Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters Review

Posted: August 13, 2013 by moviebuff801 in moviebuff801's Movie Reviews

By: Moviebuff801

There are two things that the highly successful Harry Potter film series gave us.  One, a terrific fantasy series that’s sure to have lasting charm and heart for future generations, and two, what seems like a neverending slew of adaptations of other young adult series that seemingly get more and more half-assed with each one.  However, there’s an exception to every rule, and in this case, my exception — to an extent with this new movie — is the Percy Jackson series.  Yes, I read a series meant for young kids/teens in my sophomore year of college four years ago, and you know what?  I actually enjoyed them.  So sue me.  The first film, The Lightning Thief, I thought did a solid and respectable job of translating the source material to the screen, and I liked it.  Now comes the sequel, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, which all us Percy Jackson fans know we were lucky to get, and the result is a movie that’s a little less satisfying.

Sea of Monsters picks up a year after Lightning Thief, as Percy (Logan Lerman) and his friends Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario, this time sporting the correct hair color of blonde) and Grover (Brandon T. Jackson) have returned for another summer at Camp Half-Blood.  Percy is going through a bit of heroism withdrawal, something made even worse by his rivalry with fellow camper Clarisse (Leven Rambin), who seems hell-bent on one-upping Percy on everything.  Things change, however, when the camp’s protective borders are breached by a mechanical monster that turns out to be the minion of former camper Luke (Jake Abel), who appears to Percy in the wake of the attack and warns him of impending doom.  Luke’s breach has in turn triggered a weakening of the camp’s defenses, the source of which is a magical tree that Zeus grew over a young demigod who sacrificed herself many years ago to save her friends, which we see in the film’s opening scene (I know, just go along with it).  Anyway, it turns out that the only thing that can save Camp Half-Blood is the mythical Golden Fleece, located in the Sea of Monsters, otherwise known as The Bermuda Triangle.  Two of the camp’s leaders, centaur Chiron (Anthony Head) and Dionysus (Stanley Tucci), decide to send…Clarisse on a quest to retrieve the Fleece.  But Percy, obviously, won’t put up with that nonsense.  He, along with Annabeth and Grover, sneak out of Camp Half-Blood to go after the Fleece as well, not just to beat Clarisse there, but also to get it before Luke can use it for his own nefarious purposes.  But that’s not all.  Joining our intrepid trio is Tyson (Douglas Smith), a half-cyclops who also turns out to be Percy’s half-brother.

In a summer which seems to have suffered from blockbuster fatigue the most than any other in recent memory, Sea of Monsters is certainly watchable, but also nothing all that special.  Whereas I found The Lightning Thief to tout a decent amount of charm and heart that helped make it that much more enjoyable, this film by contrast feels just a tad more bland.  By extension, Sea of Monsters also feels like it can be enjoyed the most only by fans of the book.  Don’t get me wrong, the script does still present enough of the exposition in a way where those unfamiliar with the book can understand the basics, but the specifics of the mythology require a knowledge of it all going in.  This also means that this film feels more rushed than The Lightning Thief, especially with a running time that’s about 12 minutes shorter.  Speaking of the script…I want to know just what the hell happened to the original screenwriters attached to this project, Scott Alexander and Larry Karazewski?  I would love to see their draft.  As a fan of the books, I can tell that the filmmakers definitely have respect for the source material, but I’m not sure how much passion is there.

Said passion was there in The Lightning Thief; you could tell that Chris Columbus was a fan of this world.  By contrast, Thor Freudenthal (now that’s a name!) feels more like a director-for-hire.  He directs this film with a certain degree of capability and confidence, but I never really got a strong sense that he cared about any of these characters.  Sure, Freudenthal effectively supplies this movie with a good amount of whimsy and adventure, but not so much of the more important ingredients.  He also feels a little out his league in handling such a special effects-heavy film.  With just a difference of $5 million in the budgets of each movie (Lightning Thief cost $95 million, and Sea of Monsters $90 million), the effects here aren’t so seamlessly-blended for the most part.  Oh, they have their moments, but on average, they look a bit more cartoonish than what Chris Columbus managed to pull off.  And yet, in spite of that, the action sequences in this movie are still fairly good.  The only area of this where I would pick at would be the climax, which feels a little rushed, but overall the action in this series continues to deliver.

Another thing this film does as well with are the performances, not just from the teen actors, but from the adults as well.  Lerman, Jackson and Daddario (who remains these films’ best bit of eye candy) are all as solid as they were in Lightning Thief, and the adult actors turn in some entertaining work, too.  Particularly noteworthy is Nathan “I really am ruggedly handsome, aren’t I?” Fillion, who shows up halfway through in a scene-stealing cameo as Hermes, the messenger of the Gods, who works at a UPS store.  Fillion is as slick and charming as he always is in that scene, and it’s really things like how Hermes pops up which show the pretty clever ways author Rick Riordan has infused Greek mythology into the modern day.  Anthony Head is passable as Chiron, replacing Pierce Brosnan, and Stanley Tucci is pretty fun as Dionysus.

So, can I recommend Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters?  Well, if you’re a Percy Jackson fan, then I suppose there’s no keeping you from seeing this — just don’t expect a whole lot.  If you’re not a fan, and not all that interested in the series to begin with, then this movie won’t do anything to convince you otherwise.  In the end, Sea of Monsters is serviceable and entertaining, but doesn’t live up to its full potential.  At this point, I realize the prospect of more of these movies is slim to none, but knowing how much cooler the series gets in the last three books, one can still hold out hope.

**1/2 /****

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