Friday, January 10, 2014

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters. A Review


Wrath of The Titans: Junior Edition...

After Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief bombed both at the box office and critically, I figured we were through with the tales of the demi-god Percy Jackson, the bastard child of Poseidon and a mortal.  Little did I count on Hollywood's total dearth of ideas, for now we have Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters (I guess the budget couldn't afford them 'The Olympians' to attach to the title).  The second in Richard Riordan's rip-off...I mean, reimagining...of the Greek myths (out of five), Sea of Monsters brings us yet another tale where mythology is both dumbed down and just dull to watch. 

We get a flashback to set up the story.  Long ago, well, actually four years ago, four campers at Camp Half-Blood (the summer camp for bastard children of randy Greek deities) was attacked, and one of the campers, Thalia, was killed.  No worries, for as the illegitimate daughter of Zeus she has a handy way of surviving (sort of): he turns her into a tree whose power provides a shield for the entire camp.  We then move on to the present day, where Percy (Logan Lerman) is still struggling to think of himself as a true hero.  Despite his actions in Lightning Thief he still has doubts, doubts amplified by the, for lack of a better term, bitchy Clarisse (Leven Ramblin), daughter of Ares, God of War.  Only Percy's friends, Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario), daughter of Athena, and Grover (Brandon T. Jackson), a satyr/Percy bodyguard, believe he has the power to be a true hero.  Watching over all our bastard campers is centaur Chiron (Anthony Head, taking over from Pierce Brosnan) and "Mr. D." (Stanley Tucci), who is a bit too fond of the sweet booze (if you know your mythology, you should know what the 'D' is for). 

Percy has many issues.  Mr. D doesn't remember his name (wonder if Percy started singing Mr. Cellophane when cleaning up at camp) and the father-son chats he has by the water's edge never get a reply (I'm guessing because they couldn't talk Kevin McKidd to reprise his role of Poseidon, but that's just a guess).  Now he gets an even bigger shock: his slutty father has given Percy a half-brother.  Even more shocking, it's a Cyclops, Tyson (Douglas Smith).  Unlike other Cyclops, Tyson is extremely sweet, wanting only to bond with his brother Percy, who does not return the affection.

No time to worry about things like other love children, for Camp Half-Blood has been attacked.  The protective shield provided by Thalia has been all but destroyed because someone has poisoned the tree, putting Thalia's life in danger...again.  The villain, Luke (Jake Abel), the son of Hermes who had been defeated in The Lightning Thief (btw, he was the Lightning Thief in case you were curious).  Only the Golden Fleece can save her.  The Fleece is within The Sea of Monsters, known to us Muggles...I mean, Mortals, as the Bermuda Triangle.  To seek it out, the adults decide these demigod teens/tweens are the perfect ones to do so, and they choose...Clarisse.

From Browncoat to Brown Short

Somehow Percy and his group end up going on their own, and things take a more dangerous turn when Grover is abducted by Luke and his minions, a satyr being needed for the search for the Golden Fleece.  They seek help from Hermes himself (Nathan Fillion), who runs UPS of all things.  He gives them both advise and tools to help them in their quest.  Eventually they do manage to enter the Sea of Monsters, and meet up with a frustrated Clarisse who found herself stuck inside the belly of a monster.  Tyson stumbles and bumbles his way into everyone's hearts, and the ultimate battle for the Golden Fleece begins.

Luke wants it so as to resurrect Kronos, the Titan who swallowed his own children to stop them from taking over.  Now Luke will take his revenge on the Olympians through the 'enemy of my enemy' thinking.  Of course, things don't turn out the way Luke hoped.  The campers do manage to defeat Kronos and bring the Fleece back with them.  Percy has grown to love Tyson, and Thalia is revived in a most unexpected way: rather than remain just a tree, she returns in human form, and now that prophesy of the last living child of one of the three main gods (Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades) takes on a new turn...and the possibility of a sequel.

I am not particularly bothered that Sea of Monsters opted to suggest we will get yet another Percy Jackson film, given that there are three more books in the series (The Titan's Curse, The Battle of the Labyrinth, and The Last Olympian).  I just hope that if we are infected with more Percy Jackson films, they aren't as boring as this one.

I'd say that just about everyone looks bored, knowing that they have to fulfill a contract.  Lerman (whom I'm on the fence about being a good actor or just someone with a film career) was particularly disinterested in the goings-on.  Jackson had the added misfortune of being made the default 'comic relief' (the scenes where he's evading another Cyclops by donning drag being less funny than the film thinks and actually more sad).  Daddario didn't look interested either, and frankly the only one who looked like he had energy was Smith.  Part of it may be because he was a new character and not wrapped up in keeping what had come before, and part of it I suspect may be because he was the only character allowed a personality.

The adults weren't any better.  Head and especially Tucci did what they could with the underwritten parts (courtesy of Marc Guggenheim's adaptation), but they were never a big enough part of the story to matter all that much.  That does lead me to a question on logic: when Half-Blood is being rampaged by a mythological bull, where were the adults?  Fillion had fun spoofing his cult status; he comments on a thermos from a fictional show, Hercules Busts Heads Season One, then wryly comments that it was the best TV show ever, so of course it was cancelled.  Wonder what he was referring to?

As amusing as that might have been to the Firefly fans (sad to say that, like most of America, I skipped the show), Thor Freudenthal could never integrate it successfully into the story (I half expected to see Fillion turn and wink at us to let us in on the 'joke').  There were more unintended moments of comedy (when we see Kronos' sarcophagus, I thought they had raided the prop room of Raiders of the Lost Ark).  There really is nothing for us to care about either the characters or their situations.  The threat isn't interesting, the characters one-note (doubting hero, bright potential love interest, cheerful half-brother, comic relief), the visuals try too hard to make it interesting to cover up the fact the story isn't, and I really can't see the fans of the Percy Jackson books thinking this was what they had in mind when they read them.

I figure Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters is an inoffensive way to waste a couple of hours, but for those of us who genuinely love Greek/Roman mythology, for whom Edith Hamilton's Mythology was Essential Reading, it is really a sad commentary on modern readers that these magnificent stories have to be whittled down to a series of stories about a rather dull kid and his equally dull friends.

We're contractually obligated to make
MORE Percy Jackson films?!


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