BEFORE YOU GO SCROLLING BY THIS POST, PLEASE TAKE A MOMENT TO READ AND APPRECIATE THIS AWESOME REVIEW/SUPPORT FOR PERCY JACKSON: SEA OF MONSTERS. I PROMISE YOU WON’T BE DISAPPOINTED!
Written by Patrick J. McKenna
Sea of Monsters shows what potential the franchise should have should it continue. It clearly demonstrates how a book adaptation should be: making it its own thing, while staying loyal to the overall plot of the original story, and maintaining continuity with the original film. Although some direction was better in the first film, overall this film feels more satisfying as an adaptation and feels better as a solid movie overall.
You do not have to see the first film in order to understand this one. Right from the opening scene, through a very clever back story prologue, and voice over from Percy, we get a sense of what is going on in this world and are fully immersed. Percy, played by Logan Lerman, delivers the narration as if he’s telling us a legend, and one cannot help but feel immersed in the goings on. The opening story is intense, but is not too dark compared to how other films such as The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian would have handled it. On that note, the whole film is very family friendly and plays as a light fantasy adventure, that nevertheless has its deep morals integrated in. Using the Prince Caspian example, this film does not go as dark or as intense as that film went, yet it also does not go the opposite way in making it campy. With that being said, there are some weaknesses in the direction of the film. While it does not go down the Batman & Robin campy road, the action of the film feels a little too tame at some parts. It’s still enjoyable, but unfortunately, it just doesn’t feel completely executed to the point that it should be. Its nowhere near bad, but it still could have been better. The action is still fun to watch, but it never gets bloody or as intense as it even was in the first film. It plays out as a fun, clean fantasy, that despite the lack of brutalness, it still feels like one could immerse into doing those things should they be real.
With regards to continuity from the first film, you will see a much more expanded Camp Half Blood in the film, the home of the main characters, however unlike the Harry Potter films, it doesn’t feel or look as noticeably different. The film feels like a sequel and does make the references to the first film, but still feels like it can stand on its own. While fixing up some cut characters and elements from the first film, the film also introduces the goings on at a natural pace without trying to lamely cover things up and consider earlier introduced things as retcon, which is more than can be said about Harry Potter, which merely puts things in its films without (for the most part) making any sort of real continuity or grounded connection with the other films, choosing instead to make each film stand on its own. Sea of Monsters has both a sequel and stand alone feel to it, which is how films should be. Why should sequels ignore what was previously established in the earlier films? The Harry Potters changed pretty much everything to fit the needs of the story without for the most part thinking of new ways to handle the story elements, in trying to maintain the books justice. While on the note of Harry Potter, one simply cannot compare it to any of the Harry Potters. Yes, there are similarities, but, being the huge Potter fan that I am, I barely thought of Harry while watching this movie. There will always be similarities and comparisons, but is not every movie comparable to another? Even some that people would not even think were similar such as the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy being comparable to the original Star Wars trilogy. And let us not forget the Avatar/Pocahontas/Dances with Wolves or the Iron Man/Dark Knight trilogies similarities. They will always exist, but there will always be one person who has NEVER seen the first film to have the idea, and even some who have seen both ideas and may like the newer one that has the old ideas better because of how it is executed. Its NOT what it is, but HOW it is.
HOW the movie “fixes” the first film is in the following ways:
- A much more grounded and more better polished script. The first film felt that the script was rushed in and was hopeful to be more than its script. The structure and plot was thin and weak, and didn’t feel as immersed as this film does. This film feels like they really revised and mapped out what they wanted from the script instead of just seemingly writing the script over night without revisions. You get the sense that the film makers are passionate to get the writing right and make it make sense and enjoyable for those that haven’t even seen the first film.
- Percy’s friend Grover (played by Brandon T. Jackson), is not annoying in this film like he was in the first film. This time he is more mature, yet still retains his comic characteristics.
- The world is populated with many characters. Unlike the first, where there were merely just cameoized characters, and small things hidden in the real this one feels more like there actually is a hidden universe. There is a café with Demi God products, a bank machine with Demi God options, etc.
- The movie feels more like the books and that it represents the essence and concept of the books more closely. The characters feel more like they do in the books, and despite the alterations made to scenes and the story, those changes all feel like something that could have happened in the books. They could have gone to a café with Demi God service. They could have gone to a place called Circeland (which actually fits the tone and concept of the universe better than the Polythemus land in the books, in that the concept of Mythology in a modern day setting is a combination of mythology and modern elements such as a theme park). The film actually has things from the books in the background, such as the cabins and many items related of importance to the series.
- There is a much better set up for future books. Characters that appear later in the books such as Ethan Nekamura show up and while it may mean altering some events for future books in order to accommodate the new set up, the films have already made many changes to the plot and story that they would have to do those changes anyway. Besides, its way more exciting to see what the film makers can come up with. As quoted in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid film making books, “let’s face it, if the movie had everything from the book, then there would be no point in going to see the movie”. Who knows? You may like the execution in the movie better
Concerning references to other films/media, maybe because I happen to be a massive Kingdom Hearts fan, I noticed a lot of things that reminded me of that series. Percy & co. encounter Hermes in his mail room that looks remarkably similar to the mail room found in Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance. At the beginning of the film, Clarisse La Rue (Leven Rambin) holds up a winning totem in a similar style to how the characters in the Tron movies hold up the identity discs (the two Tron films have been featured in the Kingdom Hearts series so far). The final climatic fight between Percy and the half resurrected Kronos plays akin to Sora’s battle against the Darkside in the first Kingdom Hearts game, with Percy attacking Kronos’ legs and riding on his hand in a similar manner to the fight seen within the game. The way the deep spirituality is handled in the film is akin to Kingdom Hearts whereby the characters deeply think about their actions and rely on each other to guide them through. It follows with the theme of the film, which is spoken by Hermes earlier on, “to never give up on family”. A large part of the film deals with Percy’s friend Annabeth coming to terms to trust Percy’s new found brother Tyson, who happens to be a Cyclops; In the opening prologue mentioned earlier, the character of Thalia Grace, and old friend of Annabeth’s, meets her demise at the hands of a Cyclops. That story also serves to help the emotional journey of the film, which is to help save the Camp from impending monsters, which in turn destroy the magical protection served by Thalia’s sacrifice and demise. I watch the film and feel like I am watching Kingdom Hearts as the humour, thrills, characters (especially monsters) all feel akin to watching/playing a Kingdom Hearts game.
To turn to the acting point, the characters are perfectly casted and feel very natural in their roles. The antagonist of the film, Luke Castellen (Jake Abel), turns in a ruthless performance reminiscent of Vanitas from Kingdom Hearts. You feel his desperation and dedication to his goal, even more so than Draco Malfoy in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, who takes up a quarter of that film showing pointless attempts at realizing his goal, and how can barely heathen emotion under his performance in some parts. Luke is not shown as prominently as Draco, and while he does not go that deep, through the bits that we do see seem to dictate a determined and agile being who will not give in despite all the complications. Lerman too shows Percy’s determination to redeem his heroic qualities overshadowed by Clarisse. Rambin turns in a crowd pleasing performance and is a real treat to watch in her every scene, one can tell she has a ball playing her. Anthony Stewart Head replaces Pierce Bronson as Chiron, though unlike Michael Gambon as Dumbledore, Head proves to be even better than Bronson as he feels right at home and very natural with his mentoring manner (he was Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s old mentor afterall). One will also enjoy Stanley Tucci’s take on Dionysus, the cursed God of wine forced to only drink water, who earlier on in the film makes a very funny line about Jesus Christ. Every character featured in the film feels like they belong in the world and the actors bring out their best emotions and methods to bring these characters to life.
The musical score of the film, composed by Andrew Lockington, who replaces Christophe Beck as composer from the first film, brings a score more deep and fantasy-esque than Beck’s did in the first film, which sounded too over dulged and not really emotional. The score for this film feels akin to the Harry Potter scores from Alexandre Desplat and Nicholas Hooper from the later Potter films. The music taps into the emotion and feeling of the scene, from the doubt that Percy feels earlier on from lack of support from his godly father, to the emotional intensity of the Colchis Bull invading the Camp, and the peril that Annabeth experiences towards the end of the film at a near death experience. The song of the end credits, “To Feel Alive”, brings forth feelings of emotion and engagement in the world, and sums up the feelings one has from experiencing the film.
Sea of Monsters is a film that shows hope and potential for the series. While there are things to improve upon, the film shows what the franchise can become should it continue. It is by far one of the most satisfying adaptations I have ever seen, better than some of the Harry Potters. If the action had only been amped up a bit more, the film could have been even more amazing, but should the series continue, there is no doubt that the action will be one of the things to be bettered.
Here are my videos that I made to promote the film, please let me know of your thoughts.