and the wailing winds of Tartarus. The front soundstage is wide and expansive with random off-screen noises, generating a mostly consistent wall of sound that's very engaging. Dialogue, whether spoken softly or screamed at each other, is precise and intelligible, revealing the slightest changes in the emotions of characters. Dynamic range is sharply detailed and crystal clear in the upper frequencies, so we don't miss out on every clang and clink of metal upon metal or the fiery swoosh of Kronos' arm flinging lava everywhere. The low-end provides an authoritative, wall-rattling presence that's very thrilling and often digs deep during scenes when Kronos breathes or attempts to speak.
Rear activity is also amazing with several discrete effects which expand the soundfield and immerse the listener. A couple times, such effects do come off rather gimmicky, like the forest booby-traps of the Cyclops where noises are easy to localize. But this isn't a serious issue, just a very mild distraction that's ultimately a personal nitpick. In fact, several sequences employ the surrounds to excellent, enveloping effect, such as when Perseus and gang find their way inside Tartarus. Another outstanding moment is the final battle against Kronos, bloated with flawless pans, objects flying all around and discrete directionality, making this otherwise average fantasy actioner all the more bearable.
With a variety of purchasing choices available, there is only one supplement shared with the day-and-date DVD release.
While not great cinema, 'Wrath of the Titans' is still quite entertaining, and it manages to surpass its predecessor on numerous levels. Offering better writing, special effects, and an engaging development between Hades and Zeus, the sequel is the better movie for killing some time. The Blu-ray arrives with near-reference audio, a surprisingly decent 3D post-presentation, but a very small collection of supplements, making the overall package worth the purchase for fans and a good rental for everyone else.
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.