Endless Exposition, Lack of Humor Doom Percy Jackson Sequel
- Wednesday, August 07, 2013
DVD Release Date: December 17, 2013
Theatrical Release Date: August 7, 2013
Rating: PG (for fantasy action violence, some scary images and mild language)
Run Time: 106 min.
Director: Thor Freudenthal
Cast: Logan Lerman, Alexandria Daddario, Brandon T. Jackson, Douglas Smith, Leven Rambin, Jake Abel, Stanley Tucci, Nathan Fillion, Paloma Kwiatkowski
Let's face it: It's not exactly easy to wow the masses when you're constantly being compared to a series as universally loved as Harry Potter.
But with its fun, modern spin on mythology, Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief, based on the best-selling children's books by Rick Riordan, managed to beat the odds. A modest hit in theaters nearly three years ago, the clever, fast-paced plotting not only kept the viewer guessing, but The Lightning Thief was also packed with relatable characters, especially Percy as the misfit kid who learns he’s the son of Poseidon. Talk about having daddy issues.
Unfortunately, most of what made The Lightning Thief such an unexpected delight is curiously absent from Percy's latest chapter, Sea of Monsters. Not only is the second installment jam-packed with banal CGI fighting that's become far too commonplace in modern cinema, but without a cursory knowledge of the characters' respective backstories, any newcomer to this series would be completely lost.
Now that I think about it, even someone familiar with the particulars of Percy's world won't fare much better. For whatever reason, the filmmakers didn't bother with the "tedious" art of character development, so the audience is never given much of a reason to care about Percy (Logan Lerman, The Perks of Being a Wallflower) or his fellow half-bloods Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario, Hall Pass), Clarisse (Leven Rambin, Chasing Mavericks) and Grover (Brandon T. Jackson, Tropic Thunder), or their quest for survival.
Right from the start the film is all business: Camp Half-Blood, the place where extraordinary demigods like Percy find refuge from the naysayers and camaraderie in being "different," is in danger. When the mystical tree that provides protection from dangerous outside forces begins to die because of Luke (Jake Abel, The Host) the no-good son of Hermes (Nathan Fillion, Much Ado About Nothing), Percy and his cohorts are immediately tasked with finding the mythical Golden Fleece, which apparently restores safety to their wooded home.
Not surprisingly, obtaining the Fleece isn't the easiest of tasks since it's located in the scary Sea of Monsters, and this quest is what consumes most of the film's running time. There are a few flashes of brilliance in the finer details—for instance, the scene where the quick-witted Fillion plays the modern-day Hermes as a UPS delivery guy; or the teenagers' zany taxi ride to Florida where the drivers are three scary women who've got one working eyeball between them—but most of what's happening feels pretty inconsequential and dull.
Because the lead actors aren't given much (besides green screen) to work with, especially in terms of meaningful dialogue, it's not surprising when none of them, including Lerman, light up the screen. Worse yet, any attempts at comic relief, particularly the running joke of Percy's recently discovered half-brother being a Cyclops, fall spectacularly flat. That's right: in nearly two hours there's nary a laugh, and when a storyline for the younger set is this serious, there'd better be a compelling reason.
Sadly with Sea of Monsters, there's just not. As fascinating as the idea of Greek mythology making its way into the modern world is, the lack of execution in a story that's worth telling is what makes Sea of Monsters such a drag. It's safe to say that all comparisons between Percy Jackson and Harry Potter will come to a screeching halt...
CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers):
- Violence: One of Percy's friends dies early on when Camp Half-Blood is invaded. While mostly bloodless violence in the fantasy genre vein, there are some intense sequences that involve choking, stabbing, a rather menacing, fire-breathing bull and explosions. Some of the monsters are pretty frightening, especially from a younger child's perspective. There's also some bullying depicted.
- Language/Profanity: A couple of exclamations of God's name. Da--, he--, as- are used on occasion. Sometimes the characters will stop just short of a profanity, i.e. what the —.
- Sex/Nudity: No sex or nudity. A monster thinks Percy's friend Grover is a girl, so Grover keeps up the charade to ensure his survival by wearing a dress and flirting with him in a girlish voice.
- Drugs/Alcohol: None
Christa Banister is an author and full-time freelancer writer, specializing in music, movies and books-related reviews and interviews and is the author of two novels, Around the World in 80 Dates and Blessed Are the Meddlers. Based in Dallas, Texas, she also weighs in on various aspects of pop culture on her personal blog.
Publication date: August 6, 2013
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