Sea of Monsters Review: Fails To Hit the Mark
The sequel to Percy Jackson & The Lightning Thief, Sea of Monsters, is based on the book of the same name by Rick Riordan, author of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, the follow up series The Heroes of Olympus and the Kane Chronicles, a trilogy focusing on Egyptian mythology. If it isn’t obvious, I’m a huge Rick Riordan fan. I’ve read all the books, multiple times.
The film picks up where The Lightning Thief left off, Percy, Annabeth and Grover are back at camp enjoying a normal demigod summer: training and having lots of semi-dangerous games. Luke shows up and poisons the camp’s first line of defense against monsters, a tree. This tree however is no ordinary tree. Flashback to when Annabeth, Luke, Grover, and Thalia (daughter of Zeus) were young kids and trying to get to camp while being chased by some big bad guys. Thalia sacrifices herself to save her friends and Zeus transforms her into said vegetation. In order to save the tree and the camp, a quest is called for the golden fleece, the same golden fleece that Jason and the Argonauts looked for. Meanwhile, Luke is also after the fleece to revive Kronos. It’s up to Percy and the other demigods to stop Luke’s nefarious plans.
Young fans of Percy probably enjoyed it and had a great time seeing the action scenes, the explosions, and the special effects. The film felt like it was geared towards a younger audience and for me that’s where it failed. While I understand that certain aspects of the plot must be sacrificed to make it work for a movie, it felt like a much more simplified version of the book that I love.
I was okay with the prophecy changing from a half blood making it to sixteen to their twentieth birthday because the cast needed to be aged up. In the book, Percy is only in seventh grade. I was okay with the colchis bull making an appearance, it was a great fight scene! I was okay with Annabeth, Thalia, and Luke being made around the same age. At first I was kinda bummed about how Tyson (Percy’s half brother) was introduced because he supposed to spend a lot more time with Percy before entering Camp Half Blood, but I got over it.
However, there were two things that didn’t sit quite right with me. Stop now if you don’t want spoilers!
First, Grover gets kidnapped by demigods (incidentally they were all wearing black, I must have missed the memo where they had to be evilly color-coordinated) who joined Kronos’ side because Luke (our main villain) needed him to find the fleece. This doesn’t happen in the book at all. Grover was actually on a quest to find the god Pan and was attracted to the fleece because it emitted wild magic. So while yes, the satyr can sense the fleece, it feels like the film changed the plot just to make it more convenient. Luke was still after the fleece but he didn’t need Grover to find it for him.
Second, the big fight between Percy and Kronos didn’t happen this soon and while I understand the director/producer/writer/movie executives may have felt that they needed a scene to truly highlight Percy’s character as a hero and give audiences a climactic point, I don’t feel like this was the way to go. In The Lightning Thief, Percy already battled Luke and so if that was the big scene in the sequel it could feel repetitive, but having Kronos “rise” so much earlier (there are five books) just seems way too soon and not enough build up for what should be an epic battle scene. Plus CGI Kronos was terrible.
Okay with that said, there were lots of other things that I did enjoy such as the camp scenes. It was great to see the place come to life and finally meet Mr. D. Stanley Tucci did a terrific job as the god Dionysus, sentenced to be camp director for chasing after a nymph that Zeus had a thing for. Anthony Head portrayed Chiron kind of librarian-like (heh) but their two characters played well of each other and was fun to watch on screen.
Douglas Smith played Tyson well as the clumsy cyclops with the heart of gold. Alexandra Daddario’s Annabeth was now much more blonde and grey-eyed as her character is in the books, which made me a happy camper. Brandon T. Jackson’s (Grover) comedic timing worked. Leven Rambin, who was Glimmer in The Hunger Games, did Clarisse La Rue justice and she was my favorite character in the entire film. Nathan Fillion as Hermes was also another treat, but it’s Nathan Fillion and anything he does is good in my book.
Finally, Logan Lerman reprising his role as Percy was at times spot on and other times not so much. The scene where he tries to talk to his father by the lake and gets no response felt a little too forced in the teen angst department. However, his fight with the colchis bull, his interactions with Grover, Annabeth, Tyson, and Clarisse, his struggles and insecurities as a hero and reaction to the prophecy were all believable.
Overall, the film is definitely meant younger audiences who will enjoy Percy’s adventures and learn a few things about Greek mythology along the way. While the adaptation hasn’t been perfect, I did love seeing the world expand on screen. But if you are a fan of the books, watch it with low expectations. Or just wait for it on iTunes.
Images courtesy of 20th Century Fox.