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December 3, 2013

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters

by Franz Patrick

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters (2013)
★ / ★★★★

For years, Camp Half-Blood, a refuge for half-human, half-god children of Olympian deities, has been safe from outside forces due to a magical barrier surrounding its perimeter. But when a mechanical bull manages to break through, the demi-gods become in danger of extinction. Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario), daughter of Athena, has an idea: if they obtain the Golden Fleece from the Sea of Monsters, it can be used to reestablish the camp’s defenses. Although Clarisse (Leven Rambin), daughter of Ares, is chosen to retrieve the fleece, Percy (Logan Lerman), son of Poseidon, and his friends decide to acquire it, too.

“Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters,” based on the screenplay by Marc Guggenheim and directed by Thor Freudenthal, is a sequel at its limpest, most predictable, and least entertaining—so frustratingly unimaginative despite special and visual effects present in just about every other scene. The story should have been more fun, daring, and intriguing given that it has ample sources of inspiration. We deserve better than this.

The material takes its time to take off—and for nothing. This is reflected in the amount of time the protagonists spend in the camp. A new character is introduced: Tyson (Douglas Smith), son of Poseidon and Percy’s half-brother. He also happens to be a cyclops. The screenplay does nothing to this potentially interesting character. We get to see that he has superhuman strength and fire does not hurt him.

However, the human element is lost. Because he is a cyclops, a select few hold a level of prejudice against him. None of it is explored in a meaningful way and so when those people who eventually come around and “learn” a lesson, they come off disingenuous. Furthermore, the relationship between the siblings is not given enough gravity. Percy, who should be the most interesting character of them all, is reduced to being reluctant to call Tyson “brother.” Really? Why not perhaps explore real emotions—like jealousy—since Percy feels that their father is closer to Tyson?

Action sequences seem very similar to one another. Oh, there’s trouble? Percy takes out his sword and swings it about. He loses grip on his weapon? Well, that’s what fists are for! Whatever happened to teamwork and creativity? Percy and his friends are supposedly on a journey together and yet we do not get a chance to feel their bond, how well they work together, and why each of them is a necessary piece to succeed on their mission.

The villain is as boring as a brick under the sun. Luke (Jake Abel), son of Hermes (Nathan Fillion—a breath of fresh air), does nothing interesting other than to look like a constipated Bond villain who tries too hard to look menacing. I did not believe for a second, at this stage in his rivalry with Percy, that he is a formidable enemy.

Based on Rick Riordan’s novel, “Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters” need not have darker content or tone than its predecessor to be interesting, but it must increase the ante somehow or else it risks doing the same thing. In the end, I felt as though its universe did not at all progress despite the material laying groundwork for another sequel.


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