FILM CARRIES AN INTERESTING (AND UNINTENDED) MESSAGE
2010’s “Clash of Titans”, based on the 1981 film (itself loosely based on an ancient Greek myth), created a world in which the Greeks had forsaken the worship of their gods. Man would do without gods or myths, to stand or fall on his own merits. In so doing, they began to unravel the order that sustained their world. In this week’s sequel, “Wrath of the Titans”, the destructive consequences to a world untethered from its traditional moorings becomes manifest.
To paraphrase Napoleon, myth is the story men tell of themselves and agree to believe. Our myths define us: they illustrate and enforce our values and virtues. They trumpet to the world that which we wish to be believed of ourselves. Our collective myths, like our history, serve as the glue that binds any nation together as one people.
Nobody understood the value of mythology better than the Greeks.
They created a rich tapestry of mythological stories that explained the world in which they lived, the supernatural dangers that threatened, and the heroic acts of Greek men and women that altered the fate of mankind and saved humanity. They worshipped gods and goddesses that resembled man, reflecting our best and worst nature; who rewarded the virtuous and punished evil-doers. Fear of their gods and of divine retribution helped maintain a moral society. Even after exploration and scientific advancement had rendered absurd the suggestion that a race of immortals dwelt atop cloud-covered Olympus; the anything-if-not-rational ancient Greeks still maintained the public fiction of believing in their ancestral religion.
Wrath of the Titans expands upon the original premise: that mankind has abandoned the gods; and by denying them the vital sustenance of their prayers, threaten the god’s very existence. As the movie opens, all are already gone, faded away apparently. All except for Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades (reprised by Liam Neeson, Danny Huston, and Ralph Fiennes), hanging-on in much diminished capacity; and Ares, the savage god of war, who seems uniquely unaffected by the affliction of impiety.
Equally unaffected by man’s belief (or lack-thereof) are the Titans; the monstrous giants commanded by Chronos, father of Zeus and his brother Olympians. Chronos has been long imprisoned by Zeus in the labyrinth of Tartarus. But with the restraining power of the gods fading, Chronos threatens to escape his bonds.
Man’s belief is necessary to sustain the god’s existence, but apparently not that of their rivals and enemies, the Titans. These, representatives of chaos and destruction, thrive in a world without gods.
That is perhaps the unintended, underlying message of Wrath of the Titans: that order is maintained by traditional values, personified by the gods; and that without these, chaos is unleashed. That man in his arrogance chooses to stand alone at his own peril. I doubt the filmmakers had this message in mind, but it is there nevertheless.
In Wrath, stolid Sam Worthington returns as Perseus, the “go-it-alone” son of Zeus. He is a serviceable hero, willing to take-a-licking-and-keep-on-ticking to achieve victory. In this go around, the licks are mostly imposed by his evil brother Ares, traitor who has thrown his lot in with Chronos. Venezuelan Édgar Ramírez lends the role of Ares a vicious and brooding brutality; his underlying motivation seems to be revenge upon an unaffectionate father! (Nothing gains a father’s love faster than betraying said father, right?!)
The film is already a commercial success, gleaning worldwide box-office receipts of $112,200,000 in its first weekend. If one liked the “Clash of Titans” a few years ago, you will likely enjoy even more this big-budget sequel, which is arguably a better film in many ways. It brings a bevy of mythological monsters to bear, which will excite the young male audience, no doubt. But, as one friend and her young son noted, it suffers from a notable lack of goddesses! Apparently the lady deities suffered more acutely from a lack of worshiper’s love than their male counterparts, fading away all the quicker. Come to think of it that is perhaps the one thing in this film that rings the truest!
If you are looking for a movie faithful (or even similar) to a ancient Greek myth, you will be disappointed: the only thing this has in common with anything found in Hesiod or Homer is that it shares characters with the same names!