The refreshing twist about ‘Percy Jackson: Sea Of Monsters’ is that it is a children’s nautical fantasy geared to introducing the youngsters to a hearty taste of Greek mythology. After all, the majority of kiddie capers do not always have to include cuddly 3-D animated animals, talking cars, dancing dinosaurs or impish wizards and witches for that matter. On a small scale, ‘Percy Jackson: Sea Of Monsters’ had the potential to be an appetizing action-packed epic filled with escapist wonderment in its mythical mayhem. Unfortunately, ‘Monsters’ is relentlessly derivative and a watered-down sci-fi saga that the tweens and teens will tune out with all the nonchalant gesture of popping a stubborn pimple on their faces.
Interestingly, ‘Percy Jackson: Sea Of Monsters’ is based upon the series of popular youth-oriented fantasy books from Rick Riordan. In fact, ‘Monsters’ is the second installment/film adaptation of this particular novel series and the novels/films will inevitably invite the obvious comparisons to J.K. Rowlings’s ‘Harry Potter’ enterprise. It is safe to say that Riordan’s Jackson will not cause Rowlings’s Potter to lose any sleep in terms of critical impact both at the bookstores and box office. Hopelessly sluggish, clumsily executed, nonsensical and scrappy, ‘Percy Jackson: Sea Of Monsters’ assumes the skin of a generic summertime CGI adolescent fantasy fable that has all the pizzazz of a pirate’s cloth eye-patch.
Director Thor Freudenthal assembles a cluttered production that feels rather forced and arbitrary. There is indeed some cheesiness involved in ‘Sea Monster’s but Freudenthal never really capitalises on this concept because the movie does not have the peppered personality to carry off the off-beat charm in this saccharine-coated seaside dud. The delinquent demigods featured in Percy Jackson are restrained by the draggy action scenes and the transparent ancient Olympian mythology that will have younger audiences (not mention their oldster counterparts) scratching their heads in confusion.
Conveniently, Percy (Logan Lerman, ‘The Perks Of Being A Wallflower’) is situated at the Camp Half Blood (probably not as cozy as Harry Potter’s Hogwarts School of Wizardry and Witchcraft, right?) alongside his fellow gifted half-human, half-god pals. Anyhow, Camp Half Blood is the venue for the offspring of some mighty notable gods — the quintessential V.I.P.s (in this case, ‘vast in powers’). Percy Jackson’s father happens to be Poseidon, God of the Sea. Poseidon may have control of the waterways but somehow his distance with connecting to his son emotionally is as long as the Nile River. Naturally, this begs the question: how can Percy gain the respect of his influential old man?
The path to proven independence for Percy and his pesky peers are presented when a fiery menacing mechanical bull breaks through the force field that surrounds the camp. Sadly, with the camp’s barrier down everyone that resides within this once-protected venue are susceptible to vulnerabilities of the outside — particularly a sacred and beloved tree (the tree — via the shield’s existence — represents the symbolic physical presence of Zeus’ deceased daughter, Thalia Grace). In any event, the solution is staring Camp Half Blood’s director Dionysus a.k.a. ‘Mr. D.’ (Stanley Tucci) right in the face — the Golden Fleece must be retrieved in order to restore and bring back to order the chaos that has disrupted the residents at Camp Half Blood.
Dionysus turns to ace student Clarisse La Rue (Leven Rambin), Ares the God of War’s daughter, and puts her in charge of stealing the Golden Fleece from the island located in the Sea of Monsters. An ominous Cyclops guards the Golden Fleece so it will be a tricky mission in going after this prized possession that can heal the chaotic goings-on at the campsite. Poor Percy…no one realises that he was the unsung hero in preventing the bull from causing further damage to the premises. Soon, the underestimated lad will seek his brand of redemption after all.
Alongside Clarisse’s and Percy’s pursuit of the Golden Fleece, as they are en route to the island in the Sea of Monsters (which by the way we know as the Bermuda Triangle), is satyr Grover Underwood (Brandon T. Jackson). Also in the mix are Annabeth Chase (Alexandria Daddario) and Percy’s half-brother in Cyclops Tyson (Douglas Smith). Also joining the junior-sized gang are Clarisse’s stand-by associates of war-tested zombies on board to assist the half-deity rat pack in claiming the coveted Golden Fleece.
‘Percy Jackson: Sea Of Monsters’ does have some fun elements to behold (youngsters may be mesmerised by the film’s crazy-looking creatures that range from the movie’s titular sea monster to the weird-looking wolf beasts and wise-cracking serpents) but otherwise comes off as inconsequential and flimsy. In the filmmaking age of ambitious and challenging children/young adult fare, such as the aforementioned ‘Harry Potter’ film franchise, S’ea Of Monster’ masquerades as a tepid copycat in the spirit of Rowlings’s complex and creative bespectacled boy wizard and his hangers-on.
One does not need to reference the antics of ‘Sea Monsters’ predecessor in 2010’s ‘The Lightening Thief’ to appreciate the hackneyed happenings in wannabe Percy Jackson’s carbon copy universe of a whimsical whiz kid out to win over the magical mentalities of global Potter-starved diehards.
Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters (2013)
20th Century Fox
1 hr. 46 mins.
Starring: Logan Lerman, Alexandra Daddario, Stanley Tucci, Brandon T. Jackson, Nathan Fillion, Leven Rambin and Jake Abel
Directed by: Thor Freudenthal
MPAA Rating: PG
Genre: Science Fiction/Action & Adventury/Children’s Fantasy/Drama
Critic’s rating: ** stars (out of 4 stars)
(c) Frank Ochieng 2013