PERCY JACKSON: SEA OF MONSTERS Review

by     Posted 1 year, 74 days ago

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Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters makes a great case for second chances.  I haven’t read Rick Riordan‘s Percy Jackson novels, but the 2010 adaptation of the first book, Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief, was abysmal.  There wasn’t one good thing about the film, and it felt like the series would go the way of other stillborn fantasy franchises.  But in the demigod’s second adventure, director Thor Freudenthal find a place for the young hero by tapping into a solid PG adventure movie that takes the maturity of its cast and pairs it with fun action pieces, charming humor, and an enthusiasm that gives Percy Jackson a rare second chance at a first impression.

The opening narration quickly explains that Greek gods sometimes have children with humans, and those children, “half-bloods”, have special powers.  Poseidon’s son, Percy (Logan Lerman), lives with friends Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario) and satyr Grover (Brandon T. Jackson) at Camp Half-Blood along with other demigods.  The camp is protected from monsters by a tree grown from a young half-blood who died protecting her friends, which included a young Annabeth.  After skillfully speeding through this introduction, and establishing Percy’s emotional distance from his absent father, we see that our hero’s nemesis Luke (Jake Abel), has returned and poisoned the tree, which leaves the camp vulnerable.  Percy, Annabeth, and Percy’s cyclops half-brother Tyson (Douglas Smith), must then race Luke to the Golden Fleece, which can restore the barrier, but can also achieve Luke’s goal, which is to resurrect the evil, god-devouring Kronos.

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The sequel doesn’t try to out-do its predecessor as much as it tries to find a better path.  Despite not having to worry about an origin story, Sea of Monsters could easily feel overstuffed.  There’s Percy’s daddy issues, trying to forge a bond with the sweet-natured but clumsy Tyson, competing with his rival and daughter of Ares, Clarisse (Leven Rambin), and trying to rescue a kidnapped Grover because Luke needs a satyr to find the Fleece.  Like the first movie, Sea of Monsters, has the benefit of a road-map, but this time the set pieces come from difficulties met on the journey rather than a checklist of famous Greek monsters.

Granted, the characterization becomes a little too simplified in order to focus the narrative, but it’s serviceable enough to keep us invested in characters who couldn’t have been less interesting the first time out.  The Lightning Thief lost its priorities because it was trying so hard to be the next Harry PotterSea of Monsters relaxes a bit, and actually trusts the actors to play to their archetypes in an endearing fashion.  That trust is well-founded as the returning cast members have three more years of acting experience, and Lerman in particular feels like he’s grown into the hero rather than feeling like a small part of a vapid blockbuster.  However, the real breakthrough is Smith, who has the affability of a young Brendan Fraser, and even resembles the actor to the point where I wondered if Smith was related (he’s not, but he did play a younger version of Fraser’s character in Blast from the Past).  Tyson gets to be the heart of the picture when Percy’s melancholy becomes a bit too heavy.  And as a side note, a brief appearance by Nathan Fillion as Hermes yields one of the best jokes you’ll see in a movie this year.

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The simplified approach works for the most part because it slots each character in place.  Tyson gets to be comic relief, Percy’s the hero, Clarisse is the sneering rival, Luke is the self-assured enemy, and Annabeth and Grover get their moments as well, although their roles are somewhat diminished from the first movie, especially Grover.  This focus on simplicity provides Sea of Monsters with a confidence the first movie sorely lacked.  Freudenthal is willing to breathe life into his movie and take chances because the basics are in order.  He kills a pre-teen girl in the opening scene, and you see her die.  Zeus then transforms her body into a magical tree, but even Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone wasn’t willing to knock off one of Hogwarts’ students.  From there, the movie’s first set piece has Percy and other half-bloods fighting a mechanical bull that looks like Hephaestus created a Transformer.  This one scene alone is far better than anything that was offered in The Lightning Thief, and Freudenthal isn’t finished.  He doesn’t eclipse this scene’s action, but he does take fun moments like using an animated sequence to create a flashback.  Yes, we’ve seen this trick done in Hellboy II: The Golden Army and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, but that doesn’t make the scene any less enjoyable.

All of this adds up to a movie that understands what it is rather than trying to be something its not.  This is a PG adventure movie, and I miss those.  It can still be messy at times and the simplicity can end up needlessly obfuscating certain relationships such as Annabeth’s relentlessly harassing Tyson, which makes her already streamlined character come off as mostly petty until her rationale is explained.  But Sea of Monsters can weather these shortcomings because it doesn’t feel the need to age itself up or be edgy (the opening death is weighty, but not aggressive).  Kids shouldn’t have to jump from G-rated fare all the way up to PG-13 movies just because there are no good PG movies in between.

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Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters fills what has become a niche where 20 years ago the genre would have been packed with fantasy-adventure films.  The Lightning Thief didn’t give any heed to this absence, and turned itself into a convoluted disaster driven by set pieces and beset with sloppy storytelling.  I don’t know if the Percy Jackson movies can ever grow into something great, and that’s partially because I haven’t read the books.  But Freudenthal and his cast have shown that the potential is there, and I’m willing to leave the franchise’s past behind in the hopes of a brighter future for the young demigod.

Rating: B

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  • Heytherebro

    Matt how do you explain that you’re the only one not shitting about this movie after watching it?

    • http://www.gotham-news.com/ Pietro Filipponi

      Maybe he’s trying to be the Armond White of geek blogs

    • Rol Tickler

      He did explained it though. Read the review.

  • Prasanna Rajan

    B?? I was expecting a D.

  • Jason Richards

    Some more proof that Goldberg is the Armond White of internet movie reviews. How does he give this movie a higher rating than Star-Trek Into Darkness? I understand everyone has tastes, but dude come on. Just tell us what’s the criteria you grade these films on.

    • RiddleThemThis

      I don’t think Goldberg was comparing this to star trek when he wrote this review. He compared it to other PG fantasy-adventure films, which he pointed out, there is not a whole lot of them nowadays. That may have been part of the reason why he gave the film a B instead of something lower.

    • Ashtalon

      Maybe it’s better than Star Trek Into Darkness, which honestly might not be that much of a stretch. The first Percy Jackson film is terrible. Since Matt had the same view of it as I did, I might be inclined to see this one once it hits video.

      • Jason Richards

        This film is getting annihilated by critic, no chance it’s better. If it’s his personal opinion that this film is good, great, but the grade of a film should reflect its shortcomings, also.

      • Patrick J. McKenna

        give it a chance in theatres its worth it, heck more than once

  • Victor Pleitez

    It seem clear that Matt reviews things a la Roger Ebert way. By comparing the film with others of it’s genre. Although his Into Darkness review did come off as a geek rant.

    • HeSaidSheSaidReviewSite

      There’s nothing wrong with reviewing things that way. Rate a movie by how much you enjoy it. It’s just the way he speaks/writes, he comes off like a massive Richard. That and he seems to take whatever stance he thinks will get attention.

    • Grayden

      He typically doesn’t. Most of his reviews are compared to his preferences, not other films in the genre. Or other films in general. That’s why I find his reviews where he doesn’t inject his bias 90% of the time tend to be better reviews. Not just score wise, but also from a literary point of view. Better written, better explained, better cohesion. As opposed to five paragraphs ranting about what was wrong, with little reasoning as to why.

  • Concerned Reader

    I love Collider. Love it. But Goldberg has to go. I can only chuckle at some fool’s opinion for so long. I don’t trust Goldberg. I don’t like him. Golderberg’s reviews are more about Goldberg than the movies being reviewed. And Goldberg is all about being contradictory, but not in any smart sense. STAHP Collider. STAHP allowing Matt Goldberg to review movies. You don’t need to parade this fool around to get attention on the interwebs.

    • Strong Enough

      just shut up already and get over it. leave if you don’t like it. but complaining like a little girl won’t do anything.

      • Concerned Reader

        Hey Goldberg! Don’t trip over your own ego. Cause I like you. I just think you have miles to go before you become a competent source for film reviews. Hugs and kisses!

      • Strong Enough

        trust me. i’m not Jewish lmao

      • Concerned Reader

        Are you implying that you are an anti-Semite? If that’s the case, you can go to Hell.

      • Strong Enough

        i’m implying if you don’t like his articles then either

        A) don’t read them and stop bitching

        or

        B) Leave and never come back. (THIS ONE! THIS ONE!)

      • Concerned Reader

        You’re not following what I’m saying. I love Collider, you wanker. Love it. My only non-Goldberg complaint involves Frosty’s forced profanities (which, if I were Frosty, I’d probably drop too). And Frosty is a good interviewer.

        So I will stay. And read. And bitch about Matt Goldberg. Who isn’t a film critic so much as he is an incompetent attention whore.

        Damn your eyes.

      • Strong Enough

        But why read his shit if you don’t like it? and continue the endless cycle of bitching about something you don’t like? why waste your precious time? you could be busy saving the world instead Superman?

      • Concerned Reader

        I’m protesting. Actively. Collider is a wonderful, community-centric website. Goldberg is a fraud. He thinks he is an intellectual. He’s nothing but a self-centered wanker. I hope you’re Strong Enough to jerk Goldberg’s ego-dick to climax. Good luck. It’s about 3 or 4 inches in reality.

      • Strong Enough

        prostesting? lol is it really that serious? you two have different views and opinions on films. why not protests drone strikes instead? oh no wait…”Matt Goldberg doesn’t like Star Trek! He said something bad about Percy Jackson too! I don’t like his dry humor and jokes yet I continue to read his articles and give him money by clicking on the page! WAH! WAH! WAH! WAH! get him off Collider!” what a joke. you sound like a woman scorned. you do realize that?

        besides he is the managing editor of Collider. good luck!

      • Concerned Reader

        A woman scorned? So now you are a sexist?

      • Beyond Concerned Reader

        Know what? Fuck you and fuck Matt Goldberg. LEEYROOOOOY JENKINSSS MUTHAFUCKAZ! I’m never reading Collider again. Suck my balls.

      • Strong Enough

        No but i think you may have higher levels of estrogen in your body than the average man seeing as you bitch more than most

      • Concerned Reader

        “Bitch” is a derogatory term. So you are insinuating that all women (or anyone with high estrogen) is a bitch.

        You’re dumb. You’re sexist.

        I would never call Matt Goldberg a bitch. He’s just a pompous asshole and a writer of poor, over-cooked prose.

      • Strong Enough

        No a man can be a bitch. especially one who whines as much as you do.

  • dungeons and draccus’s

    Hate the books, hate the films.

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  • Nathan Sams

    There are great moments in the movie, meeting the hippocampus, Percy riding the wave, and the cab ride. However, my main problem is the lack of all different Gods used in the books not being cast in the film.Especially Ares. Also the thing is the sequence of events seems to be way off, even more abnormally when adapting a novel into a movie. It’s still a good movie, but I feel if I hadn’t read the books I would have liked it a lot more…maybe next one will win me over…:S

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