Review: ‘Percy Jackson: Sea Of Monsters’ Starring Logan Lerman, Stanley Tucci, Nathan Fillion & More

Review: 'Percy Jackson: Sea Of Monsters' Starring Logan Lerman, Stanley Tucci, Nathan Fillion & More

You really have to be careful
with these young adult franchises. “Harry Potter” managed to lock up
participants for what became an annual entry in the series, as audiences
watched these kids grow into functioning young adults. That franchise knew the
value of time; three and a half years later, we have the second film in the
Percy Jackson” saga, and the cast is comprised of college-age kids playing
much younger versions of themselves, and embarrassed to do so. “Percy Jackson:
Sea Of Monsters
” is most interesting because of what it can’t help being: a
too-late sequel years after the zeitgeist, clearly the product of a lowered
budget and adjusted expectations following a not-well-received first picture.
Keep the flame, Percy. Keep the flame.

Logan Lerman returns as Percy,
the son of Poseidon and a skilled manipulator of water, budget permitting. At
the film’s start, he’s at a camp for the offspring of the gods, essentially
Hogwarts Village. Because he’s the only living direct descendant of a God, he
remains important enough to have his own prophecy to fulfill. Plans are in
motion to resurrect Kronos, a literal God-eater who spawned Zeus, Hades and
Poseidon and will rise again to bring about an apocalypse. The MacGuffin is a
golden fleece that Percy must find before fellow demigod Luke (Jake Abel,
giving off strong Kevin Bacon vibes) uses it to bring the monster back to life.

Because Poseidon was a grabby
sort, Percy also learns he’s got a half-brother from a nymph mother, the
cyclops Tyson (Douglas Smith). This shaggy-haired simpleton simply appears out
of nowhere, sporting snazzy shades to hide his ocular deficiency. Though his
real shortcoming seems to be his clumsy oafishness and bumbling comic relief
attributes; never fear, because he’s a Swiss Army Knife for plot purposes,
disappearing and then returning in times of need, with lines like, “Cyclopses
are fireproof.” He seems like a product left over from the books, a series
penned by Rick Riordan so tailor-made for the fanbase, that the first film was
essayed by “Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone” director by Chris Columbus, who
retains a producing credit this time around. Tyson, inevitably, is just another
special effect.

Percy and Tyson embark on the
quest for the fleece, joined by capable Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario) and wisecracking
Grover (Brandon Jackson). Despite receiving second billing, Jackson is absent
for the entirety of the second act, victim of a kidnapping that’s almost as
undignified as the CGI hoofs he sports as a satyr. Jackson gives a performance
that suggests an undeniable disdain for the material, as if he knows he’s the
film’s token minority, looking like a sideshow distraction while he props up
another white kid fulfilling another white kid prophecy.

Their trip takes them to
random locations across the U.S. (all shot in Canada, natch), where we are
meant to surmise two things: they’re being watched by shadowy agents
everywhere, but are also surrounded by a number of people with god-like powers
who are able to keep them secret from the general public, because magic. One of
them includes Hermes—played by Nathan Fillion, bringing a Bruce Campbell-esque subversion to this small part—reimagined as a Q of the God-world, dispensing wisdom and
gizmos under the guise of being a lowly postal worker.

Lerman’s Percy remains an unlikely
lead character for a big budget fantasy film. The screenwriting rule is
steadfastly followed, with Percy Refusing The Call and shying away from the
mission at hand. But there’s no real appeal to this character: over two films,
they’ve simply tossed a series of trials at him to see how he’d react. Here,
even the camp (run by a boozing Stanley Tucci) selects a different representative to seek the fleece, super-capable snob
Clarisse (Levin Rambin). The film is vaguely self-aware, enough to give the
girls of the story enough to do, but not enough to acknowledge that Clarisse’s
snippiness makes her loads more interesting, and eventually more capable, than
our reluctant hero, even with the attractive Rambin’s one-dimensional
performance. By the time Clarisse’s ship
rescues Percy from the Sea of Monsters (a ten minute detour that has no
relation to the plot, but seems dictated by the title), you would hope someone
would force this weak-shouldered fake hero to take a backseat.

Like all cheap sequels, “Percy
Jackson: Sea Of Monsters” closes at a typically-cheap location: an abandoned
theme park. Fortunately, whatever locations the production couldn’t afford,
they made up with special effects sequences. The little action in ‘Percy
Jackson’ wouldn’t be out-of-place in a superhero film, which is to say it’s
mostly functional, and sometimes quite diverting. A limber robotic bull
transforms and flips through one early sequence, a standout moment that has the
chaos and invention of clever animation. And the realization of Kronos tops the
same moment in “Wrath Of The Titans,” as the creature lumbers by foot, slowly
falling apart and reforming as he stalks, as if powered by gravity. Of course,
there isn’t much diversity at play here; it’s telling that this Kronos
conceptually doesn’t look much different than the one in ‘Titans.’ In
blockbusters, one size fits all. [C-]

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Comments

Karbabe

It is sad that they've failed to project the real magic these books have. I started reading Percy Jackson after I finished the Harry Potter series. The books are much, MUCH better than the movies. I remember walking out of the theater after Lightning Thief just feeling cheated. They completely changed the story and didn't pay attention to detail. I was hoping they'd fix things for the second movie.

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