Someday a proper sociologist armed with a sophisticated logarithm will be able to correlate any distinct period of White People History with their movies about Zeus. The project will begin with muscle-bound 1950s Steve Reeves Hercules films, wherein the King Olympian remains off-camera. Then we’ll move to the star-studded Reagan-era Clash of the Titans, with Laurence Olivier, the king of gaudy British actors, playing Big Z as an aloof Hairy Thunderer. We’ll end with our own technologically obsessed age, where big-budget remakes of camp feature monsters that come from computers and the heavens are ruled by Mr. Mumbles himself, Liam Neeson. Thus the twilight of the gods occurred: not by diminishing faith, but through the decline of casting agents.
Surprisingly, this film, in which Zeus actually confronts his own oblivion (which seems weird for an immortal), is one of those rare sequels that improve upon their predecessors. Given, it didn’t have much to live up to. Clash of the Titans (the remake) was a humorless Perseus origin story starring Sam Worthington and costarring Andromeda, Medusa, and the Kraken. It was deifically boring. This outing, with the innovation of magical wit moments and good 3-D, again features Worthington as Perseus, Zeus’s darling half-Muggle boy, still engaged in negotiating his father’s lethal family problems with his bro Ares (Édgar Ramírez), uncle Hades (Ralph Fiennes), and banished granddaddy Kronos, whose intimacy issues are complicated by the fact that he’s made of flying lava.
What works this time around — besides a loosened-up script — is the pantheon of British actors behind the stodgy Worthington. Best are Bill Nighy as Hephaestus and the always remarkable Rosamund Pike, who once distinguished herself in scripts based on Jane Austen and D.H. Lawrence novels; now she brandishes her big sword at Fiennes, Lord of the Underworld. She even manages to look awestruck as Zeus descends in the person of Mr. Tragic Glower himself, Neeson — and that’s some epic acting.