What differentiates anger from full-out wrath? I’ve discussed groups of angry people before in this blog, so you may be asking yourself, “What makes wrath any different?” Wrath, simply put, is merely the extreme edge of anger. Characters in film can be angry, like in Network (1976) with Howard Beale’s (Peter Finch) cry of, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” But without the character acting upon this extreme anger, it will remain as simply anger. Usually, the actions that result from our anger are categorized as “wrath”. If we want people to “feel our wrath”, we need to do something that affects them significantly; otherwise our sentiment of ire will not come across clearly. This week’s two films highlight some characters who have become angry enough that they turn to wrath.
Wrath of the Titans
Length: 96 minutes / 1.6 hours
Oftentimes, the concept of wrath is one closely tied to deities. Mythological gods are fickle and moody, so it was up to the ancient civilizations to keep them appeased. After all, the gods had enough power to destroy these ancient people if they wanted to. While we now know the meteorological reasons behind lightning, tornadoes, hurricanes, volcano eruptions, earthquakes, and other natural disasters, it is easy to see why these uneducated individuals would think that the gods were mad at them. Even the Biblical deity has been known to mete out wrath upon His disobedient and sinful people. Time and again the Israelites would screw up and He would have to punish them. Where this God is different is the love and forgiveness He has that allows everyone to make the same mistakes again. That being said, just straight up wrath is the only exciting part of this process, cinematically that is.
After squelching the wrath of Poseidon (Danny Huston) in Clash of the Titans (2010), Perseus (Sam Worthington) is trying to live a quiet life away from the mercurial drama of the gods. Unfortunately, the power of the gods has begun to wane and his father, Zeus (Liam Neeson), comes to ask for his help. With treachery in the ranks of the gods, Hades (Ralph Fiennes) manages to kill Zeus and Poseidon as he prepares to make a plea to the Titan Kronos to spare him. After Perseus’ village is attached by a Chimera, he teams up with Poseidon’s son, Agenor (Toby Kebbell), and Queen Andromeda (Rosamund Pike) to reach Tartarus, the place where Kronos is imprisoned. Having gathered up the weapons of the three gods, Perseus now wields the Spear of Trium, the sole weapon that can stop the rampaging Kronos.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Length: 113 minutes / 1.88 hours
While one might expect me to mention The Grapes of Wrath (1940) in this post, it doesn’t necessarily align with the idea of wrath being an actionable extension of anger. Sure, the people who were affected by the Dust Bowl were angry at their helpless situation, and they may have felt that some god was being wrathful toward them, but they themselves were not wrathful. Turn now to the distant future: the year 2285. New civilizations and worlds are being discovered by the Earth-based Starfleet, so there is always a chance of coming across a planet filled with wrathful inhabitants. Of course, the individuals who are the most wrathful are the ones who have been wronged by Starfleet. They are the ones who hold a vendetta against the organization and the individuals therein. They are the ones wrathfully doling out their own justice.
The crew of the USS Reliant beam down to the surface of Ceti Alpha VI in their search for an inhospitable planet that can be used to test the Genesis device. Upon their arrival, they are captured by Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montalbán), a genetically engineered individual who was banished to the planet along with his genetically engineered crew fifteen years ago. Seizing this opportunity, he implants two of the crew with eels that he can use to control them to enact his revenge on Admiral James Kirk (William Shatner), the individual who banished him long ago and whom he blames for the death of his wife and child. Khan first goes after Kirk’s former lover and their child, which prompts Kirk to come to their rescue. Khan and Kirk eventually face off in a space battle, of which Kirk is the eventual winner, due in part to Captain Spock’s (Leonard Nimoy) heroic sacrifice.
2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 angry antagonists