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'Wrath of the Titans' is a double-edged sword

Liam Neeson in

Liam Neeson in "Wrath of the Titans." Credit: Handout

Pegasus flies with natural grace, a Cyclops crushes trees like toothpicks and the molten monster Kronos is an impressive sight in "Wrath of the Titans," a vast visual improvement on 2010's "Clash of the Titans."

But really, so what?

I would have settled for cardboard props and sock puppets had "Wrath of the Titans" invested in a few interesting characters or a compelling story. In that sense, little has changed since the first film, or for that matter since the campy 1981 original. This big-budget production will probably look terrific in IMAX, but what you'll mostly see in "Wrath" is the spectacle of Hollywood spending money in all the wrong places.

Returning as the half-god Perseus is Sam Worthington, whose wooden acting and shaggy new coif are practically begging for comparisons to Harry Hamlin, the bland looker who originated the role. This time, Perseus must rescue his father, Zeus (again played by a stentorian Liam Neeson), from the hellish labyrinth Tartarus, where Kronos is feeding on Zeus' power.

On his mission, Perseus meets the rascally Agenor (Toby Kebbell, "Rocknrolla"), the warrior Queen Andromeda (the excellent Rosamund Pike, here purely decorative) and the dotty old-timer Hephaestus (Bill Nighy, sounding inexplicably like a Yorkshire dock worker). These stock characters are a bore, though at least Ralph Fiennes, back as the wounded villain Hades, and Venezuelan newcomer Edgar Ramirez, as the jealous god Ares, bring a tinge of humanity to their roles.

New director Jonathan Liebesman ("Battle: Los Angeles") is a welcome replacement for Louis Leterrier, mixing high-tech animation with old-fashioned camerawork -- low angles for the big creatures, tight shots for combat -- to good effect. And the 3-D conversion is absolutely perfect. But if that's all you want for your $15, may this "Wrath" be upon you.

PLOT The half-god Perseus must rescue his father, Zeus, from the underworld. RATING PG-13 (intense action, violence, gruesome imagery)

CAST Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Rosamund Pike


PLAYING AT Area theaters, some in 3-D and IMAX

BOTTOM LINE A vast visual improvement on 2010's "Clash of the Titans," but the characters and dialogue remain flat as cardboard.

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