Directed by Thor Freudenthal
Starring Logan Lerman, Alexandra Daddario, Brandon T. Jackson, Anthony Head, Stanley Tucci, Nathan Fillion
Any foray into the Young Adult fantasy genre is going to fall under the long shadow thrown by a certain bespectacled boy wizard. This was certainly true of Percy Jackson: The Lightning Thief, as it told the tale of a boy drawn into a world of magic to fulfil his destiny, the difference being he is the offspring of a Greek God rather than a mage. Sea of Monsters continues his saga, but still struggles to break free of comparisons.
This second adaptation of the popular series by Rick Riordan begins with Percy feeling like a ‘one quest wonder’. As the safety of Camp Half-Blood is threatened he embarks on a quest with his companions to retrieve the legendary Golden Fleece from its resting place in the Sea Of Monsters.
Percy is serviceably played by Logan Lerman, but the character seems flawed by a lack of agency, rarely actually achieving much throughout the adventure that bears his name. The other returning cast also fare poorly, with both Alexandra Daddario and Brandon T. Jackson getting little to work with in terms of character development. Fortunately, the two newcomers to the franchise, Douglas Smith as Percy’s Cyclopean half brother and Leven Rambin as the daughter of Ares and Percy’s more successful rival, make the most of the screentime they are given and provide more engaging performances than the leads.
The older cast members fare better. Anthony Head, replacing Pierce Brosnan, treads familiar ground in the mentor role, albeit on four hooves, as the centaur Chiron. Stanley Tucci’s performance almost steals the show as the wonderfully slap-dash Mr D, a wine obsessed deity cruelly cursed by Zeus. However, he is given a run for his drachmas by geek god, Nathan Fillion, who gives a remarkably confident and charismatic performance as Hermes.
Although somewhat engaging as a romp, this film’s flaws ultimately prove to be its Achilles’ heel. Percy’s aforementioned lack of agency is central to many of the issues. True, this touches on the theme of his self doubt, and it may play better in the overall hero’s journey of the saga. However in a standalone piece he rarely seems to achieve anything without either being forced into it or being saved by another. As such, Percy seems a puppet of fate no matter how much he proclaims mastery of his own destiny, and just meanders from one set piece to the next. Sure he victoriously overcomes adversity, but the threat never seems more convincing than an end of level boss in a computer game.
More an occasionally entertaining tall tale than a heroic epic, Percy Jackson: Sea Of Monsters never quiet breaks free of the walls of Hogwarts to become its own beast.
_ DAVID O’CONNELL