Percy Jackson: Sea Of Monsters - DVD Review

'The lingering whiff of Potter is just the start of the film’s problems.'

In many ways, it’s hard not to see 2010’s Percy Jackson And The Lightning Thief as being created with the hope of filling the Daniel Radcliffe-shaped hole that was to appear on the cinematic horizon a year later. In hindsight, however, there are changes and omissions from Rick Riordan’s source novel that were clearly made at least in part to reduce the inevitable comparisons between Percy Jackson and Harry Potter. It therefore seems strange (or maybe just lazy) that Marc Guggenheim’s screenplay for Percy Jackson: Sea Of Monsters would ignore this, often electing to make the Jackson/Potter comparison more apparent than ever.

What this means is that Sea Of Monsters essentially feels like a poor man’s Harry Potter film pretty much from start to finish. Percy (Logan Lerman), along with companions Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario) and Grover (Brandon T. Jackson), sets out on a quest to save the day against the wishes of his Olympian mentors. In case this is sounding all too familiar, that’s because it is. There’s a mystical taxi journey that is incredibly reminiscent of both Chamber Of Secret’s flying car and Prisoner Of Azkaban’s Knight Bus, a ride on a mythical beast that may as well be a tribute to the Potter films’ Hippogriff scenes, not to mention antagonist Kronos who has more than a little in common with He Who Must Not Be Named.

The lingering whiff of Potter is just the start of the film’s problems. The first act is a jumble of hurriedly reintroducing elements left out of the first film, exposition-heavy plot set-up and CGI-heavy action sequences. From there, this soon becomes little more than a less engaging retread of what The Lightning Thief offered. There’s some inventive use of Ancient Greek mythology transposed to the modern day here and there, but matters quickly become a woefully episodic MacGuffin quest that we’re never given much reason to care about. It doesn’t help that this often seems all too easy for Percy and company - two separate fights against fairly formidable-looking foes are wrapped up disappointingly quickly and with remarkable ease. A subplot alongside this involving the group adjusting to the arrival of Percy’s cycloptic half-brother Tyson (Douglas Smith) never becomes anything more than an underdeveloped and predictable moral about prejudice and acceptance.

Director Thor Freudenthal’s film also never gets over the massive cast losses suffered from Chris Columbus’ Lightning Thief. Absent from the first film are the likes of Sean Bean, Pierce Brosnan, Steve Coogan, Rosario Dawson, Catherine Keener and Uma Thurman. All Sea Of Monsters can muster to fill the gap is Nathan Fillion in an all-too-brief cameo and Stanley Tucci as Dionysus, a character omitted from the first film and brought back here to do absolutely nothing of interest or worth. Anthony Head takes over from Brosnan in the role of Chiron but sadly never manages to match the performance of his predecessor.

The performances from the central trio are fine, and arguably better than in their first outing. However, the fact that Lerman, Daddario and Jackson all look too old for their teenage roles already is also regularly quite distracting - if not all that surprising, with the three actors now aged twenty-one, twenty-seven and twenty-nine respectively. At least Daniel Radcliffe made it to around film five before looking a bit out of place.

It’s a shame to say that the Percy Jackson franchise feels as though it’s run out of steam almost entirely only two films in. With a raft of books by Riordan still to be adapted (a third film is already in production with Freudenthal in the director’s chair once again) the best that can be hoped for is that the major problems already materialising in this potentially promising franchise are identified and repaired, allowing the series to move towards something much better than what Sea Of Monsters has to offer.

By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

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