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Wrath of the Titans

Given all the truly terrible things about 2010's Clash of the Titans remake, from the muddy plot to the clunking dialogue to the gobsmackingly awful 3D transfer, it's almost impossible to remember what went right with it. Even when masked by a ridiculous glowing aura and 10 pounds of fake hair, Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes had a delicious rapport as estranged brothers Hades and Zeus, and the creature special effects, without the added layer of awful 3D, worked well more often than not. Happily, the somewhat inexplicable sequel Wrath of the Titans has hung on to all those good elements and added a few new ones, making a film that's just as goofy as the first one, but actually enjoyable this time around.

Just about everything is improved this time around, from Sam Worthington's more forgiving haircut to Toby Kebbell and Rosamund Pike in snappy supporting roles to the effects and 3D, both of which are a little fantasy-movie-generic but are at least not objectively bad this time. The plot is dead simple-- Zeus is held hostage in the underworld by his brother Hades, who is plotting with their Titan father Kronos to take over the world. Perseus must travel to Hades to rescue Zeus, and is joined in his quest by warrior Queen Andromeda (Pike) and goofball rogue Agenor (Kebbell), who turns out to be the son of Poseidon. They meet a series of obstacles and helpers along the way (including Bill Nighy as the very funny Hephaestus), and eventually arrive in Hades where Perseus doesn't just face down the rumbling Titan, but his own half-brother Ares (Edgar Ramirez), who lives up to his name of the God of War.

A lot of times you can throw this many talented actors into the soup of a big action movie and lose them, but director Jonathan Liebesman lets all of his actors inhabit their roles, Ramirez bringing a genuinely terrifying edge to Ares, and Neeson and Fiennes running wild near the end of the film-- if you don't want to see these two wearing giant beards and zapping people with lightning bolts, you're clearly not thinking about it hard enough. Liebesman also shows a lot more skill in directing action than he did with the shaky cam nightmare Battle: Los Angeles, and though the large-scale battle at the end of the film is kind of a dud, there are individual conflicts sprinkled throughout the story that unfold with imagination and energy. It's still too heavy on CGI and hoary dialogue to feel truly urgent or fresh, but Wrath of the Titans largely works around those flaws and makes it part of the old-fashioned charm.

Sam Worthington, who is consistently and wrongly slammed as an uncharismatic meathead, once again brings a nicely measured soul and strength to Perseus, and though he and Pike have zero romantic chemistry, their characters are appealing enough on their own to root for them anyway. Wrath of the Titans never bothers being all that smart or subtle or fresh, but it's doggedly determined to succeed anyway, and somehow manages to pull it off. There's no real reason to make another one of these-- unless it's a prequel starring Fiennes and Neeson about Hades and Zeus in their younger days-- but for an unwanted sequel, Wrath of the Titans feels surprisingly worthwhile.

Staff Writer at CinemaBlend