- - Thursday, March 29, 2012

In “Wrath of the Titans,” a sequel to the 2010 remake “Clash of the Titans,” Ralph Fiennes reprises his role as Hades, mythological ruler of the underworld. Ostensibly an ancient god, he’s on a quest to save his own life from extinction at the hands of unbelieving mortals who have stopped praying to him — and in so doing, robbed him of his power as a deity.

“When a god dies,” Hades laments, “it isn’t death. It’s nothing. It’s oblivion.”

Which happens to describe, almost exactly, the way I felt for the 99 minutes I spent watching the movie.

That same feeling — a mixture of numbness, disinterest and exhaustion — permeates the movie and its characters. Early on, Hades ties his brother Zeus between two rock pillars in order to drain the remaining god-power out of him. It seems to work all too well. As played by Liam Neeson, who is normally majestic in such roles, Zeus doesn’t look drained of power so much as tired of being in the movie. About halfway through, he sighs mightily, “Is there no end to this?” As he cried out in pain, all I could think was: I know how he feels.

Mr. Neeson and Mr. Fiennes are both superb actors. Why in heaven are they appearing in dull dreck like this? The gods truly must be crazy.

The movie’s mortals, meanwhile, deliver even less. As Perseus, Sam Worthington plays a demigod — half man, half god, no actor. He’s not the only one. With his odd accent, model’s stubble and cultivated locks of dangling hair, Edgar Ramirez gives Ares the brooding, perpetually irritated aura of a moody snowboarder stuck in the desert. Rosamund Pike’s Queen Andromeda, meanwhile, has the empty, distracted air of someone talking on the phone while checking her email.

Director Jonathan Liebesman provides plenty of incentive for viewers to do the same. He’s made this sequel more somber, more self-serious, but no less ridiculous. As he proved in last year’s “Battle: Los Angeles,” he can’t tell the difference between an action scene, with careful buildup and pacing, and a whole bunch of stuff happening. He packs the movie full of stuff, none of which is very interesting.

Even the movie’s computer-generated super-gods seem ready to doze off. When Hades first wakes his long-imprisoned father, Chronos, a mountain-sized demon creature with molten lava for veins, the latter emits a long and pointed yawn, as if annoyed with those who would disturb his slumber. Chronos doesn’t talk much — he communicates primarily through hurled fireballs and lava sprays that arc like red-hot paint splatters — but when he does, the sound resembles a guttural belch, or perhaps a violent case of indigestion, which may explain his generally belligerent attitude toward the world.

Indeed, the movie often seems determined to overwhelm viewers with sheer volume. “Wrath of the Titans” is a terrifyingly loud picture, punctuated by the digitally enhanced surround-sound clang of metal weaponry, the boom of explosions, the globular rumble of flowing lava. But no amount of Dolby bang can jolt this thunderously tedious film from its lifeless slumber.


TITLE: “Wrath of the Titans”

CREDITS: Directed by Jonathan Leibesman. Screenplay by Dan Mazeau and David Johnson

RATING: PG-13 for frenetic fantasy violence

RUNNING TIME: 99 minutes


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