News Column

Review: 'Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters' is all wet

August 8, 2013


Aug. 08--When it was announced that there would be a sequel to "Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief," my thought was that the series of books on which the first film was based possesses all the elements to be a successful and downright fun film franchise.

The problem: The first movie wasn't very good.

My thought was also that the filmmakers hoping to create a unique world for this young-adult title would make a better movie the second time around -- rather than a worse one.

The first film was merely too often uninteresting; "Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters" is all wet.

Where did they go wrong? It would be easier to answer where the filmmakers went right with this film based on Rick Riordan's mega-popular mythology-based books about Percy -- think Perseus -- as the modern-day teen and demi-god (half-human, half-god) son of Poseidon.

I can say that as a filmgoer, I was bored and irritated. So was my teen daughter, a big fan of the books and currently re-reading the entire set.

"That incident doesn't even happen," she told me.

"That doesn't happen until the final book," she said of another moment. "That part they changed and now it doesn't make any sense," she offered.

The movie seems to be unique in its disregard for both fans of the novels as well as newcomers to the story, in that it is so often unfaithful to the source material, while at the same time using story details from the books without explaining them sufficiently, leaving me -- as a non-reader of the books -- asking my daughter repeatedly: Who's that? What's that? Why is that important?

It's not that the film is complicated. But characters and concepts are introduced with little to no background, which makes for a frustrating experience.

Sure, exposition can slow down a film's pacing, but the action here moves at a sloth's pace anyway.

Young star Logan Lerman, fresh off his excellent turn in "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" last year, returns as Percy. He first learned of his half-god heritage and used his powers to, you know, save the world as well as make some new Olympian-variety friends, like Grover, his high-school best friend who's actually a satyr (half-goat) and Percy's protector on Earth.

Now Percy is trying to figure out his place in the world (the second book is Percy "trying to find himself," my daughter tells me), and Lerman looks like he's still in confused/depressed "Perks" mode. The guy is a downer who might smile once in the movie.

Whatever the subtext of his character, the filmmakers seem to have misplaced their priorities. For a movie, Percy must also be our guide on this journey of adventure. For scenes like the quest for the golden fleece of lore (for its restorative powers) that requires swashbuckling action in the "sea of monsters," we need a young man of action, not a teen we wouldn't follow anywhere.

Lerman is a victim of low-energy filmmaking as well. Director Thor Freudenthal and screenwriter Marc Guggenheim ("Green Lantern") seem to think the style for PG action is to be non-threatening, but amid an ocean of summer movies that scream "intensity!" this movie feels like the soft-rock version of young adventure tales.

Then there's special-effects that look done on the cheap. Then there's the creatures of myth that too often look like they are done up in Halloween rental costumes.

The speculation is that filmmakers are already planning to make a film based on the third book in the series, "The Titan's Curse," but consider that to be a sure thing: "Sea of Monsters" may be a franchise-slayer.

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters

Cast: Logan Lerman, Alexandra Daddario, Brandon T. Jackson, Anthony Head, Nathan Filion

Theaters: (3-D) Cinemark Tulsa, Promenade, Cinemark Broken Arrow, Starworld 20, Owasso, Sand Springs (2-D) RiverWalk, Eton Square

Running time: 1 hour, 46 minutes

Rated: PG (fantasy action violence, some scary images and mild language)

Quality: One and a half stars (on a scale of zero to four stars)


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