CHICAGO – Let’s face it, life does suck. But what can we do about that? How do we survive? Lookingglass Theatre Company’s latest stage presentation tries to answer those thorny questions through a group of fellow travelers, flung together at a cabin retreat, trying to figure out why (indeed) “Life Sucks.”
Blu-ray Review: Relentlessly Bland ‘Wrath of the Titans’ Ultimately Bores
CHICAGO – Just because a tale is enormously influential and older than the hills doesn’t mean that it’s foolproof. Just ask “John Carter.” Or “Mirror Mirror.” What makes the “Titans” franchise particularly unseemly is its air of smugness. It trashed Ray Harryhausen’s admittedly outdated 1981 version of “Clash of the Titans” in its 2010 remake, but failed to establish a personality of its own.
Despite its status as a box office smash, there seemed to be very few fans of the updated “Clash,” with its maddeningly bland leading man (Sam Worthington’s colorless portrayal of Zeus’s son, Perseus) and its cheesy visuals made even murkier by awful 3D effects added in post. Its sequel, “Wrath of the Titans,” underwent the same dismal conversion and predictably earned far less dough from 3D-weary audiences. Let’s hope this second installment marks the premature end of this deadly dull series.
Blu-ray Rating: 2.0/5.0
As the film opens, Perseus is living the simple life with his young son when Zeus (Liam Nesson) swoops in to inform him that mankind’s diminishing prayers are causing the Gods to lose their powers (apparently they’re no less vulnerable than Tinkerbell). Perseus stubbornly resists Zeus’s urgent offer for more Titan-clashing until apocalyptic visions cause him to join back in the fight. The plot is profoundly goofy, but director Jonathan Liebesman (“Battle Los Angeles”) takes such a straight-faced approach to the material that he instantly sucks the fun out of every scene. Worthington sports the same brooding expression, and his monotone delivery of deadpan quips are never the least bit funny. The only person who seems to be enjoying himself is Bill Nighy, cast in the all-too-brief role of Hephaestus, who appears to have been imported in from a far nuttier, Terry Gilliam-helmed “Titans” adaptation.
Wrath of the Titans was released on Blu-ray and DVD on June 26, 2012.
Photo credit: Warner Home Video
Whenever the film latches onto an interesting visual idea—such as a labyrinthine underworld that randomly shifts its walls and floors like a Rubix cube, or Perseus’s dazzling descent down the esophagus of a creature made from molten lava—the filmmakers lack the vision and invention to build the idea into a memorable set-piece. Each scene clangs gracelessly into the next one without ever bothering to create suspense. It’s this sort of soulless, workmanlike filmmaking that makes one appreciate a picture like Rupert Sanders’s “Snow White and the Huntsman.” Sure, that film is every bit as dramatically stodgy as “Wrath,” but at least it lingered in its spectacularly imaginative environments long enough for audiences to feel fully transported. The characters were one-note, but the visuals proved to be exceedingly memorable. That’s more than can be said for “Wrath,” with its muddy color palette, derivative monsters and digital effects that look even less convincing when viewed on an HD screen. Only the Minotaur that Perseus battles in the labyrinth is actually played by a flesh-and-blood actor. He’s menacing, alright, but not quite as unnerving as David Bowie in a codpiece.
“Wrath of the Titans” is presented in impeccable 1080p High Definition (with a 1.85:1 aspect ratio), accompanied by English, Spanish and French audio tracks, and includes Blu-ray, DVD and UltraViolet versions of the film. Viewers can choose between two different “Maximum Movie Mode” visual commentary tracks assembling the usual Warner-approved hodgepodge of storyboards, featurettes, deleted scenes and behind-the-scenes footage. “The Path of Gods” breaks down the film’s roots in Greek mythology, while “The Path of Men” offers routine soundbite interviews with the cast and crew. There’s amusing footage of a crew member holding a 30-foot pole with a tennis ball attached to the end in mid-air, thus giving the actors a point-of-reference for the digital Cyclopses. Even more amusing is Nighy’s explanation for why he’s attracted to Greek myths. He loves the “extremity” of the tall tales, and was delighted to read that Hephaestus was thrown from Mount Olympus as a newborn, and continued to fall for a full week. Perhaps Harryhausen’s whimsical approach to the material was more appropriate after all. It’s certainly an upgrade from this high-tech tedium.