It can sometimes be obvious from just watching the trailer for a movie that it is largely just an excuse to showcase special effects. Recent examples include “Avatar,” “Alice in Wonderland” and now “Clash of the Titans.” Yet despite epic battle scenes and imaginative and aesthetically pleasing renderings of mythological environs, “Titans” comes up short in nearly every other department.
Loosely based on Greek mythology, “Titans” tells the story of Perseus (Worthington), as he struggles to avenge the death of his family and aid mankind in their war against the gods. Perseus is a demigod, being the son of Zeus and a human woman. After his family becomes collateral damage in a battle between Hades and man, Perseus dedicates himself to exacting revenge on the gods. His quest takes him on a journey through a number of dramatic locations, from the Greek city of Argos to the Underworld and River Styx, pits him against many equally dramatic foes and introduces him to a romantic interest in Ion.
“Titans” suffers from absolutely dreadful characterization and dialogue. The audience is privy to a prelude of Perseus’s childhood only a few minutes long and sees no emotional connection between him and his family members, creating problems when he devotes himself to avenging their deaths. Similarly, the main characters of Zeus (Neeson), Hades (Fiennes) and Draco (Mikelson) have nothing defining about them and are incredibly one-dimensional. Virtually all interactions between the characters seem rushed and meaningless and serve only to propel Perseus from one epic battle to another.
Leterrier, who also directed “The Incredible Hulk” and “Transporter 2,” makes it immediately obvious that the battle scenes are to be the focal point of the whole film, on which he certainly delivers. The computer-animated enemies range from giant scorpions to the kraken made popular by the movie trailers. The fight scenes are spectacular, with seamless interaction between the computer- generated elements and the actors. The varied settings keep the action fresh, and the sequences don’t get tedious and drawn out like in some action films. This is also a credit to the film’s editing and pacing, as the characters only remain in one location long enough to explain their reason for moving and battling someone else.
In addition to well-executed action scenes, the film also boasts some very interesting digital renderings of mythical environs, such as the River Styx and its ferryman Charon and Medusa’s underground lair. “Titans” offers a glimpse into the realm of Greek mythos in a way many haven’t seen before.
Some of the shortcomings in characterization, however glaring, weren’t the fault of the cast. Neeson and Ralph Fiennes do what they can with the shallow script and story line, both of which are bad enough as to make the audience question what on Earth those two actors are doing in a movie like “Titans.” Fiennes follows turns as Lord Voldemort in the “Harry Potter” movies with a creepy portrayal of Hades, likely cementing himself into those types of roles for the remainder of his career.
The cast’s talent ended there, though. Worthington, who did a great job playing an emotionless automaton in “Terminator: Salvation,” came up short in “Titans” by turning Perseus into an equally emotionless automaton.
It is easy to forgive this film for being so emotionally shallow and distant because it never really tries to be much of anything but the technical showcase it ends as. It may not have the engaging storyline or depth of character of other epic films like “Lord of the Rings,” but anyone who goes into this movie expecting those things probably deserves what they end up with. “Titans” succeeds as an exciting, action-oriented special effects showcase worth a matinee or a rental, just don’t go into it with sky-high expectations.