1. Everyone looks so bored in Wrath of the Titans that I honestly felt bad for them. Sure, this sequel is an obvious quick-hit money grab, the sort of cash job that it's difficult to raise one's dander for, but hey, that's the reason most movies exist, after all. No, Wrath of the Titans inspires a particular, almost special brand of blankness from its actors, all of whom know why they're here, know they don't have to stay long, know that the shoot should be wrapped in time for an early dinner. Ralph Fiennes, as Hades, GOD OF THE UNDERWORLD, in particular looks to be actively drowsy; he brings with him the energy of a sloshed Orson Welles slurring his way through a champagne commercial.
2. Mwahhhaaa, the French! At least Fiennes stays sober throughout the movie, though he does look like he's about to pass out. (To be fair, his jaw is surely weary from the weight of fake beard.) Wrath of the Titans is a plodding, dreary, doddering by-the-numbers sequel to a film that wasn't exactly bursting with energy itself. It barely has the energy to even tell a story; I'm pretty certain half the dialogue of this film involves characters using direct address to each other so the audience knows who everybody is. ("Hello, Poseidon! You are god of the sea!") Even the 3-D in this film is lazy. Know that if you are paying the six-odd-dollar surcharge to see this in 3-D, the only real nod to the format is ash floating through the air, oooooh. It would be cheaper to have a BBQ, and you could wear normal sunglasses.
3. Should I bother you with the story? Fine. Sam Worthington is back as Perseus, the perma-mulleted half-god, half-man who killed the Released Kraken. The gods have lost power, even Zeus (Liam Neeson, on 'Ludes, I think), and only Perseus can save humanity from the evil ... checks notes ... Kronos, yes, Kronos. He also has a 10-year-old son, because Bob McKee says our hero must have an emotional center that drives his quest. The movie has a basic, almost primitive structure: Worthington talks to someone for five minutes, some mythical beast attacks, then he talks to someone else for five minutes. It's certainly economical, though the less Talking Worthington, the better.
4. Movies like this are often called "video game" movies, since they're basically a series of interstitial "story" scenes plopped in to transition to and from the fighting scenes. But this is an insult to video games. Wrath of the Titans has the whole of Greek mythology to choose from, but their monsters are consistently lame and—in a nod to budgetary considerations, I'm sure—often impossible to see. They move around so fast and so shoddily that you rarely get a sense of who Perseus is even fighting, how he's attacking them, why they're so dangerous. At least in a video game there are clear instructions on how to kill the bad guy. Then, at the end, when .... checks again ... yes, Kronos takes physical form, in what is supposed to be the movie's big climactic set piece, he looks more like an 8-bit Nintendo boss, with poorly formed features and no rational scale or awe. If you're going to see a Greek mythology movie for the mythological beasts—and one must assume that's why you're there, unless you just like navel beards—the movie has to deliver the Hydra goods. Even the Pegasus looks unconvincing, and all that is is just wings on a horse. How hard is that?
5. The common criticism of the modern American blockbuster is that it is soulless and rigidly manufactured, but this isn't necessarily true. Say what you will about the Transformers movies—Lord knows I certainly have—but you can't say they're not legitimately Michael Bay's vision, a 160-minute orgy of everything that is terrifying and disgusting and great about America. In their own demented way, those movies are ambitious. Hell, even Fast Five has its moments. But Wrath of the Titans? This is when the criticism is right. It's bloodless, dull, full of half-hearted, half-cocked CGI; it stars "recognizable" actors who say their lines almost in passing; it builds "action" scenes that translate internationally with no trouble at all; it features "3-D" that it never bothers to implement; and it wraps up in under 90 minutes, all the better to maximize the opening-week showtimes before it shuffles off to just kill in the Philippines and Russia. American movies are still thought to be one of country's most consistent, lasting exports. But Wrath of the Titans makes one worry about our manufacturing infrastructure. It makes you worry if we can make anything anymore. I have seen the end of an empire, and it looks a lot like a Sam Worthington movie.
Grierson & Leitch is a regular column about the movies. Follow us on Twitter, @griersonleitch.