So my brother and I went to the cinema to sea Percy Jackson and The Sea of Monsters the other day. We’d both tremendously enjoyed The Lightning Thief when it came out and despite the fact that the sequel had a trailer that had left me a little disinterested (although I watched it too long ago to remember what it was exactly that failed to grab my attention), we decided that it was worth giving it a shot.
I wouldn’t say that I wish I hadn’t, because overall the movie was fun, but it was nothing on The Lightning Thief. Firstly, PJatSoM seems to take forever to get started: we get a bit of background story that seems crammed hastily at the beginning of the movie to justify what is going to happen for the rest of the movie. I don’t have a problem with details of exposition being brought in when relevant, but I just don’t think the movie handled it very well (and as I have no idea how the books handle it, I’m going to leave them out of this).
Needless to say, I didn’t get hooked from the start. So when we see the inhabitants of Camp Half-Blood competing on some kind of crazy gauntlet machine, I perked up a bit. Percy is as awesome as ever, showing off his skills as a Half-Blood quite happily. But then enters Clarisse, daughter of Ares, and a complete and utter bitch. Clarisse was painful as a character through the movie. She is trying to be a tough girl, showing off as the daughter of Ares and instead comes across as a swagger-full bitch. Again, I don’t know how she is in the books, but I would have rather seen the daughter of Ares a proud and parading ‘peacock’ with more than enough skills to back up her attitude. Instead it just looks like she has something to prove and she was all the more less likable for how she was.
Clarisse aside, the first re-introduction to the cast made me want to slap them all up the head (apart from Grover, he was still as he always was): Percy is on a one way train to moping about how he isn’t the hero everything thought he was, about how he hasn’t won a tournament since be saved Olympus. Granted, with his father forever silent, I’ll give Percy a break for how he’s feeling, especially as he more than pulls himself together later on.
Annabeth however was, well, disappointing. Daughter of Athena, Annabeth seems to have lost her bite: from an amazing fighter in the first movie, she seems to get relegated to the sidekick role of the nearly-girlfriend who seems to focus simply on being the daughter of the Goddess of wisdom instead of the daughter of the Goddess of wisdom AND war. I wouldn’t have been surprised if the Annabeth from the first movie could have given Clarisse a run for her money, whereas this Annabeth just seemed all too ready to let others do the fighting. Where was the girl who kicked Percy’s butt when he first got to Camp Half-Blood? Where is the girl who tried to take on Medusa and gave even Luke a hard time? It felt that since Percy ‘got the girl’ she no longer needed to be so strong willed or warrior-like. And I didn’t like the implications of that one bit.
Then we get Tyson, Percy’s half-brother who also turns out to be a Cyclops, which isn’t going to win him any friends at Camp Half-Blood. Tyson could have been great, if they hadn’t played the comedy aspect of his character to DEATH throughout the movie. I really wanted to warm to him but they really made the character into little more than comic relief half of the time. It was frustrating as hell.
But when the tree is poisoned, Clarisse sent on a quest for the Golden Fleece and our heroes decide to follow her, the movie still doesn’t
feel like it has fully started. We get an awful scene in a taxi driven by the Fates that seem a painful rip-off of the nightbus and then an even more painful scene involving Hermes, UPS and a pair of talking snakes. Nothing really happens, apart from Grover getting kidnapped rather lamely.
Finally, once we have escaped the hell that the scene with Hermes was (it wasn’t funny, the snakes were annoying and why the hell is Hermes CHUBBY anyway???), we get a bit of action when the party gets onto Luke’s boat in an attempt to rescue Grover. There, they discover that Luke is trying to resurrect Kronos and obviously Grover is nowhere to be found and they all get caught. Cue an awesome scene of Percy controlling the water to rock the boat so he can get hold of one of the artifacts Hermes gave him. It would have been an awesome scene if Percy hadn’t seemed to be so powerless until that point. Heck, they’ve been on a boat the entire time and only now he realises he can use his powers? It didn’t really add up.
Follows on the rest of the story, which gets far more awesome from here onwards despite a couple of really frustratingly patronising bits that only Hollywood could deliver in that way. But it does have its awesome moments of great heroism although it felt incredibly lacking
versus what the first movie had to offer.
Overall, The Sea of Monsters just didn’t really deliver for me. It wasn’t a patch on The Lightning Thief and seemed to patronise viewers far more than its predecessor. The characters seemed somewhat flatter and the adventure, well, far less adventurous. Also, why did they change so many of the actors? Chiron, Hermes, and I’m sure there was someone else whose actor got changed which seemed really weird and akward
Then there is the little (well, maybe not so little) detail that bugged me through the entire movie. I am a fan of Greek myths: I spent my childhood reading them and yes, I have even read the Odysseus (even though that was years ago and I only remember bits of it). But what I do remember, is where it’s all supposed to take place. There are many names in those myths and in the book that refer to real places around the Mediterranean, places with strange history that our ancestors explained away with monsters and gods. Ulysses journey takes him around the Mediterranean, thrown about by the winds and the wins of the sea. But The Sea of Monsters places the familiar creatures in the Bermuda Triangle.
I can wrap my head around how some more mobile creatures from Greek mythology would have wound up in American, but placing all of Ulysses foes somewhere in the Bermuda triangle just jarred. These things wouldn’t have just randomly moved there and the fact that the movie itself mentions the fact that Ulysses dealt with some of those things just makes it jar even more for those who know the original story (also, Ulysses, I am convinced, left the Cyclops blinded, so perhaps mentioning that part of background history would have been better done in another way).
All in all, Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters is definitely a movie I could just as well not have seen at the cinema, or seen at all and I wouldn’t have missed anything. The only good thing that came out of the endeavour was a mightily tasty hot-dog and a desire to start reading the books.
Edit: Since I started typing this blog post I ended up looking into the books. There are no words but how much both movies absolutely slaughters them and I can’t even imagine how the fans of the series must be feeling about it. Really, Hollywood, is following written instructions that damned hard???