Lina Benich ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Editor
If trying were succeeding, then Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters would be a hit. The movie is full of humor and heart, trying (perhaps a little too hard) to make the series the great franchise phenomenon of The Hunger Games or Harry Potter. The movie stars Logan Lerman and Alexandra Daddario, with a host of other co-stars, who collectively try to make this one better than the last. In 2010 the first of the book series’ adaptations, Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, seriously underwhelmed fans and critics alike. Now three years later, Sea of Monsters is attempting to rethink the way they approach Rick Riordan’s young adult series, with mixed results.
But first, the premise. Percy Jackson (Lerman) is experiencing a mediocrity-complex in the aftermath of his great, world-saving feat of last summer, and his friends Grover (Brandon T. Jackson) and Annabeth (Daddario) try to buoy his spirits despite mean, tough-girl Clarisse’s jabs (Leven Rambin, who you might recognize as Glimmer from last summer’s Hunger Games). When the camp’s protection is threatened by resurrected bad guy Luke (Jake Abel), Clarisse is sent by the camp to find the Golden Fleece (yes, that Golden Fleece). Percy, Annabeth, Grover, and Percy’s Cyclops half-brother Tyson (newcomer Douglas Smith), embark on their own ragtag quest to catch the fleece first, thus beginning their journey.
That is the gist of the plot, but the first problem about this movie to arise is the story itself. It’s too bogged down with extraneous characters and subplots to keep everything straight. There’s a side note about prophecies and Annabeth’s dislike of Cyclops among other things, that give the characters more to work through but also pulls the audience in a hundred different directions at once. Often I felt I needed to see the movie three more times to understand all the different nuances and stories colliding.
This isn’t to say it wasn’t a good movie. I thoroughly enjoyed it. The action sequences were fascinating (well worth the extra money for 3D, let me tell you), and the sweeping aerial shots blew me away.
In the spirit of “let’s begin again”, none of the first movie’s adults were back. None of them. Anthony Stewart Head (of Buffy and Merlin fame) joined the cast as Percy’s centaur mentor Chiron, replacing Pierce Brosnan from The Lightning Thief. Similarly, Stanley Tucci replaced Luke Camilleri to join the cast as Mr. D, or as Mythology knows him, Dionysus. These two carried the beginning of the movie while the teens are still at camp, giving the movie a lightness and humor in contrast to the teens’ angst. Tucci particularly brought comedy through a running gag of wine turning to water, with a jab or two at Christianity’s reversal of this habit.
Like Head and Tucci, Nathan Fillion (Firefly, Castle, and Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing) has a fantastic guest role as the messenger god Hermes. In Riordan’s spirit of reinventing Greek Mythology, the teens find him running a UPS Store. After the drama of the previous scene, Fillion brings his signature humor and swagger to the role, even sticking a Firefly reference, looking into camera as he does. That kind of self-aware or self-deprecating humor was prominent in the movie, and familiar to fans of the book who love Book-Percy’s sardonic sense of humor.
In the end, that’s precisely what Sea of Monsters achieved: a humorous homage to Riordan’s books. It’s an adaptation that takes you away on a grand adventure with the promise of many, many jokes. It is by no means a direct adaptation, and by no means a deep adaptation that pulls on your heartstrings, but it was humorous, action-packed fun.