Director: Thor Freudenthal
Cast: Logan Lerman, Brandon T. Jackson, Alexandra Daddario, Leven Rambin, Jake Abel, Stanley Tucci, Nathan Fillion
Running Time: 106 minutes
Release Date: August 7
Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman) returns in Sea of Monsters, an adaptation of the second of Rick Riordan’s Olympians novels and the follow up to 2010’s surprisingly fun Lightning Thief.
Percy’s hesitant reunion with his cycloptic half-brother Tyson is cut short by renegade god-spawn Luke, who’s poisoned Camp Half-Blood’s magic force-field tree. Percy and friends must find the Golden Fleece and heal the tree, before Luke uses its ancient power to raise the god devouring Titan Cronos.
So, there’s only one monster. See in the title, the bit about ‘monsters’? Yeah, there’s only one. Sure there’s a cyclops later on, but when it comes to sea-monsters the film barely registers, with a grand tally of one. It’s a dumb quibble, but it’s indicative of the greater issue with PJ2. For a film that has all of greek mythology as a crib sheet—and I’m pretty sure its got the cliff notes to Harry Potter written on the inside of its calculator too—Sea of Monsters is distinctly un-epic.
Though hardly a homerian classic, the first Jackson film was a lot of fun. Between its top-tier supporting cast, playful use of Greek tropes and zippy you’re a demi-god/you’ve been framed/let’s get globetrotting plotline, it crammed an above average amount of entertainment into a two hour stretch.
Fans of Steve Coogan as washed up rocker Hades (nobody does it better, except maybe James Woods), or any of the first film’s killer supporting cast will be disappointed, very few make a return appearance. They’ve either been outright recast (Centaur Pierce Brosnan is now Centaur Anthony Head) or swapped out for some new faces.
Hunger Games fodder Leven Rambin washes up here as Percy’s cocky rival Clarisse La Rue, while Douglas Smith plays the unnervingly monocular Tyson, in a weirdly California Man-esque—he’s the spit of a young Brendan Fraser—fish out of water subplot, that teaches kids about racism and stuff. Don’t worry, the essential depth-perception joke is present and accounted for. Another Hunger Games alum Stanley Tucci continues his stellar run in young adult novel adaptations, here as unwilling teetotaler/camp director Dionysus. Plus it has Nathan Fillion, if that’s your thing.
Sticking with the inferior sequel theme, Sea of Monsters just can’t match its predecessor’s playful tapestry of ancient Greek influence. ‘Deity-Bay’ and ‘Demi-Google’ make for some particularly punny low points. Unable to find its inspiration in a century of rich mythology, the film instead becomes an Asylum knock-off of Harry Potter, grafting a spurious forgery of Prisoner of Azkaban‘s knight bus sequence onto its own chimeric husk.
Lightning Thief was certainly brisk, but it was smart and intriguing enough that after those two hours had zoomed by there was an unmistakable sense that something had actually happened. Sea of Monsters matches its fast pace, but clocks in a noticeable twenty minutes shorter; it’s over before it’s even begun.
As the film desperately scrambles for a sense of scope, it begins throwing anything it can grab at the screen: A hokey prophecy (ugh), the killing/injuring of key characters—hardly effective when you’ve got a magical heal all maguffin—and a Hollywood hills overdose of—admittedly appropriate—deus ex machina. It’s all depressingly ineffectual, culminating in a bizarre battle with the end boss from Doom 3.
Percy’s first cinematic venture was hardly rewriting the manuscript of kid friendly blockbusters, but it set up an intriguing universe, laying the foundations for something special. Sea Of Monsters drops the ball in colossal form; it arrives to the party in ill-fitting Ron Weasley cosplay, having forgotten to pick up its Greek robes from the dry cleaners.