Copyright © 2013 by 20th Century Fox
Set after the events from the first book, Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman) is still trying to cope with life and training in Camp Half-Blood. Other than his heroic turn in his previous escapade, he has been merely average in camp and is constantly undermined by the more superior Clarisse La Rue (Leven Rambin), the offspring of Ares. When the camp’s protective force is weakened, guarded by Thalia, daughter of Zeus who was preserved as a tree after sacrificing herself in a prior incident, the trio consisting of Percy, Grover (Brandon T. Jackson) and Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario) decide to save the poisoned tree by setting out on a journey to retrieve the Golden Fleece which is powerful enough to cure and even resurrect anything or anyone it comes into contact with. Meanwhile, Percy learns of another imminent doom approaching concocted by an old foe that requires the fleece’s magical properties as well.
When it was announced that the follow-up to ‘Lightning Thief’ had been green lit to grace our screens this year with a new director, screen writer and supporting cast, I was fairly optimistic that the outcome should be better than its predecessor. After all, ‘Lightning Thief’ was enjoyably fun and successfully paved the way for subsequent adventures to come. The gross taking may not have been as gargantuan as anticipated for its first outing but under the reins of Thor Freudenthal who previously helmed another book-to-movie franchise, ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’ from Fox as well, the producers are definitely hoping for the tide to turn.
While the earnings are still not final, it is expected that ‘Sea of Monsters’ will outperform the original (although US takings are significantly lower). For fans of the books, it is a sign to rejoice as the next chapter of Percy’s life has been set for a 2015 release. I really do hope that third time is a charm for this flagging series as the best I can say about this sophomore effort is its juvenile fun. When we were first introduced to Percy, we got to know about his medical condition and how it affected his overall well-being. This was followed with many well-known Greek legends, all carefully placed throughout the film to keep it staying afloat.
The novelty for this concept is infamous Greek mythologies are given a modern spin which was the strength in his previous quest. It is not only lacking in the sequel but what makes it even more unmemorable is the introduction to too many original and inconsequential characters. The ones who do stand out, Clarisse and Tyson (Douglas Smith), their character expositions are still under developed and feel forced. Just on appearance alone, Tyson, Percy’s one-eyed half-brother especially, could have given the much needed emotional core to an otherwise very hollow film. Another missed opportunity is on Jake Abel’s main antagonist, Luke who emerges only in a handful of scenes does not resonate enough for the audience to believe his rage towards his father and motivations for unleashing a force of terror into the world.
The saving grace for this feature comes only from seasoned character actors Stanley Tucci and Nathan Fillion who do not disappoint in their comical but brief interpretations as Dionysus and Hermes respectively. So heavily underused, their scenes are by far the best in the movie. If more screen time has been allocated for Hermes to reconcile with Luke, it would have provided the quieter moments reminiscent to Percy’s unresolved daddy issues a while back. As the entire story hinges on Percy to once again save the day, Lerman’s take on this underdog this time around is more self-assured and expressive than he was three years ago.
If only the rest of his fellow young actors could follow suit, the sequel could have turn a notch higher artistically and not relegated to just a cash-grab from the powers-that-be. It does not help either that the action sequences feels like they are too hastily conceived and the overall scope of the climax is not befitting of an epic battle with the King of Kings. A word of advice, less is always more; so instead of barraging the audience with lots of CG to conceal its inadequacies, why not present a better written and polished script to justify its leap to the big screen? You do not need any Golden Fleece to heal its ‘sickly’ state. What it needs is an auteur to zap the series right back on its Olympian track.
Rated PG for fantasy action violence, some scary images and mild language