Friday, May 16, 2014

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters

Directed by Thor Freudenthal.
2013. Rated PG, 106 minutes.
Douglas Smith
Leven Rambin
Jake Abel
Paloma Kwiatkowski

Things seem to be all hunky dory at Camp Half-Blood when there are a couple of odd occurrences. Our hero, Percy Jackson (Lermer) finds out he has a half-brother who is a cyclops. Next, the mystical barrier that keeps intruders out of the camp is broken, leading to an epic battle with an angry magical (and mechanical) bull that ends with the return of a certain bad guy. Lastly, the bumbling idiots who run the place inform Percy of the prophecy that says he will either save Mount Olympus or destroy it in the attempt. The Golden Fleece seems to be the cure for all their ails. This means going on a quest to find and retrieve it, and of course, saving or destroying...yeah, that.

Once again, Percy has his trusty cohorts Grover (Jackson) and Annabeth (Daddario) in tow. The three share an easy chemistry that serves the movie well. To that mix, Tyson (Smith) the half-brother is added. The four of them provide a pleasant enough quartet. there's a little more than a hint of sexual tension between Percy and Annabeth which drives their scenes together. She also has a raging hatred of Tyson that plays into the moral of the story. There is also Grover in full Magical Negro/comic relief mode, ever ready with some silliness to keep things from getting too heavy. None of this is exceptionally good or bad. It just sort of is and helps us roll along innocuously.

The rest of the cast is a slightly better. Not surprisingly, Stanley Tucci fares best in his role as the weary Dionysus (Mr. D), an instructor at the camp. All the man wants is a drink of wine. However, his verbal taunting of the gods has cost him this small pleasure. It's not uproariously funny, but his scenes are consistently humorous. another bright spot is Derek Mears as a big, evil cyclops. He's not going into the villain hall of fame or anything, but he provides a decent counterpoint to our heroes.

Similarly to the blandness of most of the characters, the plot unfolds in not-so-thrilling fashion. It just hits all the spots it's supposed to when it's supposed to. Nothing unexpected takes place. This makes tension the biggest casualty of all the story-telling devices. We just never feel like the good guys are in any real danger. True, going into a kid-friendly adventure like this we know the good guys are going to win. However, this movie fails to ever approach making us doubt the fact. Instead of hanging on to the edge of our seats, we're more likely to be comfortably slouched against the back of them and checking our watches.

Lots of movies of this caliber, narratively, manage to save themselves with plenty of action. This one tries, it just fails miserably. The main culprit is shoddy cgi. When the mayem breaks loose, things start looking cartoonish, but not like this was done on purpose. It further adds to the sense that we have nothing to worry about in regards to the hero's well being. We're snatched from being involved in the movie, to being reminded we're watching one. No matter how many I've seen, good films draw me into the world on the screen, regardless of how far-fetched it might be. I become invested in the events playing out before me. This is more like a stranger stooping in front of your window to tie his shoe. It might be sort of interesting, but not a compelling event. Whatever fascination it may hold passes when they stand up and continue on their way. Shortly, you may forget it ever happened. Percy Jackson stoops in front of your window to tie his shoe.


  1. I've never seen either of these movies and likely never will (though my Daddario lust seemingly knows no bounds). Anyway, I remember these movies use to kill as end-of-the-year movies in the sixth grade rooms (I showed Big Fish every year), and I'm assuming that's the target demographic, bored twelve year olds.

    Uh oh. If that's the case...they might be favorite movies ever.

    BS aside, great review.

    1. Um...yup. My eleven year old daughter who is in the sixth grade was very disappointed with the score I gave this movie.