Remember the Titans? Not the “Remember the Titans” Titans, but rather the “Clash of the Titans” Titans. Remember them? This week's “Wrath of the Titans” is a sequel to 2010's “Clash of the Titans,” which was a remake of 1981's “Clash of the Titans,” which was an intermittently faithful adaptation of Greek myth.
Before we go any further, I need to ask a question: Just where are the danged Titans in these films? Both versions of “Clash” have exactly the same number of mythological Titans as “Remember the Titans” — zero. The new film, bless it, does have one (Kronos), despite its plural title. I guess “Wrath of the Titan” didn't have quite the same zing.
“Wrath of the Titans” kicks off 10 years after its 2010 predecessor. (Funny, the returning actors only look two years older). Perseus (Sam Worthington) — having slain the Kraken and saved the human race from Olympian revenge, stage-managed by Hades (Ralph Fiennes) — has rejected his demigod status and is living as a fisherman and, as a single parent, trying to raise his 10-year-old son, Helius (John Bell), the best he can.
But you can't keep a bad god down, even in the Underworld, and Hades is at it again, plotting to capture Zeus (Liam Neeson). (Yes, it's that “Schindler's List” duo, together again!) Once he drains Zeus of his strength, the stage will be set for the return of Kronos, their mutual dad, who will visit all kinds of nastiness on the world. With the ever-weakening Zeus imprisoned in the Underworld, his son Ares (Edgar Ramirez) conspiring with Hades, and Poseidon (Danny Huston) dead, there's only one man — well, one half-man — who can tip the power balance against the coup plotters. As you've already guessed — you don't have to be the Cumaean sybil for this one — that savior would be Perseus.
Like everyone else in this version of Greek myth, Perseus has father issues; that is, he's bugged with his old man. But, faced with the devastation Kronos will cause to humans, he has to put aside his anti-Zeus feelings and join the cause. With the help of potential romantic interest Andromeda (Rosamund Pike), Poseidon's demigod son Agenor (Toby Kebbell), and faithful winged steed Pegasus, he seeks out Hephaestus (Bill Nighy), who designed the Underworld and hence knows where the secret back door is.
Given that “Clash” brought in about half a billion dollars worldwide, it's not surprising that the story and structure follow the template pretty closely. What is surprising is how different this one is in its execution. Unlike predecessor Louis Leterrier, director Jonathan Liebesman (“Battle Los Angeles”) has brought things down to earth: As ridiculous as it may sound for this kind of movie, his approach is more, well, realistic, in both performance and look. I'm not saying it's “The Bicycle Thief” or “On the Waterfront,” but the declaiming of the gods has thankfully been cranked down a notch or two.
While that's a welcome shift, the production design is more of a mixed bag. It's one thing for Earth to look grittier; but Olympus has lost some of its luster. Thematically, that makes sense, but I miss the eye candy.
The new version also benefits from having two comic characters. Kebbell mugs a bit as Agenor, but the role calls for it. Nighy is marvelous (as always): His Hephaestus is shabby, dotty, even half-insane from years of isolation, with only his mechanical owl for company.
3-D was taking off while the last film was being made; it was retooled to accommodate post-production 3-D conversion. Even though “Wrath” was slated for 3-D from the start, it too was shot in 2-D and then converted. The result is discreet to the point of feeling flat most of the time — which is just as well for those who are tiring of the whole 3-D thing.
ANDY KLEIN is the film critic for Marquee. He can also be heard on “FilmWeek” on KPCC-FM (89.3).Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times