Feel the Wrath
"Wrath of the Titans" brings the battle back to the mythical land of gods and monsters in a fight of cataclysmic proportions, bigger and bolder than ever before. And for our hero, Perseus, this time it's personal.
"It's an amazing adventure that takes Perseus to places no mortal has been before and pits him against enemies the likes of which no man has ever faced," states director Jonathan Liebesman, who embraced the opportunity to work in one of his favorite genres while telling a story about facing your destiny. That is something, he says, "We all have to do eventually, if not quite as heroically, as Perseus. The reason Greek mythology is so timeless is because it's full of classic archetypes, as well as tragedy, comedy, betrayal, revenge. It's got it all and it is part of our collective culture. Everyone knows Zeus and Hades; everyone knows what the Underworld is."
Having survived his first encounter with the Underworld in Medusa's lair ten years earlier, Perseus has tried to forget the demons of the past and live a tranquil fisherman's life with his son. But he's given no choice when the war comes to him, and despite trying to hide his demigod identity for years, he can no longer deny his birthright…or his place on the battlefield.
"On his first quest, Perseus had lost everyone that mattered to him and was out for revenge, so on some level it probably didn't matter to him if he lived or died," Sam Worthington, who once again plays him, recalls. "But now he's matured, has a kid he loves dearly, and is content with his life. He sees the world differently; he doesn't want that world to change."
But change it will, due in part to his sense of obligation to his father, the king of the gods, Zeus. Liam Neeson, who returns to the role, says he was eager for the chance to explore in greater depth the bond between fathers and sons, and also brothers. "Jonathan and the writers wanted to mine the difficult relationships between Zeus and his sons, Perseus and Ares, and his complex history with Hades and their own father, Kronos," the actor notes. "That appealed to me greatly--the realism within a fantasy, the very human emotions driving this story that takes place in a fabled world."
Ralph Fiennes, who reprises the role of Hades, adds, "I've always thought of the Greek gods as projections of human appetites and desires, especially when you think of our desire for immortality, eternal strength, eternal beauty and power. We can't have those things, so we create these larger-than-life characters and fantastical stories."
Also back on board for the epic adventure is producer Basil Iwanyk, who was thrilled to take on another mythological epic with new, even bigger beasts, with director Jonathan Liebesman at the helm. "Jonathan loved the material as much as I did and, like I did, he also thought it was really fun to run around Tenerife and Wales and the UK, staging full-scale battles and fighting monsters," Iwanyk smiles. "His enthusiasm was infectious, and he really empowered the people around him, which brought out the best in everybody, cast and crew alike."
Before a single sword could be raised, however, the script had to be penned. Iwanyk and fellow producer Polly Johnsen turned to scribes Dan Mazeau, David Leslie Johnson and Greg Berlanti to devise a death-defying quest for Perseus that would not just measure up to, but even exceed, his last one.
Mazeau says, "It was a really fun, collaborative process. Dave, Greg and I would sit down together for several hours a day, going through the research and figuring out what we would want to see on screen, because we're all fans of that kind of material ourselves."
According to Johnson, "In the mythology, Perseus' greatest adventures come to an end after he saves Andromeda, which happened in the first film. We had to imagine what he did next, to invent a new adventure for him, in essence creating a 'lost myth' that feels as though it should be part of his mythos."
"Ancient myths feel familiar and are relatable to all of us, which is why they last throughout the centuries," producer Polly Johnsen observes. "The writers came up with one that fits right in--a relevant, relatable story that delves into the universal themes of love and hate between fathers and sons, and sibling rivalry. Then Jonathan brought his gritty, realistic take to it which, combined with the huge fantastical elements, I think makes for the best of both worlds."
"We tried to make an epic film in every sense of the word--an inspiring story with powerful themes, massive creatures, kinetic action sequences, spectacular settings and iconic characters played by an incredibly talented cast," Liebesman says.
Hell on Earth
As the title indicates, "Wrath of the Titans" called forth some mammoth and mythical adversaries to pit against Perseus: the multi-headed Chimera, three one-eyed Cyclops, an army of double-bodied Makhai, and one powerful, menacing Minotaur. His most formidable opponent is, of course, Kronos, the gargantuan, heretofore imprisoned Titan and father of Zeus, Hades and Poseidon, who is on the verge of breaking free and bringing hell down on the earth.
"There's truly a smorgasbord of action to be had in this movie," says visual effects supervisor and second unit director Nick Davis, who also worked on the first film.
The first foe Perseus meets is the Chimera, a fire-breathing beast with the heads of a lion and goat, dragon-like wings and a vicious snake's head at the end of its tail.
"The main heads work in tandem, with one throwing out fuel and the other a haze of heat that ignites it," Liebesman says of the brute that tears through Perseus' village, a terrifying warning shot of things to come if he doesn't take action.
The creature was primarily produced via CG, but the damage it created was a combination of visual and special effects. Neil Corbould, special effects supervisor on both this and the prior film, explains, "In order to keep the audience guessing 'Was that real? Was that CG?' I find it's better to marry the computer elements with practical ones, for a more seamless end result. It allows the atmosphere you generate--in this case, bits of ash or other light materials--to interact with the actors as well. So the destruction brought about by the Chimera was achieved on set, and enhanced later by the visual effects team."
"The Chimera descends on the village like a meteor and immediately starts ripping it apart," Davis says. "There's a huge pyrotechnical explosion, then the ground starts to crack, followed by a very elaborate, 400-foot trench blast that snakes its way through the town before blowing up a house and finally erupting out of a building. Then it really gets going."
With the Chimera forcing his hand, Perseus is now committed to the battle to save Zeus and all of mankind from Kronos, and sets off to find a way into Tartarus, catching a ride with an old friend: the winged horse Pegasus, who takes him to Queen Andromeda's encampment.
Once Perseus, Andromeda and Agenor are on their way, they sail off to find Hephaestus, whose remote island home is booby-trapped and heavily guarded by a group of 30-foot-tall Cyclops, one of Liebesman's favorite creatures in the film. Prosthetics designer Conor O'Sullivan provided the director with about 15 different maquette heads, and worked closely with Davis in the full body design, before they determined the final blueprint for the Cyclops.
"The biggest challenge was to get them to appear as photorealistic as possible. Well, as much as a one-eyed, 30-foot monster can be photorealistic," Davis smiles.
The filmmakers faced a similar undertaking with the Minotaur, who is made all the more terrifying by the fact that he can shape shift into any person or thing, but in his true form is monstrous, yet humanoid at the same time.
"We felt our Minotaur was more of a man who was deformed in such a way as to resemble a bull," Liebesman states. "He's the gatekeeper at the end of the labyrinth, basically a prisoner himself, who's been there, in the dark, for thousands of years, waiting for someone to try to get through. He's extremely violent and, at seven-and-a-half feet tall and resembling a bull in silhouette, I think when he comes into the light, he's something far scarier that you've ever imagined."
O'Sullivan says the design went through several phases. "Nick had done some early work in the States, and I had a few sculptors working on various maquettes, including Julian Murray, who did a beautiful image of a very humanoid-looking Minotaur." From there, they took his environment into consideration to create the full look. "He's lived in this dungeon, with everything rotting around him. He's filthy; his garments are dirty and disgusting. He's a nightmare in a way, and that's exactly what he needed to represent."
O'Sullivan's biggest challenge with the character was the horns. "They had to be practical. He had to be able to fight with them without them falling off. Securing them was tricky."
Stuntman Spencer Wilding, who played the beast, was covered head-to-toe. "I don't think there was one part of him that was exposed," O'Sullivan continues. "Spencer is very good in creature suits. We put feet, legs, torso, head, horns, hands, teeth and even contact lenses on him, so he was completely encased. It was a two-piece suit with a spine, made out of form latex in a traditional way, all fabricated to fit together."
Heralding the emergence of Kronos from his ages-long confinement, legions of two-torso Makhai rage through the battlefield in a swarm of death and destruction. An invention of the film's writers, they are warriors who had been sent to Tartarus and melded together by Kronos. "He created his own army by merging two tortured, warrior souls into one, and then sent them to wreak havoc on earth," Liebesman relates.
"A volcano breaks, fireballs come out toward the armies, and from the impact of those fireballs into the ground emerge the Makhai, charging Perseus' team," Corbould illustrates.
"They are eight-foot-tall, two-headed, six-armed warriors who can run and roll and fight and jump with strength superior to any man," Davis says. "But they are really just the prelude to the evil that's about to come, the huge, final battle for Perseus, Zeus, Hades…everyone."
The war comes to a climax as the over 1,500-foot Kronos bursts free of his bonds and begins to attack.
"Kronos created the world from chaos, and he wants to return the world to that state," Liebesman notes. "What I love about him is that he reminds me of an atomic bomb when he hits the screen--this massive explosion with tons of volcanic debris flying off of him and setting fire to everything in his path."
Davis adds, "Kronos has forever been this unstable, volatile force that the humans have unwittingly been sitting on, and as soon as Zeus' strength fully empowers him, he erupts: rocks cascade off of him, the prison walls start to collapse and lava bubbles up from underneath."
He goes on to describe the Titan king as having "human proportions, but he's comprised of streams of solidified and molten lava that is constantly pouring off his body. He's also covered in pyroclastic clouds that billow off of him, and as he moves, he hurls lava bombs toward the people below."
Kronos was achieved entirely via CG, but that was no deterrent for Sam Worthington, who has become something of a master of fighting green screen beasts. For the actor, it's all in a day's work. "It's simple: you have to believe in the world. When my nephew runs around pretending he is fighting monsters, it's the same thing. As long as you commit and believe, then the audience will also commit and believe. We know it's computer generated, because Kronos and Cyclops and Chimera don't exist, but if I dive into the situation 100 percent, then hopefully the audience will follow and not be pulled out of the world."