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.
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