Wrath of the Titans
If there were bumper stickers in mythic Greece, I'm pretty sure Perseus would've slapped one on Pegasus that said, "I'd rather be fishing."
The demigod surely had enough adventure to last a demi-lifetime in Clash of the Titans. Gigantic scorpions. Bad 3-D. Oh, and that ill-tempered Kraken, of course. Suffering through all of that would be enough to make most anyone put down the ol' magic sword. Perseus—the half human, half deity son of the Greek god Zeus—had had enough. So he packed away his weapons and became a mild-mannered fisherman, living the simple life with his wife (before she died) and son.
Alas, it's hard to fish when mythical monsters rain down on your village like giant, slobbery hailstones. Turns out that the gods are losing their power, and that means that the Titans—all those nasty beasties the gods defeated when they took charge, led by the fiery giant Kronos—are escaping from the bowels of the netherworld Tartarus and wreaking their obligatory havoc.
The gods, it seems, could use a little help. Perseus' help.
Perseus decides to help, of course. How could he not? "If you have power, you also have a duty," someone tells him. And his duty unquestionably is to protect his son, Helius; rescue his father from Tartarus (where he's now imprisoned through an act of betrayal); and save the world.
Perseus is—quite literally—the prototypical hero, one of antiquity's oldest action figures. As such, he embodies much of what we think of when we imagine a hero. He's willing to risk life and limb for those he loves and for a greater good. He cares for his son deeply and would do anything to save him. And while his relationship with Zeus seems a bit strained at first, the two clearly patch things up during this titanic crisis.
Helping him in his quest to once again hold the Titans at bay are Poseidon's demigod son Agenor, as well as the brave leader of the Greeks, Queen Andromeda. Against impossible odds they strive together to turn back the awful fate that will engulf the world and obliterate humanity should the Titans prevail. In one particularly spunky speech, the queen holds forth on humanity's tenacious tendency to cling to hope, even when they should know better. "We humans hope when there is no hope," she says. We believe when to believe is idiotic." And sometimes, even when things look the most dark, she says, "We prevail."
Familial relationships are also important here. Early on, Zeus is betrayed by his brother Hades (who's still bitter that Zeus banished him to preside over the Underworld) and son Ares (the god of war, who himself is jealous of Zeus' affection for Perseus). But even as they chain Zeus up in Tartarus and set about draining his life away, Zeus finds the capacity to forgive. "I'm so sorry for having banished you," he tells Hades. "Can you forgive me that? Because I forgive you for this."
When they taunt him for appearing mortal, asking him if he's planning on crying soon, Zeus says, "If I weep, it will be for you, Ares"—suggesting he's not so much mad at his son as he is saddened by the direction he's taken. And in a line taken almost word for word from Luke Skywalker's mouth, Zeus says to his errant brother, "I know there is still good in you."
And so there is. Before the credits roll, the brothers reconcile and do what they can to help Perseus, Agenor and Andromeda take their stand against Kronos and the Titans.
At times, Zeus seems to echo some Christ-like qualities as he's metaphorically crucified in Tartarus (he spends much of his time there with arms outstretched and bound as his power is drained into Kronos), most notably in forgiving his familial tormentors. But let's not give the film too much credit here: The spiritual underpinnings of Wrath of the Titans are mostly a big, muddled mess.
The film is set in ancient, mythological Greece, a "time" in which gods were more numerous than spring dandelions. They appear to be powerful, but not all-powerful. They hear prayer, are able to dispense their potent divine powers (lightning, fire, that sort of thing) and take some severe beatings. For all that, however, their time is coming to a close: People have stopped praying. Zeus says, "Without prayer, the gods lose their power." If mortals don't recharge them, they're pretty useless and can even die.
Accordingly, we witness the death of several, as they crumble to ash and blow away. We learn from Hades that dead gods don't have an afterlife to look forward to. "When a god dies, it isn't death," he says. "It's just absence. It's nothing. It's oblivion."
Even as the good guys try to help Zeus defeat Kronos and the Titans, they also seem to have a schizophrenic attitude toward them. Zeus says that after the events of the last movie, Perseus "would not pray for help—from me or the other gods." Perhaps that's because Perseus believes "there are no such things as good gods," as he tells his son bitterly while walking through an idol-filled temple. Likewise, Perseus and Andromeda repeatedly tell their lackeys not to pray—particularly not to Ares—because those prayers act like audible god beacons. Ares, for instance, tracks one unfortunate woman's prayer right to the group, killing her and several others in their party.
As for Perseus and Agenor's demigod status, Zeus tells Perseus, "Being half human makes you stronger than a god, not weaker." And near the end of the film, a god confesses, "All my power is spent. Who knows? I might be stronger without it."
So are the movie's makers suggesting that humanity is stronger than divinity? That we can be stronger not only without gods, but without God?
We can't know for sure. But if this is a bit of atheistic propaganda, it's a pretty counterintuitive effort. I mean, really: If an unnatural, immortal monster rises from the depths of the underworld, the writings of Richard Dawkins won't be much help.
Queen Andromeda and Perseus smooch, and Andromeda wears some armor that shows off her thighs. Someone says that Posidon, god of the ocean, taught him how to seduce a mermaid.
Wrath of the Titans is a two-hour excuse to string together a whole lot of fighting sequences. Had this been a documentary, we can assume that half of Greece would've perished during the filming. Perseus' village is ravaged by a Chimeric-like creature (in the film, it's a furry two-headed beast that breathes fire and has a serpentine tail) that knocks down walls, kills loads of people and eventually immolates itself—after Perseus rams an anchor through one set of its jaws. Perseus is left with a couple of gaping wounds that are painfully stitched up.
Perseus and his cohorts battle two gigantic Cyclopes in a forest: The big, one-eyed brothers bring down trees and occasionally people with their clubs. Perseus skewers one in the hand and is able to knock it out with one of the monster's own snares. He also battles a minotaur, causing the beast to break off one of its horns in a wall and eventually killing it by way of strangulation. He fights a god and, after the god nearly beats him to death, Perseus manages to run a spear through his chest, killing him. Perseus flies into the gullet of a fiery monster and kills him with a special spear, causing the thing to blow up.
Ares kills several people with blades and war hammers. He fights and wrestles with people. He also has a penchant for punching or kicking his opponents when they're down, especially in combat with Perseus. Ares pummels Zeus several times in the face and, later, skewers him in the back with Hades' two-pronged pitchfork. He dispatches an old man and also kills one of his own devotees in cold blood—stabbing her in the gut after she prays to him. He also gets beaten around a bit, pinned down by Hades.
Several two-torsoed Titans wreak havoc on the battlefield, slicing, tossing and killing countless warriors. When Kronos emerges from an erupting volcano, he waves his arms and floods a city with flying blasts of lava, killing scores of Greek soldiers in the process.
As you can see, there's barely a character who survives this would-be epic who isn't smeared with soot and dried blood. Never mind that we rarely see blood being spilled in battle.
Crude or Profane Language
Two uses of "h---," one of "b‑‑tard," another of "bloody."
Drug and Alcohol Content
Only a reference to Zeus being "drunk on power."
Other Negative Elements
Agenor's past is riddled with petty crime, and he's described as "a liar and a thief."
We've seen them clash. And now we've seen their wrath. Which makes me hope that unless someone shoots a docudrama on Tennessee's professional football team, we've seen the last of the Titans in theaters.
But I fear that my hopes may be dashed just as mercilessly as Perseus' fellow villagers, because predecessor Clash of the Titans raked in just shy of half a billion dollars internationally two years ago. So why, just because the Titans seem to be down for the count at the end of this one, shouldn't they pick themselves back up and give it another go in a few years if their newest movie conjures up a similarly Titan-ic bit of cash?
Granted, if we ran down a list of potentially problematic content, Wrath of the Titans doesn't do too badly. It steers clear of really harsh language and tawdry sexuality. The violence, while constant, rarely threatens the film's PG-13 rating. Along the way, it offers audiences a brave (if two-dimensional) hero battling impressive CGI monsters. And it reminds us of the importance of forgiveness and perseverance, even when all seems lost. As mindless, popcorn-munching entertainment goes these days, this sequel arguably has fewer problems than many other PG-13 actioners.
All the accompanying mahem is utterly mindless, though. Perseus' actions are no doubt heroic, but the film's frenetic action renders him a fairly generic protagonist. And then there's the messy spirituality—filled as it is with both pagan gods and nods toward atheism—which manages to be both trite and troublesome at the same time.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Sam Worthington as Perseus; Liam Neeson as Zeus; Ralph Fiennes as Hades; Édgar Ramírez as Ares; Toby Kebbell as Agenor; Rosamund Pike as Andromeda; Bill Nighy as Hephaestus; Danny Huston as Poseidon; John Bell as Helius
March 30, 2012
June 26, 2012