Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians books are great fun and wonderfully told stories, but the movie adaptations just can’t seem to hold their own in comparison. Sea of Monsters manages to do a better job than the first in the franchise, The Lightning Thief, but still doesn't quite reach success.
The movie opens with a fairly exciting obstacle course, a giant mechanical bull on a rampage, and a taxi that appears out of smoke and can split itself in half. In fact, the visuals throughout proves to be one of the better aspects of the movie. The story of how Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades destroy Kronos is told through an animation that looks like stained glass and is particularly striking, even if it does slightly resemble the telling of the Peverell brothers’ story in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. But visuals can only take the movie so far if everything else needs work.
The actors aren't wholly to blame for the underwhelming nature of the movie. Many of them have done well in other movies and TV. Logan Lerman (Percy) was excellent in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and Jake Abel (Luke) had a great story arc on Supernatural. And Anthony Head has done everything from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Little Britain, and has even spent some time doing theater work. But they had to work with the script, and that was what caused a lot of the film's problems. There were a few humorous one-liners, but for the most part the script was cheesy and forced. There were even a couple of times when I actually cringed. And yes, it is a story about teenagers who are half human and half Greek god, but the books were never cringe-worthy. That fault lies with screenwriter Marc Guggenheim (who also wrote Green Lantern, which didn’t turn out so well either).
The movie felt very rushed. Rather than telling a story that flowed from one scene to the next, things were a bit choppy. The different stages of the teen demigods' journey seemed like they were cut together without proper transitions, as if they had to move on to the next scene as quickly as possible, even if that meant giving only the basics of the story. The camp is attacked, and then suddently they're in D.C.. After that, Grover is kidnapped. Oh look, now they're on a boat. Then, they're suddenly on a different boat in the stomach of Charybdis. No, wait a minute, look out for the cyclops! Never mind, it's not that big of a deal. Kronos is though, for about a second. Okay, they're back at camp and everything is right in the world. The method left the characters looking rather two-dimensional (a fact that was not improved by seeing the movie in 3D).
The only characters that had any sort of depth were Mr. D (Stanley Tucci) and Hermes (Nathan Fillion), and that had more to do with their performances (however small) than with the script. Tucci had the theater laughing every time he was onscreen, particularly at his inability to remember anyone's names (and that fact that he really didn't care to). Fillion also kept the laughs coming, and Firefly fans in particular will appreciate his line about the best TV show ever being canceled, even if the comparison was unintentional.
The movie feels less like an adaptation and more like director Thor Freudenthal read a summary of the book and adapted that instead. But, as I said, it is a better adaptation than The Lightning Thief, and maybe things will improve even more if The Titan’s Curse is adapted.
If you can get past the cheesy script, Sea of Monsters isn't all bad, just a bit shallow. The depth that Riordan brings to the book doesn't exist in the movie, and that's it's downfall. It goes from potentially being one of the better YA adaptations out right now to just another summer movie that fell short. But it does have its moments, and if you're looking for an entertaining and slightly laughable way to spend your time, there are worse things you could be doing.
Follow Jordyn on Twitter @jordynmyah | Follow Hollywood.com on Twitter @Hollywood_com
More:New 'Sea of Monsters' Clips Prove New York City Cabs Are Chariots of DamnationNathan Fillion Really Rocks a Suit In 'Sea of Monsters' Trailer'Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters': The Battle of Greek Gods Vs. Titans Continues
From Our Partners:40 Most Revealing See-Through Red Carpet Looks (Vh1)15 Stars Share Secrets of their Sex Lives (Celebuzz)
Fear. It is the most base of all of mankind's emotions... next to hunger, and love of puppy-related Internet memes. And although fear is a phenomenon shared by all people, it takes many forms — tangible and intangible. Rational and irrational. Horror movie-inspired and not horror movie-inspired.
Hollywood has been adhering dreadful connotations to otherwise innocuous entities for generations now. In fact, today marks the 30-year anniversary of one of the film industry's most dastardly ruinations: Poltergeist — the movie that made TVs horrifying.
Before Poltergeist, television was the escape from late night terrors. When you found yourself kept up through the morning by a howling wind, creaking floorboard, or the ever-present threat of a forthcoming nuclear winter, you could flick on the television and ease your mind with comforting Nick at Nite reruns. At least that's what I did. Life before the 1990s must have been dark.
And then, Poltergeist found its way into my life. It wasn't my first foray into horror films. By this time, I had endured countless of losses at the hands of the genre. Psycho ruined showers — a particularly trying endeavor for a kid already struggling with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Hausu ruined cats. Carrie ruined my impending teen years.
But Poltergeist crossed the line. I had always turned to my Sears Sanyo to get me through pitch-black anxieties about any approaching doom, in whatever form I had most recently learned that doom was capable of taking. And my imagination was expansive then. I was afraid of everything: birds, dolls, mirrors, the moon, hallways, vampires, my parents, ghosts, my bedroom walls, Grover, snakes, robots, Hulk Hogan. But once my mother had accepted the fact that I would never grow out of needing the television's company through the night, I found my cure. Cartoons and Mary Tyler Moore.
And then — bam! Someone let me watch Poltergeist. A movie that robbed me of the only source of comfort I knew in my childhood years. I couldn't zone out in unblinking bliss at the electronic friend that would tell me stories of gambling-addict cavemen and Minneapolis-based women trying to have it all. Now, my watching hours were laced with a new anxiety. "What if it suddenly turns to static?" I'd think. "What if the ghosts start flying out? What if they're heeere?"
I remember the decadent period of nights with my back turned to the still-on TV set, vying ardently to fall asleep before any sounds of static caught my ears. I remember experimenting with the television turned off for a while... a few minutes, maybe, before the hostile silence began to pierce my brain incessantly. I remember trying nightlights, devising long and elaborate stories in my head, and, out of desperation, actual sheep-counting. But none of it was as effective as TV had been.
I had to devise a plan. I needed my friend back. I missed sleep, and Rhoda. So, utilizing the logic only an emotionally damaged 7-year-old could so adamantly employ, I set out to beat the curse. I sat up one night, eyes locked with the imposing screen of a long estranged comrade, and watched every minute of the after-hours broadcast. I watched Herman and Grandpa Munster search for their lost pet Spot; I watched Murray Slaughter profess his love to coworker Mary Richards; Felix and Oscar got stuck on the subway; Paul Lynde said something covertly sexual on Bewitched. I watched every instant of the all-night broadcast until it the sun shone in through my window, comforting me with enough light to finally drift off to sleep... for the brief half an hour before I had to get up for school. But that didn't matter. I had won the war, and beaten the curse. Television was mine again.
And it would be for the next eight years... until I took it upon myself to join my friends to a late-night screening of The Ring. But by then, the war was easier. We had HBO.
Follow Michael Arbeiter on Twitter @MichaelArbeiter.
Movies That Ruined Our Summer Activities
How TV Ruined the Beach
The 11 Most Bizarre Movie Deaths
Last we heard in last year’s Diary of a Mad Black Woman Madea (Tyler Perry) was solving social cultural and familial problems. What a busy lady! Well she’s done gone and done it again after a whole new crop of problems pop up that need fixing. This time the conflicts revolve primarily around two sisters Vanessa (Lisa Arrindell Anderson) and Lisa (Rochelle Aytes) both of whom are wary of their financial-minded mother Victoria (Lynn Whitfield). Vanessa is deathly afraid to love again after her husband left her and two kids and fears she might’ve met Mr. Right in the form of a bus driver (Boris Kodjoe). Meanwhile Lisa is in a physically abusive relationship with Carlos (Blair Underwood) “Atlanta’s most eligible bachelor ” but is afraid to leave him. Madea the antithesis of gold-digging Victoria solves these and many more problems as the family reunion nears. After Mad Black Woman’s surprise box office take last year bigger names were less reluctant to sign on. Accordingly the new actors in Reunion are very solid—borderline stellar collectively. The lone exception is Perry as Madea (as well as a few other characters) whose over-the-topness although expected reduces the air of professionalism from the rest. Underwood is so damn good at being so damn bad as the abusive fiancée Carlos while Whitfield matches him chill for chill in a very icy performance. The relative unknowns/newcomers are the most pleasant surprises however. Aytes has breathtaking beauty that would normally overshadow acting but not here. Anderson whose last film was ‘95’s Clockers is equally beautiful and evocative as a single mother torn. And for the female eyes there’s Kodjoe whom girls will likely fall for even more when they learn he can actually act. Perry wears many hats in Family Reunion: writer director producer star--and oh yeah he also wrote the popular stage production from which the film is adapted. Perhaps Perry’s workaholic attitude contributes to the film’s thematic overkill. There are a number of kinks in the film’s completely uneven story and the way it is told but perhaps the biggest problem stems from the fact that it still feels like a stage play. Sometimes that’s a plus for a film but it’s hard to think it was intended. This feeling is elicited by the sum of the story’s parts. Perry will be in one scene telling the tale of a beleaguered battered woman amid a linear and conventional storyline and in the next scene become Madea in her cartoonish and campy getup dishing out her tough love techniques. No doubt Reunion is an enjoyable play--only if you agree with Perry’s comedic remedies for serious issues.
In this latest doomsday pic Earth's inner core has stopped rotating a situation that will eventually cause the planet's electromagnetic fields to collapse. If it isn't fixed pronto static charges will create "super storms" that will generate hundreds of lightening strikes per square mile and cause microwave radiation to ultimately cook the planet. Government and military officials conjure up a team of scientists led by geophysicist Josh Keyes (Aaron Eckhart) to travel to the planet's core and get it spinning again. Accompanying them are geophysicist Dr. Zimsky (Stanley Tucci) atomic weapons expert Dr. Levesque (Tchéky Karyo) "terranauts" Major Childs (Hilary Swank) and Commander Iverson (Bruce Greenwood) and Dr. Brazzelton (Delroy Lindo)--the renegade scientist who built the subterranean vessel. Their mission is to travel to the center of the earth to detonate a nuclear device that will hopefully jump-start the core and save the world. Like the "terranauts" grinding their way through Earth's layers to get to the planet's core The Core laboriously plods through the storyline to get to its climax--and both are equally uneventful.
Despite a really corny scene in which he demonstrates what will happen to the planet by torching some sort of fruit on a fork Eckhart (Possession) is believable as the sensible Keyes. Co-star Swank (Insomnia) meanwhile brings intensity to the role of fledgling astronaut Childs. It is Tucci (Big Trouble) however who creates the film's most interesting character the arrogant Dr. Zimsky. The diva-esque geophysicist heads to the center of the earth in style with his Louis Vuitton monogrammed canvas bag and an endless supply of cigarettes--making him politically--and refreshingly--incorrect. You'll love how he pompously records the mission's progress in a Carl Sagan-style narration. Back at mission control D.J. Qualls' computer-hacking character Rat mirrors a recent report describing the characteristics of computer virus writers: Male. Obsessed with computers. Lacking a girlfriend. Aged 14 to 34. Capable of sowing chaos worldwide. Qualls (The New Guy) couldn't be more suited for this digital graffiti artist role.
Director Jon Amiel helps define the film's main characters by weaving vignettes of their everyday lives throughout the first half of the film but so much effort is devoted to exploring their individual backgrounds that relationships among the team members are never established. The minor characters are like extras in a Star Trek episode--they're just onscreen to die. The Core also fizzles as a believable disaster movie because of its flimsy scientific reasoning even if you try to suspend your disbelief for the sake of cinematic "escapism." While I can make myself believe for example that a government-created weapon of mass destruction is to blame for the planet's imminent annihilation I cannot buy into the notion that this high-tech vessel was built by a renegade scientist in his backyard and is able to withstand the rough trip to the center of the earth. Although the film's original November release date was delayed because more time was needed to complete the special effects don't expect to be visually dazzled by the voyage. Most of what we see is what the "terranauts" see on their screen: spotty black-and-white renditions of sharp jagged rock. Scenes of the Roman Coliseum getting zapped by lightening and San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge melting aren't convincing either.