Monday, April 2, 2012

113) Wrath of the Titans (2012)

113) Wrath of the Titans (2012) Dir: Jonathan Liebesman Date Released: March 30, 2012 Date Seen: March 31, 2012 Rating: 2/5

There's been a recent up-tic in the ongoing argument both for and against "Chaos Cinema." Director Jonathan Liebesman's most recent films are fodder for pretty good counter-Chaos arguments. Wrath of the Titans may be more immersive than Battle: LA. But it's no less flat-footed or literal-minded. One character actually says that he and his comrades are entering a "labyrinth of possibilities" as they enter an actual labyrinth. Liebesman didn't write that line of dialogue but that's pretty much part-and-parcel with his films' style. In order to visualize the hell of combat, he gives us a lot of shaky camera movements. In order to get a sense of intimacy, he delivers physical proximity. In order to get a sense of how big the Temple of the Gods is, he showcases disproportionately large statues and columns. In order to get a sense of a character's disorientation, he films with fish eye lenses and various other odd-angled close-ups of bewildered faces.

Granted, some of the more visually coherent and hence pleasing moments in Wrath of the Titans are guided by a literal-minded intelligence, too, like the sequence where Perseus (Sam Worthington) is surveying an empty battle field and is represented as being rather small in the midst of so much rubble. But more often than not, Liebesman's more visually coherent scenes are immediately more impressive (though I readily admit I kinda liked Perseus's shaky fight with the fire-breathing goggies). Theses scenes are not much more impressive but they do give us a sense of scale and scope that more inspired filmmakers would probably be more capable of capitalizing on. 

This is pretty much where I stand when it comes to Chaos Cinema: don't just hide behind a frenzied technique, do something with it. Liebesman does nothing of note in Wrath of the Titans with his use of shaky hand-held photography. And that's basically the problem: shaky cam and Chaos Cinema is only as valuable a technique as it's most creative proponent. You show me a truly inspired use of kinetic editing and I will reluctantly acquiesce. Tsui Hark, sure, maybe even Paul Greengrass. But if you were to ask either of those superior director guys to do something with crane shots or non-hand-held digital photography, you'd get something equally, if not more, impressive. 

Jonathan Liebesman is not that talented. But he is a very prominent standard-bearer for Chaos. So it's easy to pick on him...mostly 'cause he sucks. Ultimately, I'm still waiting to be really dazzled by a Nouveau Chaos-keteer. Suggestions welcome. 

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