Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters Reviews
With Harry Potter now done and dusted, and The Hobbit films failing to match the critical reputation of their predecessors, Sea of Monsters stands more of a chance at competing both for the hearts and the money of its core teenage audience. If previous records are anything to go by, Chris Columbus' lack of involvement this time around should lead to some kind of improvement. And sure enough, a slight improvement is what we get, showing if nothing else what difference a decent director can make.
One of the big problems with Percy Jackson & The Lightning Thief was Columbus' approach to the source material. Throughout his career he has always been relunctant to place any kind of creative or artistic stamp over and above the source material, preferring to slavishly reproduce the story for fear of offending the fans which are his target audience. Chamber of Secrets, the second Harry Potter film, is particularly guilty of this, but Philosopher's Stone is just as careless in many aspects, taking so long to set things up that the experience becomes less magical.
Thor Freudenthal's directorial career is not exactly glittering in comparison, his previous efforts being Hotel for Dogs and Diary of a Wimpy Kid. He is a nuts and bolts filmmaker who understands working with children and special effects, but at the very least he has the confidence to make changes to the story where they are necessary for the medium. While Sea of Monsters still has a great many problems, it is more cinematic than its predecessor both visually and narratively.
Make no mistake, there are huge aspects of Sea of Monsters that look or feel derivative. The entire attack on the woods which takes place early in the film is very close to the woodland scenes in Deathly Hallows Part I, with touches of the Battle of Hogwarts from Part II. The visual sensibility is still very close to the Potter films, including the prominent blue tones to the cinematography. Throw in the familiar character dynamics, with romance and rivalry abounding, and it's easy to feel that we've been here many times before.
But while Sea of Monsters isn't groundbreakingly original in either its story or its characters, both aspects are engaging enough to make us either forget or overlook its resemblances to Harry Potter and other fantasy franchises. While it never makes enough of an argument to stand entirely on its own, it does feel more confident about its identity and what it wants to do. The film is a decent, solid, generic popcorn blockbuster, nothing more, nothing less.
One aspect in which Sea of Monsters scores over The Lightning Thief is how it handles all its references to Greek mythology. The Lightning Thief contained a number of fitting reimaginings of classical figures or places in Greek mythology - for instance, Medusa's lair as a garden centre full of statues, or the Den of the Lotus Eaters as a casino. But Columbus struggled to marshall these images or set-pieces into a non-episodic plot, resulting in a film of several promising moments but precious little else.
Sea of Monsters works all of its touches more fittingly into its plot. Having Hermes as the busy CEO as an Amazon-esque corporation could have been just a pleasant throwaway gag, but the script gives time to see exactly how Hermes operates and thereby adds weight to Luke's disdain for him, which manifests in his search for the Fleece. The same goes for Stanley Tucci's delightful role as Dionysus, with more effort going into fleshing out his role at Camp Half-Blood alongside the jokes about Jesus turning water into wine.
The film also makes a lot more of the Prometheus myth, which runs through both of the stories. While not specific to Percy's arc, both The Lightning Thief and Sea of Monsters revolve around human individuals (or half-humans at any rate) who arrogantly deprive the Gods of something essential to their power and authority. Prometheus' original theft of fire is substituted for a lightning bolt or the Golden Fleece, just as in Sherlock the journal of Dr. John Watson becomes a blog.
While The Lightning Thief barely touched upon the myth or its implications, Sea of Monsters explores the themes of Prometheus' story in a little more detail. The story of the characters is a battle between hubristic arrogance, on the part of Luke and Clarisse, and the more selfless position to Percy, Grover, Annabeth and Tyson. While the arrogance of the former party puts them at a short-term advantage in battle situations, they ultimately do not have the ability to control the power they are willing to unleash. The only departure from the original story is that humans rein in this power with the Gods' assistance, rather than the Gods acting alone.
By bringing the themes of the story more to the fore, Sea of Monsters makes it easier to bond with the characters, or at least to understand their motivations enough that we go along with their actions. The dynamic between Percy, Grover and Annabeth is largely unchanged, but we do get a little character development on the latter's part with the revelation about the cyclops. It's also refreshing that Clarisse isn't just presented as a lazy romantic rival for Percy's affections; she may be unlikeable, but she does at least get to be unlikeable under her own steam, and for her own reasons.
The main performances in Sea of Monsters are all pretty decent. Logan Lerman isn't as good here as he was in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, but he does make Percy a believable protagonist even if he isn't always the most charismatic. Leven Rambin, who appeared briefly in The Hunger Games, provides a welcome spark with Clarisse: she is an unlikeable character, but her performance is memorable. Stanley Tucci is the highlight of the adult cast, bringing a weariness to Dionysus without looking like he doesn't want to be in the film.
The other big plus with Sea of Monsters is its improved special effects. The film is shot by Shelly Johnson, known for his collaborations with director Joe Johnston stretching back to Jurassic Park III. He's used to working on CG-heavy blockbusters, and he manages to bring a little more weight to the set-pieces. His task is more difficult considering the amount of water involved - water being very hard to digitally replicate - but the film is a lot more integrated and a little more physical through his efforts.
Having trundled along rather nicely for most of its running time, the film does somewhat drop the ball when it comes to its big final set-piece, involving Luke's resurrection of Kronos. While the effects are pretty decent and the broken fairground setting is appealing, in all other aspects it's a straight lift from Raiders of the Lost Ark. While we're not treated to any melting faces or shouts of "keep your eyes shut!", it follows the sequence pretty much beat-for-beat.
The other slight fly in the ointment is Tyson himself. While Annabeth's character development is welcome, he always feels like something of a spare part, being either played for comic relief or written into the background whenever the plot doesn't require him. As a result his death scene doesn't have as much weight as perhaps it could, and Douglas Smith's delivery often feels flat and unemotional.
Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters is a decent popcorn blockbuster which improves on its predecessor without making compelling arguments for a further film. The improved direction and effects, along with a more rounded approach to storytelling, keep us entertained long enough for its flaws and derivative qualities to be less of a problem. If there is to be a third film, the series will definitely have to up its game, but for now it's perfectly harmless fun.
Good Movie! Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters only settles for being an "okay" movie. There are constant deviations from the novel, only decent scripting, acting, visual effects, good music, and mixed acting. However, it is not a waste, especially for fans of Percy Jackson. Now that many characters and plot points have been set into place after being shattered by the first film, the makers of this film have paved a promising path for another film that may be even better than the first two.
In this retelling of Rick Riordans book, "The Sea of Monsters", Percy Jackson, accompanied by his friends Annabeth Chase, Clarisse La Rue and Tyson, his half brother, goes on a journey to the Sea of Monsters to retrieve the Golden Fleece and save Camp Half-Blood.
This time our young hero 'Percy' must find the Golden Fleece to heal a magical tree that protects his home of Camp Half-Blood. The fleece can be found in the lair of the Cyclops 'Polyphemus' which itself lies within the Sea of Monsters (Bermuda Triangle). So off our little intrepid adventurers go to find it and save the world as we know it...kinda. Oh and did I forget to mention there are some bad guys also trying to get the fleece to raise 'Kronos'? well there you go.
In all honesty I can't really recall much about the first film, it got so easily lost in a whirlwind of Potter-mania and some other nondescript replicas, but I did seem to slightly enjoy it according to my review (yep I read em). This of course is still the main problem with this franchise and any other really...they will always be compared to the superior Harry Potter. The kid with specs set the bar high and was the first big budget fantasy of its kind to do really well. After that every else has seemed weak in comparison, merely average imitations.
This film does itself no favours simply because it looks average in the special effects department, a major flaw for a fantasy. Right from the start everything just looks lame, Camp Half-Blood just looks like some kind of summer holiday Cub Scout camp where you'd eat sausage n baked beans for dinner. The big creatures are obviously CGI and boy do they look it, most of them just stand out big time, that large mechanical bull that attacks the camp is laughable. There are various other big creatures throughout that are all CGI and none look any good frankly, accept for the odd closeup perhaps. The finale with Kronos is the same, if these were videogame in-game sequences I'd be impressed, but they aren't.
Some sequences really do look truly awful in fact, I'm amazed they got through into the finished film!. When the young trio ride a big Seahorse thingy across the sea to reach the bad guys yacht, that is a bad one (oh and the yacht? that doesn't feel very fantasy-like does it, kinda out of place). They are riding a wet slippery sea creature at speed, yet they aren't holding on to anything, how do they stay on its back people?! plus they didn't seem all that wet afterwards. Then a bit later on in the same scene we see Percy and Luke ride/surf a big wave...don't ask it looks terrible, all the water effects look terrible.
The only bit of originality to rear its head appeared to be the concept of making the three Stygian witches cab drivers in a yellow New York cab. A unique approach for sure and one that sort of works I guess...but then I realised I'd seen a similar idea before in 'Scrooged'.
A common problem is the fact everything also seems so bland and derivative. All the characters are your bog standard types and offer nothing new, the hero, his sidekick, the female sidekick and the best friend who you know will get killed (and you also know will come back at the last minute). Next to that are the bog standard baddies led by the good looking charmer with blonde hair. I mean come on...at least lets try and make the characters look different from the Potter clan jesus!. You don't care about any of them because they are all so cliched, we've seen this all before and you know none of them will come to harm anyway so what's the point?.
I guess what bothered me the most was the film was clearly trying to be epic, every scene is accompanied by a strong musical score as if that will make it so. Its not meant to be a dark emotional journey with teen angst that's for sure, its a light-hearted fantasy that doesn't show much or any death, but everything is built up to enormous proportions only to let you down. You simply can't connect with any of the characters or what's going on because the whole thing is such a basic videogame with step by step action sequences. Complete one task against a CGI foe, move on to the next, complete that task against a CGI puzzle, move on to the next...and so forth.
You can tell the whole franchise isn't really going as planned seeing as this is only the second film and already the cast continuity has been compromised, two major characters recast. Still I gotta give some kudos for the attempt at bringing Greek mythology into the present day even though it doesn't really work, or should that be kudos for the novel?.
Plenty of good morals throughout the adventure, lots of heroic actions and bouts of friendship that will make you gag, but the entire production is predictable, anti climatic and dull. A shoddy looking sequel which fails to better the first entry.
Percy Jackson: Sea of Monster follows Percy Jackson and his friends embarking on a quest to the Sea of Monsters to find the mythical Golden Fleece while trying to stop an ancient evil from rising. Following suit of the original this sequel has good ideas, but rushes through them before they could even develop. Introducing several mythical creatures, new characters, and diving into established characters past without the proper time to explore them. Instead of getting into one thrilling adventure it all feels like a series of side trips. Any obstacles upon being presented is easily defeated by plot conveniences or the villain forgetting basic knowledge of our heroes. These flaws hold back any sense of danger in the heroes journey. The dialogue ranges from cringe worthy recycling of bad lines to entire scenes fill solely with expositions. What it does get right does not contribute in favor of the writing in any significant way. Never is there a dull moment moving from set piece to set piece in its own fast pace. With it's brisk pace making it easy to look past it's unexplained moments. Telling a simple story that's easy to keep a track of and understand the characters even if they are not compelling. It's has a consistent tone that isn't fighting against itself on what to be. Like the original the story had potential that could be seen which unfortunately it never reaches.
Logan Lerman reprises his role as Percy Jackson and does another solid job. Lerman has charisma and charm to carry the film to the finish line, but when it comes to expressing his character emotions he's given little to work with. Only seeing a half of Percy character and half of Lerman potential as an actor. Alexandra Daddario returns as well as Annabeth. Her performance allows her to portray a vulnerable layer to her strong character and a convincing chemistry with Lerman gets across the idea of a potential romance angle better than the film itself. Although she is not given enough scenes to showcase her strength like Lerman both in her character and acting. Brandon T. Jackson screen time is considerably reduced. He's plays the stereotypical best friend comedic role well. It's the only thing that script requires him to do. The rest of cast fare out in the same way. Not enough material work off from and not enough time to evolve their roles. Strictly delivering what the script requires of them. Solid acting from the cast, though nothing inherently deep. Thor Freudenthal like Chris Columbus goes more for modern music because when you think of Greek Mythology you want Fall Out Boy. This results in the music being forgettable with no sense of anything becoming epic. What it's not light on is CGI effects which are passable. Every time CGI is used everything including the actor all look plastic. Sure some of the CG deliver some decent creative set piece and unique monsters designs, but doesn't leave any lasting effect failing to pack any kind of punch.
Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters is bigger, but repeats past mistakes with a pace that does not allow its story to take shape preventing it from reaching its true potential once again. Saying it's more of the same is an understatement carrying over the same strength and weaknesses from its predecessor. Depending on your position on the first film should help you make the decision easier as it does little to innovate the franchise in any better or worse direction.
The film is perhaps a little too lazy to get all over the place with its structure, but there's still something kind of uneven in this film, and whether it be within hurries moments that often find plotting clumsily bumping along with few expository slow-downs, or within moments in which material becomes bloated to the point of repetition, it shakes plotting's focus. Okay, maybe the film isn't all that uneven, but what inconsistencies there are thin engagement value a good bit, and let me tell you, the amount of that is limited to begin with natural shortcomings, or at least a touch too much familiarity. This film isn't as trite as its predecessors, but, man, it's still generic something fierce, with hardly anything new to challenge hopeless predictability that reflects laziness about as much as other writing mistakes. Screenwriter Craig Titley is kicked to the curb for Marc Guggenheim, so this film's script is better than the predecessors, - which would have destroyed "The Lightning Thief" as just plain bad were it not for the occasional endearingly charming, if mediocre direction element - although characterization remains thin, while fall-flat dialogue and humor, in addition to some lame set pieces, stand as abundant, seriously cheesing things up, not unlike technical hiccups and some unsubtle direction. No matter how much better this film is than its predecessor, there's so much about this effort that feels rather lazy, - whether it be technical style or storytelling - as if the film understands what it is: a simple piece of young adult fantasy filler. I suppose the film is not so misguided with its self-awareness that it grates, as it is ultimately a relative leap above its hopelessly mediocre predecessor, but at the end of the day, there was never to be too much to compliment in this film, which isn't to say that the mistakes - of which there are many - are justified, as they still place great threats on the naturally weak integrity of this forgettable popcorn piece. I can't say that all, or even most of those who join me in rejecting "The Lightning Thief" as mediocre, if only that, will embrace this film as decent, at best, but for me, I was much more willing to run with this mess, enough so to find a pretty fair filler affair, complete with some aesthetic appeal.
The heart of Christophe Beck's musical style for "The Lightning Thief" helped this film's predecessor in a lot of ways, and considering that this sequel is better in plenty of other places, it's a little harder to appreciate the formulaic scoring efforts of Andrew Lockington, who might very well be not as inspired in his efforts of crafting a colorful original soundtrack as Beck was, but whose compositions are still hearty, with a fairly grand heart that adds to the selling of scope, even if the score isn't exactly effective enough to be all that outstanding by its own right. A more direct compliment to this subject matter's scope is the technical value, at least to a certain degree that is limited, with Chris Beach's, Dan Hermansen's and Helen Jarvis' art direction being surprisingly limited, but still with plenty of good ideas, while the visual effects prove to be frequently questionable, if not just plain cartoonish, but nonetheless colorful, particularly in the context of some pretty entertaining action sequences. Like the action in "The Lightning Thief", this film's action has plenty of underwhelming moments, backed by bland staging and made all the more disconcerting by the aforementioned visual effects hiccups, but it still offers plenty of dynamic and fun set pieces. Really, in a lot of ways, this film is much better in concept than in execution, even when it comes to the technical and action departments, but there is still enough flavor to style to provide a fair bit of help to substance when it comes to getting you by. Yeah, this film's story is thin in weight and generically handled, but it's neither as trite nor as sloppily handled as "The Lightning Thief", and that makes it easier to detect plenty of fun ideas to this more dynamic adventure plot, especially when these ideas are done justice by colorful elements in writing, acting and, most of all, direction. are restored in Freudenthal's efforts, which also abandon many of Columbus' mistakes. Granted, Freudenthal still makes plenty of his own mistakes, in addition to more than a few of the missteps made by Columbus that played a big part in driving the predecessor into mediocrity, but there is still enough realization to the efforts of Freudenthal and his peers to get the final product by a genuinely lively, if still pretty messy.
Overall, unevenness in pacing shake focus, whose generic, cheesy and unsubtle handling shed additional light on the natural shortcomings that make this conceptually thin fluff piece pretty underwhelming, but far from the mediocre misfire that was "The Lightning Thief", thanks to colorful score work, style and action, a fun story concept and plenty of endearing elements to well-paced direction, which prove to be enough to make "Percy Jackson: Sea of Monster" a pretty entertaining young adult flick, if you can get past the missteps.
2.5/5 - Fair
Chris Columbus did a better job directing the first film, than new director Thor Freudenthal has with this one. The first film has a great ensemble that the main 3 actors could play off of. This film lacks the ensemble. There is one scene at the end that reminded me of the ending scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark.
On a positive, the film does have some good moments. I liked the Percy's rivalry with Leven Rambin's character. Lerman, Jackson, and Daddario are great here and have a great on screen chemistry. Nathan Fillion and Stanley Tucci are great additions to the Percy Jackson world. I wish Pierce Brosnan would have returned to play Chiron. Anthony Head lacks the charm that Pierce brought to the role. Leven Rambin steals this film in my opinion. Jake Abel reminded me a lot of Kevin Bacon in this film and Percy's stepbrother reminded me a lot of Brendan Fraser from Encino Man.
Still the film is ok, but I am hoping they do better on the next film, if they decide to make one.
When it was announced that Chris Columbus would not direct the sequel and would instead produce it, he got replaced by another director named Thor Freudenthal known for his two films "Hotel Dogs" and "Diary of a Wimpy Kid", both films that also received mixed reviews. The director said that he was a fan of the book series and understood the world that he needed to fix the errors that the first film had. So, being a fan of the books and kind of loved "The Lightning Thief" despite it's errors, I went to see it in theaters in 3D two days ago, hoping that it would exceed my expectations. Turns out, it did and I really enjoyed it. OK, it's not an excellent film by any means, but I'll get to the flaws in a moment so I can talk about the good stuff.
First, let me point out that the story is more accurate to the book than the first film. It has a nicely detailed back-story about how the Tree of Thalia is made to protect the Half-Bloods along with another back-story about Kronos done in a solid stain-glassed window sequence. There are some scenes from the book that were altered, but I actually found them to be very acceptable. It also had some of the details right including the Great Prophecy and the villain Kronos, but the only thing that I didn't like about the story was the rising of Kronos, the main villain of the book series because as it turns out he never appeared until the fourth book, "The Battle of the Labyrinth". I think it would improve on the future films if they get made. It also drags on a bit too fast throughout the entire film, but that's about it.
There are still a lot of good things for me to talk about. The acting is once again superb. Logan Lerman did a good job as Percy Jackson as did Alexandra Daddario as Annabeth. Brandon T. Jackson is a lot more mature as Grover while retaining his comic characteristics from the first film while Jake Abel is a good secondary villain with his attempts to bring Kronos back to life. The new cast is great. Leven Rambin from "The Hunger Games" is a terrific bad*** Clarisse La Rue, who never appeared in the first film, Douglas Smith is very funny as Tyson, Percy Jackson's twin brother, and Anthony Head is a great replacement for Pierce Brosnan as Chiron. The two actors, Stanley Tucci and Nathan Fillon as both Dionysus and Hermes steal the show for their funny moments.
The last few good things are it's beautiful scenery, the decent special effects, the heart-pounding action sequences that took every inch of my breath away, and a solid music orchestra score from Andrew Lockington.
Overall, PJ: SOM is a good continuation to the franchise and improves over "The Lightning Thief" by fixing it's errors and turning it into a fun-filled experience for Percy Jackson fans. I simply can't wait for Titan's Curse to be made into a film as soon as possible.
Perry Johnson (Hogan Sherman?)? Peter Jason (Rogan Turman)? Wait, it's Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman), but whatever. After Fox bungled their chance with the first Percy Jackson book, they try again with the second book. The story moves slowly in a bad way, even for the plentiful action, it still drags on. In the books, the character of Percy Jackson was very relatable: He lived in New York City, went to school, had ADHD, Dyslexia, and other problems many children his age faced. He was also in middle school. This one is still in high school, without the musical, or the school. When they sent him to Camp Half-Blood full time in the last one, they threw that relatability away, making him pretty much unrelatable. The plot did make sense: After having saved Olympus and prevented World War III, Percy is feeling underappreciated at camp. He feels like his father Poseidon is ignoring him, and his friends Grover (Brandon T. Jackson) and Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario) are still his friends, but they moved on. After a cyclops named Tyson (Douglas Smith) wonders into the camp past the magic boundary, claims to be Poseidon's son (Which he is, only through nature spirit, not human, insert more mythical mumbo-jumbo here), Percy just feels ostracized (One of his more relatable traits), but things heat up when a mechanical bull shatters the barrier and attacks camp, leading to the revelation that Luke (Jake Abel) from the first movie is alive, and still a kicking traitor, only more book elements, like the "I feel rejected by my father and have chosen to side with Kronos to dethrone my parents as the Olympians did theirs." I really need to, and will, give kudos to Jake Abel for being a perfectly psychotic Luke, which reminded me of Kevin Bacon in X-Men: First Class as Sebastian Shaw, even down the structure of their faces. This was the only interesting performance, unlike Duke Myth, I mean Douglas Smith, or Brendan P. Johnson, er, Brandon T. Jackson, except for Stanley Tucci's Dionyses, who was as sober as he was annoyed at not being able to drink wine. He really brought the stupidity of Dionysis out, especially when he makes a Jesus reference, but not to call him the Messiah, but to actually think He was a god (The kind that the Greeks believed in that are the immortal parents of these kids, not like God). Religious misconceptions of characters aside, the picture here is acceptable, so I'll say it was clear, but not that photorealistic in the CGI, and some of it felt like in-your-face for the 3D this was released in. 3D is not about in your face anymore, what is this, the 20th century? Good gods, the camera went to close to some flying sparks. Thor seems pretty modest right now compared to this. Anyway, Andrew Lockington does his job with the soundtrack, blah, blah, blah, it's used appropriately, and the dialogue is acceptable for a child-oriented PG, mid-late summer release. Did Rick Riordan chase after an off-limits wood nymph, because I feel Zeus is punishing us with Percy Jackson movies that dishonor the books, from Peter, er, Percy's lost relatability, to the age change of the main trio of Harry if he were Greek, Ron if he were black, and Hermione if she were blonde.
Percy Jackson finally gets his sequel after 3 and a half years of waiting by what fans were left after The Lightning Thief ruined good source material. Does this one take the source material and distort it beyond recognition: Yes. Does it deliver as a film, book out of account: Yes. It's got action, it's got humor, and it has the characters you grew attatched to in The Lightning Thief. It also give Percy a new half-brother, a cyclops named Tyson. The CGI works well for the $90 million budget, but was really brought to life with likable characters. It's fantasy that delivers. I'm still upset with how the plot came out: A shallow reflection of the book that was enjoyed by me. If you were to cut anything, don't merge it with something else. Well don't just sit there, go see this movie!