The first movie adaptation of Rick Riordan’s best-selling novel series Percy Jackson and the Olympians was not well-received critically, but banked enough box office bucks on the global scale to warrant another shot. We were granted an early look at the upcoming sequel, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, and it appears that general audiences and book fans should be happier this time around. There’s plenty of action to be found in the first act alone with much more promised throughout the film. New additions Stanley Tucci, Anthony Head and, of course, Nathan Fillion bring some veteran star-power to the young adult picture and special attention is given to both new audiences and fans of the novels alike. Hit the jump for more, and be sure to tune in later this week for video interviews with director Thor Freudenthal, and stars Logan Lerman, Brandon T. Jackson and Leven Rambin.
Collider was invited to check out the first act of Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters along with a short action montage, all introduced by director Freudenthal. I’ll keep this preview spoiler-free and won’t mention anything that hasn’t been shown in the trailers already.
Right off the bat, Freudenthal uses the film’s opening to prepare audiences for a lot of time spent out at sea, as if the title wasn’t enough of an indication. He also uses a narration from the film’s title hero in order to bring newcomers up to speed and reintroduce the audience to the world of Percy Jackson. The previous film isn’t forgotten or overlooked, but neither is it held sacred; it’s briefly mentioned and then the sequel goes on about its own business, which is exactly how it should be handled. The title sequence flows right into the film’s first action sequence as a quartet of young campers run through the forest from an unseen menace. I won’t give away the details here but Freudenthal does a good job at setting the stakes early in the film and hopefully appeases fans of the books right off the bat.
The sequel not only introduces some new characters, but replaces some of the old ones with new faces. Head steps in – on all four of his Centaur hooves – to replace Pierce Brosnan as Chiron, the activities director of Camp Half-Blood. He channels some of his experience from playing the mentor in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and has a great rapport with another new face in Tucci. Playing Dionysus, the God of Wine who’s been forced into a period of sobriety by Zeus, Tucci is a scene-stealer and brings a quirky brand of comedy to the character. Another new face – Rambin, who place Percy’s rival, Clarisse – is up to the task of bringing physicality and attitude to a role that plays an important part in the Sea of Monsters story. Of course I can’t forget about Fillion, who stars as Hermes and, as expected, steals the scene that appears in the trailer.
Now let’s talk action! Freudenthal does an excellent job at ratcheting up the stakes and the intensity for the action sequences we’ve seen, and those were only in the first act. There’s the introductory story that sets the tone for the rest of the film, plus a fun bit of competition between the campers and then the real threat of a mechanical bull that rampages across the campground (as seen in the trailer). There is much more action in store for the rest of the film and, though the effects weren’t 100% polished, it looks to be a helluva lot of fun on a pretty epic scale. There are some obvious 3D moments but nothing so obvious as to be obnoxious.
As far as sticking close to the books, Sea of Monsters seems to be doing a fair bit of fan service while tightening up some of the plot points to allow the stars to appear on screen for more of the film. In the books, Grover (Jackson) shows up mostly in dream sequences until a good way through the story. In the film adaptation, he gets to be in on the fun from the start. The quest is the same, the destination is the same and the character dynamics appear to be spot on. It remains to be seen whether or not the film will line up with fan expectations, but from what I’ve seen so far, there is plenty of reason to be hopeful!
Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, starring Logan Lerman, Brandon T. Jackson and Alexandra Daddario, opens in 3D starting August 7th.