Mark Reviews Movies

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters


1  Stars (out of 4)

Director: Thor Freudenthal

Cast: Logan Lerman, Alexandra Daddario, Douglas Smith, Leven Rambin, Brandon T. Jackson, Jake Abel, Anthony Head, Stanley Tucci, Nathan Fillion

MPAA Rating: PG (for fantasy action violence, some scary images and mild language)

Running Time: 1:46

Release Date: 8/7/13

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Review by Mark Dujsik | August 6, 2013

At the end of my review of Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (apologies in advance for quoting myself), I wrote that the first movie showed "a franchise searching for its voice." One can only hope the series has not found its voice with Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, which eliminates everything that was intriguing from the first movie, emphasizes the elements that were grating, and offers a quest that feels cobbled together from other, better material.

It's appropriate that this sequel removes "the Olympians" from its title, given that we only see two gods and a titan over the course of its story. Of course, the gods, despite their limited screen time, were the most interesting characters in the preceding movie, leaving a big, gaping hole for its collection of demigod protagonists to fill. If they were thinly sketched heroes and heroines with abandonment issues before, they're merely tools of the screenplay this time, going from point A to point B and occasionally making a groan-worthy pun or throwing out a lazy one-liner.

The screenplay by Marc Guggenheim (adapted from the second installment in the book series by Rick Riordan) cares so little about its characters, in fact, that it's not until about three-quarters of the way through the story before we realize that three major characters are actually participants in the movie's prologue. In it, four kids are on their way to Camp Half-Blood, a training site for demigods, and only three make it there. Defending her friends from the beasts, the fourth, a daughter of Zeus, is killed by monsters, and Zeus, taking pity upon her sacrifice, turns her into a tree that emits a protective barrier around the camp (While the whole sequence is nightmare fodder for young audience members, this moment of transformation is particularly distressing).

Years later, Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman), the son of Poseidon, is having trouble adapting to live after saving Mount Olympus. Some say that Percy is simply a "one-quest wonder" for saving Olympus, which is akin to saying that George Gershwin is a one-hit wonder in the realm of jazz-influenced orchestral pieces for composing "Rhapsody in Blue." Technically, it's true, but it's "Rhapsody in Blue," for crying out loud.

His friends Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario), daughter of Athena, and Grover (Brandon T. Jackson), a satyr, try to keep his spirits up, but Clarisse (Leven Rambin), daughter of Ares, never lets him forget that she's been the camp's star heroine since his last adventure. When Luke (Jake Abel), son of Hermes and Percy's old nemesis, returns to camp to poison the protective tree, Annabeth comes up with a plan to obtain the Golden Fleece, which has the power to cure anyone and anything. Percy, Annabeth, Grover, and Percy's newly discovered cyclops half-brother Tyson (Douglas Smith) set out on a quest to find the Fleece.

One of the cleverer elements of the first movie was the way it married Greek mythology with modernity. That imagination is missing here, save for a sequence where the heroes visit the shipping center of a delivery company, which starts off a cheap bit of product placement and then gets even more embarrassing with the introduction of Hermes (Nathan Fillion) and the shoddily animated snakes on his staff.

Otherwise, the quest is as straightforward as they come (a prophecy, a string of generic monsters, an ark, etc.), and whatever stakes could be present are constantly undermined by the movie's reliance on convenient dei ex machina. The trio (Grover is captured by Luke for reasons that are left unstated, and he somehow shows up at the heroes' final destination in a way that's even less clear) sneaks aboard Luke's yacht, winds up in the belly of a sea monster that's a gaping maw of teeth at the center of a whirlpool where they find Clarisse captaining a Civil War ironclad with undead Confederate sailors, and finally arrives at the Fleece's home underneath an abandoned amusement park guarded by a cyclops, where Luke's ultimate plan to release the titan Kronos (realized in special effects that would look substandard in the late 1990s) and overthrow the gods of Olympus.

Along the way, there's not much to the characters to make their quest worthwhile. Tyson simply wants to be loved by everyone and sprays Mist on his face to look human. Grover thankfully disappears before he can get into the double digits in one-liners and puns. Annabeth is a prejudiced harpy (Seriously, it's unsettling). As for Percy, well, he's upset his father ignores his requests for help and ponders if he has any real worth or is just blessed with really good luck. Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters forces us to wonder the same thing about this series.

Copyright 2013 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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