Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters (PG)
Directed by: Thor Freudenthal
Starring: Logan Lerman, Alexandra Daddario, Brandon T. Jackson
Running time: 106 mins
In order to restore their dying safe haven, the son of Poseidon and his friends embark on a quest to the Sea of Monsters to find the mythical Golden Fleece while trying to stop an ancient evil from rising.
The sequel to Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief has been a three years coming (although it feels much longer curiously) and very little has changed since the end of the first movie where this one picks up. Percy (Lerman), Annabeth (Daddario) and Grover (Jackson) are still best friends and living in Camp Half-blood (a forest where magical beings are safe from the outside world) and, as always, Harry, sorry I mean Percy, has people out to prove that, despite saving Olympus in the first movie, Percy isn’t the saviour some believe him to be, this time in the form of new face Levan Rabbin as Clarisse. Same old same old in magic town.
However, things are soon shook up when it’s revealed that Percy is not the only son of Poseidon (played in the first movie by Kevin McKidd) and it seems he has a half-brother in the form of Cyclops Tyson (Douglas Smith). On top of all this an old enemy has returned to destroy Camp Half-blood and all those that live there in a quest to resurrect the original titan and all-round devil Chronos. Don’t worry – just go with it.
While the original Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief was a fun trip with likeable characters steeped in a clever update of greek mythology – it covered much of the stuff we know from childhood – The Hydra, The Medussa, centaurs, demons – and did so with aplomb. So much so that, even as a grown man watching a kids movie I wasn’t afraid to say I enjoyed the trip and the mythology, however, sadly, the sequel feels decidedly lacklustre in comparison.
Part of what mad the first movie so strong was the cast. Aside from the principal teen actors, it was laced with clever and enjoyable cameos and performances from Pierce Brosnan, Kathleen Kiner, Rosario Dawson, Uma Thurman, Sean Bean and Steve Coogan, all of whom were clearly having fun and kept the movie going during the duller parts. They are all missing here and while Stanley Tucci, Anthony Head and Nathan Fillion (yes, he does get a Firefly gag in) are all fine, they feel like they are there merely to distract from the fact that this movie didn’t have the budget to spend on the cast from part one and instead lets the young leads carry the movie and, while they are a likeable bunch, the movie suffers from it. It sort of feels like all the best characters were done in part one and now barrel scraping has already begun.
It’s hard to say why exactly it suffers so much. Perhaps because this time out the threat doesn’t feel as urgent – the first movie was a race against time to save the world from a war of the gods, this time they chase each other on boats. The mythology too is there – why Camp Half-blood is protected is explained although it makes little sense. Percy’s Cyclops brother too is merely thrown in without any real explanation but rather a throw-away line about what he is is expected to cover all the ground. And the brotherly bonding and Annabeth’s dislike for him is all quite awkwardly handled – but it doesn’t feel as intricate or interesting as it did first time.
But there are high points (Ron Perlman’s cameo is fun): the action scenes are well handled and the leads all feel pretty comfortable in their roles now. However, if handled better, given the mythology and stories they draw from, they could easily have been the next Harry, Ron and Hermione but sadly it’s more a case of audiences asking ‘Percy who?’.
A disappointing follow-up to a fun original, everything is present here but it just feels dull but I still hope it does well enough to get a third movie. However there will need to be a serious improvement next time out.
On a side note, my four-year-old and seven-year-old both loved it, scared and excited in the right places, they were truly along for the ride, that said if the third one doesn’t up its game it’s questionable if, like Harry Potter, it can hold on to its audience from first movie to last. Kids are less forgiving that we are.
3 out of 5 Nerds