WRATH OF THE TITANS – Blu-ray review

After 2010’s “Clash of the Titans,” audiences waited with bated breath and peeled eyeballs for the appearance of its sequel, 2012’s “Wrath of Titans.”  Now that the wait is over and the film has completed its theatrical run, we can find it conveniently available on DVD and high-definition Blu-ray.  So we may safely draw our breath back in and restore our eyeballs to their natural state as we watch the usual mythological suspects engage in their return appointment right in our home.

I confess that even after having watched 2010’s “Clash of the Titans” twice (and its inspiration, 1981’s “Clash of the Titans” several times before that), I couldn’t remember much about the plot.  I know the filmmakers based their story (loosely) on mythological Greek and Norse characters, filling it with various gods and monsters, but that’s about it.  All I can say for sure about this newer “Wrath of the Titans” is that the CGI beasts are again not much of an improvement on Ray Harryhausen’s old stop-motion creations (indeed, there was a certain charm in the old process that made his monsters a lot more memorable and, well, lovable).

Anyway, in “Wrath” Sam Worthington reappears as Perseus, the hero of the piece.  Despite the previous film coming out only two years before this one, “Wrath” begins ten years after the events of the earlier story.  Go figure.  This has given time for Perseus’s son, Helius (John Bell), to grow up a bit, and the two of them are living quietly, peacefully, on the coast of Greece as fishermen.  Perseus, you see, may be a demigod, the son of Zeus and the destroyer of the Kraken, but he has decided to forsake his godhood and heroism and live among men, all the better, he feels, to raise his son properly.

But there is no rest for a healthy demigod.  No sooner has Perseus settled into the life of a humble fisherman than his father, Zeus (Liam Neeson), pays him a visit.  Zeus needs his son’s help, as well as the help of a few fellow Titans, to fight a war against his own father, Kronos, whose sons imprisoned in Tartarus (a sunless abyss somewhere deeper than the underworld) ages before.  It seems Kronos is now raising an army to retake the world, and he’s already enlisted the aid of Zeus’s brother, Hades (Ralph Fiennes), ruler of the underworld, and Ares (Edgar Ramirez), another of Zeus’s sons and the jealous brother of Perseus.  On Zeus and Perseus’s side are Agenor (Toby Kebbell), Poisidon’s son, the “Navigator”; Hephaestus (Bill Nighy), a fallen god who made the weapons for the higher gods; Poseidon (Danny Huston), Zeus’s brother, god of the sea; and Andromeda (Rosamund Pike), Queen of Greece.

So that’s it.  Perseus and his friends have to deliver the world from the wrath of Kronos and his followers and make it safe for all the CGI to come after them.  We’ve got gods and demigods fighting more gods and demigods, and the fighting goes on for the entire ninety-nine minutes of the movie, start to finish.  There’s really little else.

Yes, from about five minutes into the picture, it’s one damned demon after another for Perseus to battle.  Alas, the old gods are a dying breed; nobody is worshiping them anymore.  Maybe that’s why they’re making one last stand.  Don’t you just hate it when that happens, and the other side has more gods working for them than you do?

Anyhow, you know this is an important film because everybody in it speaks with an Engish accent, whether they’re English or not.  The fact is, almost none of the characters in the film have enough personality for us to care about them.  Kebbell’s roguish Agenor at least shows a touch of humor, but the rest of the cast, as attractive as they are, seem like cardboard cutouts.

Director Jonathan Liebesman (“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre:  The Beginning,” “Battle Los Angeles”) keeps the action moving at a sprightly pace, but he can’t help himself from using the usual quick edits and multitudinous close-ups so favored of action directors these days.  At least he intersperses the bloodshed with a few appealing location shots, mostly in England and Wales.  The CGI looks about the same as in the previous “Titans” film, meaning it’s neither here nor there.  CGI monsters are all pretty much the same anymore, moving in a slight blur.  While there is a fairly exciting battle between Perseus and a giant Cyclops that’s kind of fun, most of the fighting gets old fast and loses its welcome about ten minutes into the movie.

Incidentally, the studio decided to shoot the picture in 3-D, so look for rocks and other projectiles flying off the screen every few minutes.  It’s not really excessive, though, so it won’t bother you much if you’re watching, as I did, in regular 2-D.

In the last analysis, “Wrath of the Titans” seems an unnecessary sequel to an unnecessary remake.  The 1981 “Clash of the Titans” was enough, and even though it wasn’t a terribly good film, either, in retrospect it seems positively classic.

My guess is that the Blu-ray’s high-definition picture quality is pretty much the same as audiences saw it in theaters.  The Warner engineers use a dual-layer BD50 and an MPEG-4/AVC codec to capture the movie in its original theatrical aspect ratio, 1.85:1.  The colors are most often intentionally muted, which doesn’t do a lot for ultimate object delineation, but when things clear up from time to time, the definition is excellent, and the colors are rich and lifelike.  The folks at WB have been doing a better job lately with the PQ of their Blu-rays, a higher bit rate helping a great deal.  This one is generally a sharp-looking release.

The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 earns its money, reproducing the soundtrack’s wide dynamic range, huge impact, deep bass, and numerous surround sounds with ease.  The audio impresses one with its continuous deluge of noises, and it even replicates the midrange dialogue pretty well, when you can actually hear the voices through all the rear and side-channel din.

The primary bonus item on the Blu-ray disc is a “Maximum Movie Mode,” a picture-in-picture affair with two experiences to follow, “The Path of Men” and “The Path of Gods,” ensuring that you’ll have to watch the film in its entirety two more times to catch it all.  “Men” takes a look at the cast, action, and special effects in the film, and “Gods” looks at the history and mythology depicted in the film.  In addition, there are nine featurettes, “Focus Points,” from the Maximum Movie Mode that you can watch on their own, divided into the same two categories and totaling about thirty-three minutes.  Then, there are three deleted scenes, adding up to about eleven minutes.

The extras conclude with ten scene selections; English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese spoken languages; French, Spanish, and Portuguese subtitles; and English captions for the hearing impaired.

Finally, because this is a Combo Pack, it also includes a high-definition version of the movie on Blu-ray and a standard-definition version on DVD and UltraViolet, the latter offer expiring June 26, 2014.  The BD and DVD come housed in a flimsy double Eco-case, further enclosed by a light-cardboard slipcover.

Parting Shots:
“Wrath of the Titans,” like its predecessor, is all spectacle and little plot, all show and little characterization, all CGI and little story.  Certainly, the special effects look impressive, and the action is nonstop.  However, there is so little substance to the movie that watching a second or third time, which is one of the points of owning the film on disc, seems limited.  Once is quite enough, thank you.