In days of yore, men were grimy, women were scarce and fire wasn't nearly as hot. At least, that is what Wrath of the Titans, the sequel to the 2010 Clash of the Titans, is to believed.
It has been 10 years since Perseus, a disconcertingly curly-haired Sam Worthington, triumphed over the Kraken. He is now a fisherman and a father, and wants nothing to do with gods and heroes. That obviously isn't going to last.
Sure enough, a quick visit from Zeus, played by an impressively bewigged Liam Neeson, fills Perseus in on the fact that Tartarus, the prison of the gods, is about to fail and they need Perseus's help to shore up the walls. Perseus's refuses to leave his son, but an encounter with a two-headed, fire-spitting monster convinces him he cannot afford to sit this one out.
He unearths his sword and armour – which in a nice nod to the passing of time, doesn't quite fit anymore – and sets off for the Underworld. What follows is a rollicking brawl of a swords, sorcery and sandals epic that hardly stops for breath between fight scenes.
Wrath of the Titans isn't the most intellectually muscular film of the year, but then no-one expected it to be. What it is, is fun. All the elements that didn't quite work in the first instalment in the franchise – the over-done CGI, the multiple plot-lines and 'escapees from gold Tron' look for the gods – have been pared away.
What is left is a lean, mean, monster-fighting machine, that papers over any cracks in the plot by throwing another action sequence at it. It doesn't matter whether it is a cyclops or a twirling, skittering fire-demon thing – Perseus and his friends will fight them all.
That's another thing that has been pared down in Wrath of the Titans, the cast. There are really only six faces that the audience needs to recognise from start to finish - three gods and three heroes.
Accompanying Perseus is Poseidon's demigod son, a hair-covered Toby Kebbell as Agenor, and Rosamund Pike as a leather clad Queen Andromeda. Neither have a lot to do, it is Perseus movie, but what they have they do well. Agenor is an appealing rascal, and Pike is particularly enjoyable as the grown-up Andromeda, who has long out-grown her damsel-in-distress days.
The scene in her tent where she raps Perseus knuckles for fiddling with her battle-plan makes it obvious that this is a heroine who isn't waiting for anyone else to save her. Although she is grateful for the help.
Worthington's Perseus is a lot more fun than in the original instalment, supplementing his array of gimlet looks and glowers with flickers of dry, world-weary humour. He can still bring an impressively convincing brutality to the fight scenes though.
It is the gods who seem to have run off with the emotional meat of the narrative. Édgar Ramírez's Ares twists in the rack of his own ambition and resentment, each feeding off each other. Meanwhile Zeus and Hades (Jeremy Irons) dredge up some genuinely affecting character moments as the estranged divine brothers. Not to mention an awesome moment in one of the battles.
Wrath of the Titans could have done with a few more female characters, there were only three with lines and not many more than that seen. And if you are a mythology geek seeing this film, it is probably best to just not think about it (Where was Athena if the armies needed someone to pray to?).
It seems likely that Wrath of the Titans will close the Titans franchise. It could have ended on a worse note - if you are in the mood for guilt-free violence (not even PETA care about a fire-breathing chimera), dramatic CGI and a really awesome Pegasus, this is the movie to see.
Wrath of the Titans is on general release now.