The son of Poseidon is back in “Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters,” but should we thank the Gods for his return or wish he’d been sent off to boarding school on Mt. Olympus?
In the second installment of the YA book-to-movie franchise, Percy (Logan Lerman) isn’t feeling like the alpha demigod at Camp Half-Blood — even though he received a hero’s welcome at the mystical haven at the end of the predecessor “Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief.” The cause? The daughter of the God of War, Clarisse (Leven Rambin), has stolen his thunder. He begins to question himself, and struggles with a prophecy that foretells him to be either Olympus’s savior or its destroyer. In the midst of his self-doubt, Percy also discovers he has a half-brother, Tyson, who also happens to be a cyclops. What’s life without a little complication?
Percy doesn’t wade in his self-loathing for too long. After the tree that protects Camp Half-Blood is poisoned, leaving the demigod enclave vulnerable, he sets off on a quest to the Sea of Monsters to retrieve the mythical Golden Fleece, said to heal anything it touches.
Sure, it all sounds compelling — but is it worth seeing? Here are the 10 things you need to know before you (and your family) set sail for the “Sea of Monsters.”
1. It’s Truer to the Books
When compared to “Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief,” “Sea of Monsters” follows the book series’ storyline more closely. For instance, in the first book, Kronos, the father of Zeus, Hades, and Poseidon, was introduced, but the movie version of “Lightning Thief” omitted that intro. We get to know Kronos a bit more in “Sea of Monsters.” Also, in the books, Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario), the daughter of Athena, has blond hair. While Daddario was a brunette in “Lightning Thief,” she turned towhead for “Sea of Monsters.” It’s the little things, right?
2. It’s Funny for Kid and Parents
Sure, the first movie had its chuckle-worthy moments, but it’s clear that director Thor Freudenthal (“Diary of a Wimpy Kid”), who was handed the franchise after Chris Columbus, wants “Sea of Monsters” to appeal to kids and parents. The movie has its fair share of adult humor, and it cleverly floats above children’s heads without alienating them. A lot of that “adult humor” was delivered by…
3. …Stanley Tucci!
Mr. Tucci is a great addition to any movie — whether he’s hamming it up in “Hunger Games” or playing the cool dad in “Easy A.” As Dionysis, the God of Wine, the actor brings his brand of quick wit and dry delivery, perfect for parents and teens.
4. And Then There’s Nathan Fillion
“Firefly” and “Castle” fans, this one’s for you. Fillion has a small role in the film as Hermes, messenger to the gods, and his signature charm and wit are on full display. Dare we say Fillion and Tucci are the best part of this movie? We dare.
5. It’s Bigger and More Fast-Paced
Everything from the action sequences, to the special effects, to, yes, the monsters, feels far more epic in scale than “The Lightning Thief.” The 3D doesn’t hurt, either. And, even with all its funny moments, the movie feels darker in tone. Even the villain (whom we are keeping under wraps) is more sinister this time around.
6. Logan Lerman Is Going to Be Every Girls’ Crush (if He Isn’t Already)
After his critically acclaimed turn as sweet, mentally unstable Charlie in “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” Lerman has had every teenage girl hooked. But, seeing that “Perks” was rated PG-13, younger “tween” girls weren’t exposed to his swoon-worthiness. “Sea of Monsters” is PG, giving way for a new set of Lerman fanatics (or “Lermaniacs,” as they’re called on Twitter).
7. The Special Effects Aren’t That Special
That’s not to say they’re terrible; there are no awkward green-screen moments or visible cables — they just aren’t state-of-the-art. And, with a large portion of the movie occupied by CGI monsters, a little bit more production value could have given “Sea of Monsters” a more believable, “rooted in our world” sense of reality. The not-so-great effects are most evident when Tyson, Percy’s cyclops half-brother, is on-screen. His “mono-eye” screams “I was made in a computer.”
8. Some of the Monsters Were Cool, Despite the CGI
Some of the creatures in “Sea of Monsters” are imaginative and wondrous. In particular, we loved the Hippocampus, a sea beast that looks like a dolphin, unicorn, rainbow, and the Loch Ness monster, all rolled into one. It’s mesmerizing.
9. Some of the Monsters Might Scare Younger Kids
While the Hippocampus is beautiful to behold, there are other monsters that may compel kids to cover their eyes (as two little girls in front of us did). You’ve been warned.
10. Expect a Third Movie
You don’t have to be a god to see a sequel coming. As happens with any franchise, “Sea of Monsters” ends with a cliffhanger, so expect another “Percy Jackson” installment in a few years’ time.
The best way to develop a 21st century movie franchise is to keep it up instead of letting a rival like The Hunger Games steal your thunder.
It’s already more than three years since the original Percy Jackson & The Lightning Thief saw Logan Lerman’s heroics saving the world.
The first adaptation of a Rick Riordan novel ‘only’ grossed $225m worldwide, so that’s a long time to assume fast-growing teenage fans will want to reunite with these ‘children of the gods’.
Meanwhile, original Harry Potter director Chris Columbus has again jumped ship, replaced by the appropriately named German-born Thor Freudenthal (Diary of a Wimpy Kid).
With poisoned bark preventing a huge tree from protecting the woodland Camp Half-Blood, a spectacular mechanical bull rampages towards Percy.
To repair defences requires the Golden Fleece from the Sea of Monsters (aka the Bermuda Triangle).
Clarisse (Leven Rambin) is lined up for the quest, but with a prophecy hinting at success for Percy, he leads another mission along with Athena’s daughter Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario) and Grover (Brandon T Jackson).
There’s also half-brother Tyson (Douglas Smith), an ‘ocularly challenged’ cyclops whose otherwise impressively realistic one eye shifts slightly from one side of his nose to the other.
An ‘agricultural’ taxi ride seemingly combining Lemony Snicket, The Addams Family and Harry Potter’s The Knight Bus delivers PG-rated action cinema at its best – unexpected, funny and thrilling.
But the most outstanding effect features our heroes riding a sea creature which, for a few seconds at least, realistically cuts through the waves with jaw-dropping muscular dynamism.
Such moments are much more impressive than having the proverbial kitchen sink half thrown at you by the post-production 3D.
While Percy didn’t give me a day-long headache like The Wolverine, accepting the extra dimension distracts from concentrating on who’s who.