Sam Worthington probably killed more mythical creatures than he delivered lines of dialogue in Louis Leterrier’s tawdry remake Clash of the Titans, in which he starred as Perseus, the demigod son of Zeus. This sequel, which shares many of the previous film’s faults, is nevertheless an improvement. Faint praise that may be, but this feels like a step, albeit a small one, in the right direction. If there’s a third film, and it continues that trend, we might have something more memorable on our hands.
This film, which takes place 10 years after its predecessor, makes a series of cosmetic and more substantial changes. Perseus, for a start, is no longer the grimacing, unsympathetic grunt he was in the first film, which makes a huge difference. He also now has a son, giving the narrative a cheap but believable heart which the first one never had. Presumably this son was born of Io, who was played in the first film by Gemma Arterton, but that character has been killed off before the opening credits, and is hardly mentioned. The part of Andromeda, meanwhile, has been recast; now a warrior queen, she’s played by a very game Rosamund Pike.
What has happened in the interim between the two films is never explored, but Perseus has returned to the quiet life of a fisherman. The plot here concerns a scheme by Hades (again Ralph Fiennes, this time shorn of that ridiculous voice from the first film) to unleash the Titan Kronos, imprisoned father of the gods, upon the earth, in return for the immortality which is being sucked out of all deities as a result of human apathy towards them. To release Kronos, Hades needs to drain the power from Zeus, which spurs Perseus on into a fight to save the world.
This time around the plot is a bit less contrived, although exposition-laden speeches still abound. Perseus must battle his way through a series of CGI set pieces in order to reach Tartarus, and this time he has his cousin Agenor, demigod son of Poseidon (Toby Kebbell) for company. Kebbell doesn’t have much to do, but at least brings a certain charisma and humour to his role, something starkly lacking in the phoned-in performances of Liam Neeson (as Zeus) and Ralph Fiennes. Performing a similar function is a heavily-bearded Bill Nighy as Hephaestus, fallen god and designer of the intricate labyrinth surrounding Tartarus.
The fact that our protagonists’ journey through this labyrinth, which forms one of the film’s big set pieces, makes no sense, hardly seems to matter to director Jonathan Liebesman and his editors. Neither, it seems, do the script’s many forays into laughable cheese, or the fact that the whole thing stills feels like a slightly cynical excuse to get the special effects on screen.
As with Clash, there are elements of the art design that work quite nicely, and at times the visuals are the only glue holding the thing together. Similarly, the effects are reasonably impressive at times, and underwhelming at others, again like the first film. The 3D is grainy, baffling nonsense.
So while this is a better film than Clash of the Titans, it’s still a long way from being anything special. There are times when it manages to conjure a sense of epic mythological struggle, but these seem mostly accidental. The script is terribly laboured, giving rise to some stilted performances, and characterisation is almost entirely lacking. Posters for the film invite us to “feel the wrath”, and one could argue that, by the time the credits roll, we have.