Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters ReviewAugust 11, 2013
Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters fails to improve on its predecessor’s missteps, featuring forced humor and disappointing action sequences.
It seems that nowadays movie studios are trying to find the next Harry Potter. Whether that potential cash cow may be a fantasy, science fiction or action franchise, Hollywood is noticeably making an effort to find something that can replicate the success Warner Bros. had with the J.K. Rowling novel series. Back in 2010, 20th Century Fox tried their hand with Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series with a film based on the first novel, Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief. While it was a solid commercial success, it didn’t receive the greatest praise from both critics and audiences. The studio is apparently still hopeful, as now a sequel is in our midst – can Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters improve on its predecessor’s missteps?
After saving Olympus – and to an extent, the world – Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman) is back at Camp Half Blood trying to live his new life as a demigod. However, one day things turn ugly as the protective barrier surrounding the camp is destroyed. For years the camp has been shielded by the power of a magical tree gifted by Zeus, but after Luke (Jake Abel) – the demigod son of Hermes (Nathan Fillion) – poisons the tree, the half-bloods are left exposed to the dangers of the world. With that, Percy recruits his friends Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario) and the satyr Grover (Brandon T. Jackson) to find the Golden Fleece in the Sea of Monsters, which contains the power necessary to heal the tree and once again protect their home.
The good thing is that kids will likely eat this one up – and I say that with sincerity, for it has the distinction of being slightly more entertaining for kids than other family films released these days. However, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters still has many problems, and in the end it is no better or worse than its predecessor. This means that it has wooden characters, a cliched and predictable storyline, and a consistent barrage of jokes. I suppose I could have had a better experience with Sea of Monsters if it was fun despite its narrative issues, but when the whole audience remains completely silent after every single “comedic” beat, you know the film you’re watching has some problems. Even then, Sea of Monsters still does not do enough justice to its source material, which I did enjoy reading. There are many inconsistencies with the script that will annoy those familiar with the novels, and the film never fully expounds upon the interesting spins on Greek mythology it offers. I suppose the action scenes are somewhat of a saving grace for Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, but even then, they ultimately didn’t save this from being a boring, predictable disappointment.
I was not very impressed with Logan Lerman the first time I saw him in Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief, but then he dropped a bombshell and shocked everyone (myself included) with his great performance in last year’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Since then I have taken more of a liking to him, and his performance is one of the few things that worked here. He may not be doing any Oscar-level work in Sea of Monsters, but at least his performance is enjoyable. It was also great to see Nathan Fillion and Stanley Tucci in some cameo roles, but it was upsetting that even these two comedic geniuses could not get a laugh out of me. The rest of the cast is just embarrassing to watch on screen. Alexandra Daddario is about as bland of an actress as they come, and I get that Levin Rambin’s character is supposed to be annoying, but it doesn’t help that she is unsympathetic and overbearing in her role. Douglas Smith is irritating as Percy Jackson’s half-brother, and then Jake Abel once again gives the most lifeless performance of all-time as the villain. In short, if not for Lerman and the two cameos, this would have been a terrible cast.
This film’s visuals are decent, but even they are problematic overall. Not all of the film’s digitized imagery is bad, for there are some truly artful shots and creations on display here. Still, I have seen much more convincing visuals in films that were released in the 90s. Two particular examples include the worst CGI cosmetic job that I have seen since the infamous young Jeff Bridges in Tron: Legacy, along with a grade-B version of the Sarlacc Pit from Star Wars. The action scenes can be entertaining; they are well-filmed, but there is something that is maddening about these sequences – none of them take any risks. All of the action refuses to show any of the characters in any pain or danger, which removes any potential for tension or suspense in these sequences. Also, why would you show Percy Jackson pulling out an awesome sword so that he can only attack his foes with the hilt of it? The action scenes in Sea of Monsters are simply there to take your mind off the film’s problems, and they fail at one key thing – putting the viewer on edge.
If Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters is going to prove anything in its box office run, it’s that this franchise is not going to be the next Harry Potter. Not only does it take many obligatory hints from that series, it faces a lot of its own problems such as forced humor that never works, disappointing action scenes and a very weak storyline. I suppose this could be a decent way to keep your children entertained for close to two hours, but it can’t be denied that Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters is an Olympian disappointment.