My fascination with the Percy Jackson series started four years ago, when a younger Matt and his friends went to the Cinemark Theatres in Rockwall, TX to see The Watchmen. A preview for Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (which I still believe today to be the longest title in the history of cinema) came on. As I watched the previews, I couldn’t help but feel excited about this upcoming movie despite the fact that I had never even read a page of the books. Three hours later, I was in a Barnes and Noble buying all of the books and delving deep into the mythological tween world that is Percy Jackson and the Olympians. One year and five books later, I was excited when the first movie came out. However, I soon realized that this entire movie was a crowded mess of Hollywood A-listers in some metaphorical passing of the torch movie. Cinematically, it was a great film. However, Fox Studios couldn’t touch the story written by Rick Riordan.
Fast forward three years later, to a time where movie production companies such as Summit and Lionsgate are making movies so close to the books that Kristen Stewart is somehow a star and television networks are trying to make a more humane Hunger Games. I had an understandably optimistic expectation for the second movie in the Percy Jackson series, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters.
It immediately starts by trying to play catch up with audience after the debauchery of storytelling from the first movie, beginning with a competition against the campers where Percy (Logan Lerman) is competing against the finally introduced Clarisse (Leven Rambin). Clarisse is the daughter of Ares, the god of war, and she pulls it off exceptionally well with the constant ribbing with Percy. Next, we are introduced to the camp leader, played by the exceptional Stanley Tucci, and to the camp counselor, played by Anthony Head, who replaces Pierce Brosnan in that role. Tucci plays Mr. D, or Dionysus, a god who becomes banished from Mount Olympus after getting a little too familiar with a nymph that Zeus had his eye on. His punishment is to lead the camp while staying sober the whole time, which creates a lot of laughs. Head brings a renewed sense of wisdom and leadership to Chiron, the centaur, which his predecessor failed to accomplish. These were three elements that the first film missed that I still believe it desperately needed. Needless to say, I was very happy to see those in this movie.
Later, the camp is attacked and that’s when things start to become a little questionable in the plot department. After the battle, while Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario) and Grover (Brandon T. Jackson) are trying to solve one problem, Percy decides to figure out the overall plot line of the entire series, which left the audience slightly confused as to what the real priority was. It was as if the writers and the director watched the first movie, read the second book, were confused, and went back to the first book. When it came time to figure out the story, it seemed as if they weren’t sure where to insert certain events that should’ve been laid out from the previous movie, so they figured they’d just insert it in between the problem of how to save the camp and finding the Golden Fleece, which seemed to demean the debacle in progress.
Throughout all of this, a new character named Tyson enters the mix as a half-blood who just happened to find his way into camp. In the books, Tyson is this big mass of a kid cyclops who meets Percy while in school before they get to Camp Half-Blood. He is a simple guy who just wants to help Percy and his friends in any way he can. He’s a bit shy and clumsy but altogether lovable. The movie version of Tyson (Douglas Smith) is a scrawny kid with an awful haircut and an even worse CGI’d eye. This version seems confident and strong but at the same time, acts like an idiot. There is a moment in the movie where they are using this enchanted bottle given to them by Hermes to navigate through the Sea of Monsters, and he just drops it in the water for no reason, turns around and says, “I should’ve held on with both hands.” After a rolling of eyes, the group pushes on. It made me think that he was a double agent of sorts, and I’ve read the books! I could even hear the audience in the theater getting tired of him toward the end.
Through all of Tyson’s actions comes another plot line of how Annabeth hates cyclopses. In the book, this is established and you actually understand and care about her reasoning. In the movie, they reveal why she has this distaste in the middle of the story, which made it seem almost like an afterthought and didn’t hold as much weight as it should have.
When the team of Percy, Annabeth, Grover, and Tyson leave camp, they run into the god Hermes (Nathan Fillion), who provides a fresh take on the messenger god. He had a lot of funny lines in a movie where most of the other jokes seemed to fall flat. I ended up wanting to see more of Fillion but that seems to be the general consensus for everyone. Hermes ends up helping them on their quest for the Golden Fleece and to find their old nemesis, Luke (Jake Abel), who is also looking for the Golden Fleece. I’ve always enjoyed the character of Luke, a demigod who is always one step ahead and able to convince anyone to join his cause to overthrow the gods. He doesn’t disappoint in this movie.
Later, when the team arrives at the Sea of Monsters, the action really starts to pick up and is a lot of fun to watch. I did enjoy the monsters that were created and the evolution of Percy’s powers. However, when the group made it to the actual island where the Golden Fleece was, it had been turned into this weird broken down amusement park, which seemed like a lame twist. This island was supposed to be lush with wildlife and vegetation due to the power of the Golden Fleece but I didn’t get that. When they met and fought Polyphemus, I actually thought they did a decent job in defeating him and getting the Golden Fleece. However, the last battle against Kronos and Luke was probably one of the better moments of the film. The CGI was great, the battles didn’t feel forced, and I didn’t find the end to be predictable. The final sequences leading to the end did a really good job of setting up the next movies in the series, if they are made.
In the end, looking at the movie as not a fan but as a general moviegoer, there were some good highlights to this film. While the additions of Stanley Tucci, Nathan Fillion, and Anthony Head were my favorite parts, this wasn’t a star-centric film. I could see that the director sincerely wanted to tell a story. I understand that in every book to movie adaptation the writers must take realistic liberties, but when movies like Twilight and The Hunger Games are hugely successful, there are no excuses anymore for not following the book. Granted, the creators learned from some of their mistakes, but as a fan of the book, it just didn’t feel like enough.
If you are looking for a good family adventure film, I would recommend it. If you are a fan of the books, you will probably be disappointed.
My Rating: 5 out of 10.