Pure dumbed down family entertainment, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters is akin to watching a Harry Potter knockoff (an already unsavory label) and having someone explain each creative reference. Not only is the story less inspired, the camaraderie between supernatural teens warmed over, and the special effects of a cheapness that they appear to predate 2001’s The Sorcerer’s Stone, but the rampant explanations give Thor Freudenthal’s film the feel of an awkward classroom lecture. Never mind that most of the film’s young audience (and many of their accompanying parents) have read Rick Riordan’s source novels. Rather than give these passionate viewers an imaginative take on beloved material, the adaptation is middling or worse on every level and an insult to the series’ intelligent fans.
Continuing the adventures of the eponymous Son of Poseidon (Logan Lerman) and his demigod friends, Sea of Monsters traces the well-worn tropes of self-doubt, quasi temptation from the dark side, and neglect from parental figures to foster self-confidence. Though these traits are common to second works in fantasy adventure series, the similarities of Percy’s struggles to that of Smurfette in The Smurfs 2 are certainly unfortunate. Shooting more for the likes of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, whose beats (e.g. the use of a magical sedan) it often hits, the film’s reliance upon such familiar moments solidifies its aims for an easy buck and the mediocrity quickly follows.
Appropriately, Freudenthal moves the action just enough to sustain audience attention. In his favor is the near foolproof hook of the numerous unusual sights witnessed on the quest for the mythical, order-restoring Golden Fleece, while the old “good vs. evil for the safety of the world” story offers the added bonus of having to invest in a side. With unusual sights, however, comes unusual names, and the plethora of details from Greek mythology are awkwardly inserted and delivered. Unlike its series predecessor, Chris Columbus’ The Lightning Thief (2010), the creative melding of Olympus and humankind comes off flat the second time around. Whereas the underworld’s entrance being in the no-brainer location of Las Vegas previously brought with it a certain inventive charm, here the half-assed way that the Sea of Monsters is revealed as “what humans call The Bermuda Triangle” comes across as sadly pedantic.
Consistent with these so-so approaches are the aforementioned special effects, often the make-or-break factor for an epic fantasy. Though a stained glass F/X sequence is the film’s chief achievement, other CGI, especially of the demonic variety, looks flimsy next to similar images from This Is the End. Paired with turning points that pop out with little build-up besides a corny one-liner, Sea of Monsters covers its expected bases and not much more. Viewers of all ages looking to raise their pulses would do best to look elsewhere.
Rated PG for fantasy action violence, some scary images and mild language.
Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters is currently playing at the Carolina Cinemas on Hendersonville Rd.
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