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PERCY JACKSON: SEA OF MONSTERS (review)

Review by Clay N Ferno
Produced by Michael Barnathan, Karen Rosenfelt
Screenplay by Marc Guggenheim
Based on The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan
Directed by Thor Freudenthal
Starring Logan Lerman, Brandon T. Jackson, 
Alexandra Daddario, Leven Rambin, Jake Abel, 
Stanley Tucci, Nathan Fillion, Sean Bean, 
Anthony Head, Missi Pyle, Yvette Nicole Brown

Fox 2000 Pictures / Rated PG

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters is the second in the film series based on the novels by Rick Riordan.

An honest attempt here is being made to capitalize on the success of the Harry Potter franchise in all of its forms but the difference here is that half-bloods and demigods are less appealing than Quidditch and Horcrux to the all ages crowd.

An advantage of being able to dip into the well of Greek mythology retelling the journey of Jason and the Argonauts in a modern setting is that the story is written for you.

A disadvantage is being subjected to some cheap gags and some expensive but even cheaper CGI monsters.

One can give this a mostly positive review as a straight up kid’s movie (which it is), but bottling and stealing the Potter lightning falls short on making this a movie that parents and other adults wouldn’t be able to stop rolling their Cyclopian eye over.

This year’s sequel to the Chris Columbus directed Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief loses a sense of scale and all of the star appeal of the cameos in the first film.

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters is directed by relative newcomer Thor Freudenthal (Diary of a Wimpy Kid) does take advantage of the maturity of star Logan Lerman (Percy Jackson) who is less of a child thrown into a strange world of water healing and Greek god parentage and more of a young man facing the challenges of the world as if graduating college. Chiron is played by Anthony Head (Giles from Buffy), replacing Pierce Brosnan. Other notable stars in the sequel are the tortured by wine turning into water Stanley Tucci as Dionysus, Nathan Fillion as Hermes and Douglas Smith (Ben Henrickson in Big Love) as Percy’s half-brother Tyson—a cyclops. Rounding out the Percy Scooby gang is the returning Alexandra Daddario as love interest Annabeth Chase and Brandon T. Jackson as satyr Grover Underwood.

The cold open with kids being chased by three cyclops, one of them being Thalia Grace (Paloma Kwiatkowski), daughter of Zeus was a highlight of the film for me with great action and real risk involved with the monsters getting into Camp Half-Blood. For those of you unfamiliar, Camp Half-Blood is a safe haven for training where demigods are safe from attack.

I was intrigued until the prophecy at the Oracle is revealed that Percy needs to go on a quest because he may or may not be the reason for the destruction of man, and also he needs the Golden Fleece to save Talia, who for some reason is now a protective force field tree that watches over Camp Half-Blood. The Oracle telling of the prophecy, however was a very cool 2-3 3D minute animation of figures and backgrounds rendered as stained glass.

This rivals the same exact scene in this summer’s Man of Steel and movie makers are replacing flashbacks with these animated montages.

Percy, Grover, Tyson and Annabeth take a mystical taxicab to Washington DC driven by three blind witches. This was also a highlight as the Beetlejuice cab ride gave a sense of neo-gothic steampunk appeal with the witches, cackling and arguing over the one good removable eye between the three of them. Percy’s dyslexia and ADHD power from the first movie leads him to the hilarious Hermes, who of course is running a UPS store for the gods.

 I’ll just be…skipping along here. Hermes gives Percy a mythical packaging tape gun, which, if used as a prop in a book sounds like a great idea but used practically in a movie settings is just schlock.

Using such classic transportation vehicles as a weird shiny BearCat SeaHorse (a la Neverending Story), a yacht and a Civil War submarine run by zombies, the gang makes its way between Scylla and Charybdis to steal the Golden Fleece from a Cyclops.

The antagonists, lead by Luke Castellan (Jack Abel) are for some such reason trying to unleash the powerful Chronos from his sarcophagus, therefore also needing the Golden Fleece.

As is almost always the case, the gigantic CGI monster Chronos (see This is the End) gets more screen time than the Confederate zombie submarine captain, which is a true shame.

All sort of works out in the end I guess and the magic blanket get to the right cold actor or actress that needs it for some reason or other. Honestly, I was just holding on by a golden thread by the end.

There were some highlights, good action and the brotherly relationship between Tyson and Percy grew on me, as it grows in the story. On the flip side of that coin, Annabeth and Tyson’s forced tension did not serve the story well, as you could tell the whole time she really liked the guy.

Perhaps it is unfair to compare these movies to the Potter franchise, and perhaps the books and movies will get kids into ancient literature and mythology, but these movies are missing the mark—both times. The translation from book to screen is missing something. The screenplay to Sea of Monsters was written by comics guy Marc Guggenheim (Green Lantern-movie, The Flash, Arrow) and unfortunately what may be working for comic books is not working in execution and production for either of his last two films.

Ideally we’d ship all copies of this movie in a big cardboard box at Olympian Postal Service and Captain Mal will let us borrow his mystical tape gun….and they will disappear.

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