Percy Jackson: Sea Of Monsters (2013)

Percy JacksonIt’s been a fair old while since Percy Jackson’s (Logan Lerman) quest to stop the lightning thief, and the demigod son of Poseidon is beginning to wonder if it ever actually happened. He’s hardly heard from the heavens since his return, and when he is introduced to a fire-proof cyclops sibling (Douglas Smith) and beaten at a Camp Half-Blood competition by a fervent rival (Leven Rambin) he begins to doubt his own abilities too. That is, however, until he discovers that he is the subject of an ancient prophecy, and sets off with friends Grover Underwood (Brandon T. Jackson) and Annabeth Chase (Alexandra Daddario) to find the Golden Fleece.

When it was released back in 2010, Percy Jackson and the Olympians may have been subtitled The Lightning Thief, but it was fellow Greek epic Clash Of The Titans that stole all of the thunder. Admittedly, Louis Leterrier’s film attracted nothing but bad press, but for months you couldn’t open a newspaper or load up a computer without seeing an article ridiculing its performances, lamenting the dreadful effects or attacking its terrible 3D conversion. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Clash Of The Titans made over twice as much at the box office.

Not only is it surprising that a Percy Jackson sequel was made (many other contenders for Harry Potter‘s throne fell at the first hurdle), but it’s a surprise to actually find it in cinemas, so quiet and unobtrusive has the marketing campaign been. I think I remember seeing a trailer at some point, but until the posters started appearing on buses earlier this week I could have sworn it wasn’t due out for months. Even if Sea Of Monsters turned out to be a great movie — and 20th Century Fox certainly seems to have its doubts — it’s unlikely enough people will see it to make a third film viable.

But Percy Jackson: Sea Of Monsters is not a great movie; it’s barely even a satisfactory one. The budding franchise has taken a pay cut since the previous movie, and the inevitable compromises can be felt in nearly every scene; the big names are out, with Pierce Brosnan unceremoniously replaced with the more affordable Anthony Head as centaur Chiron, and the heavens (pretty important, you’d imagine, for a film about the gods) all but cut from the script. Instead, then, of conversing with father Perseus, Percy is left to emote at a lake or weep into his sword, while a stain-glass animation is used to plug the various gaps in the story. Money obviously isn’t everything, but the narrative often feels as though it is serving the budget rather than telling the full story.

That said, director Thor Freudenthal — quite possibly a demigod himself — does his best to keep the story trundling along, and, like Chris Columbus’ original, Percy Jackson: Sea Of Monsters is at least watchable. Logan Lerman once again makes for a solid lead, even if his performance is more competent than compelling. Brandon T. Jackson and Alexandra Daddario similarly give it their all, but to substantially lesser effect.  Only Nathan Fillion makes any sort of impression as Hermes — he replaces Dylan Neal as the god of messengers (he works at UPS) — by bringing his usual levity to a film that is often more inclined towards unintentional humour. He even gets to make a joke about Firefly‘s premature cancellation.

Ultimately, the biggest problem has nothing to do with insufficient funds or the filmmaking in general. The main issue is a conceptual one; despite the best efforts of all involved it is impossible to invest in the characters or plot as written. Rick Riordan’s book series of the same name lifts Greek mythology wholesale and transplants it to modern-day America, and the results are a little too familiar (Wrath Of The Titans used essentially the same story last year) and incredibly incongruous. At one point the characters read ancient scripture from an iPad with an archaic cover. They later order “nectar” from legendary creatures working in some sort of supernatural Starbucks, while the final battle for Earth takes place in an abandoned fairground. It’s not exactly Rowling.

And that’s the other thing, it’s impossible to watch Percy Jackson without seeing Harry Potter, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger in the central trio. Cirque du Freak can also be seen in Camp Half-Blood, and Twilight in the Forks-esque setting. There is almost nothing in Percy Jackson: Sea Of Monsters that we haven’t seen before, and yet every time the filmmakers strive for some novelty value you can’t help but wish they’d steer back into more familiar waters. After all, this is a film that has characters traversing America — in a dingy propelled by an enchanted thermos-flask — in search of a magic, regenerative rug.

There will inevitably be an audience for Sea Of Monsters (people did buy the book after all) but it’s unlikely to win many new fans. It’s not just ancient Greece and modern America that make for awkward bedfellows; almost every single element seems to jar with another, not least the fact that residents of Camp Half-Blood, which is home to demigods, satyrs and centaurs, might be so prejudiced towards a cyclops. Or that the titular Sea Of Monsters should only contain one single specimen.

2-stars

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About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

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