Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters

By on August 21, 2013

Growing up, my father raised me on a steady diet of Disney movies, fantasy flicks and the like, and I’ve always had affection for the old-school movies featuring stop-motion animation by Ray Harryhausen, who sadly passed away earlier this year. In films like the “Sinbad” series, “Jason and the Argonauts” (with its infamous skeleton warrior sequence, later aped by Sam Raimi in “Army of Darkness”) and the original 80s version of “Clash of the Titans,” Harryhausen brought all manner of beasties to life in a way that is still transfixing and delighting kids years later.

Needless to say, they don’t make ‘em that way anymore, thanks to “developments” in CGI and the like, save perhaps in Tim Burton’s delightful homages like “The Nightmare Before Christmas” and “Frankenweenie.” That style of special effects doesn’t pass muster anymore, unless you’re talking about the occasional appearance on a bad Syfy monster movie, and even then, it’s more likely to be done the new-fangled way, which is equally fake-looking, IMHO.

Though it admittedly kowtows to the CGI gods, I must admit that the Percy Jackson series is one of the few films I’ve seen in many a moon that deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as my beloved Harryhausen flicks. Like those films, it manages to seem dated in a charmingly inept sort of way that makes the films fun in a decidedly B-movie-style vibe.

To be sure, anyone over the age of 12 or so will be able to see the seams showing here and there, but I can’t imagine anyone, male or female alike, not loving this who hasn’t lost their sense of wonder yet, at least if they’re inclined to like this sort of thing in the first place. Yes, I’ll allow that it’s ultimately a sort of second-hand Harry Potter knock-off, replacing witches, wizards and magic with demigods, human-animal hybrids, and Greek mythology, but be that as it may, it’s still a good time if you like the fantasy genre.

What’s more, it’s much more family-friendly than this sort of thing has been as of late, given how dark the Harry Potter series itself ultimately went in the last few installments. There’s nothing too scary here, to be sure, making this the rare film of its type to actually earn its PG-rating. I also like that there’s room for several strong female characters, that the cast is reasonably multi-racial (okay, it’s still a bit Caucasian-heavy, but the first one was even more diverse), and that the film stops short of getting too violent or scary to the point of freaking out the little ones.

Sure, it may come off as kids stuff to some, but there’s a place for that, and it seems like too few people are looking to fill it lately. Some of that might have something to do with the initial rush of post-HP fantasy overload, but now that the field has been cleared somewhat, notably by the end of that franchise itself, I think there’s room for a new successor to the throne. (Though I can’t help but lament it a bit that the “Chronicles of Narnia” didn’t do better at the box office, as I would have liked to have seen that continue as well.)

Alas, this film didn’t have the strongest opening box office in the world, either, and that’s a shame. The down side of these types of films they don’t make enough of anymore is that they’re not going to if more people don’t go out to see them. I suppose the next big one of this type is the forthcoming adaptation of “The Mortal Instruments,” which is a bit older-skewing than “Percy,” with the PG-13 rating to show for it. I’m definitely looking forward to that one, too, but it would be a shame if more people didn’t see this one. It may not be anything earth-shattering, but it’s a fun enough movie.

Also, can any movie with Nathan Fillion making “Firefly”-referencing wise-cracks be all that bad? Or that was directed by a guy named…wait for it…Thor? (I kid you not.) How about one that features among its supporting cast Stanley Tucci (as a drunken Dionysus) and “Giles” himself, Anthony Stewart Head- in mentor-mode, no less? (Yep, that’s two “Buffy”-vets for those keeping count at home.) Did I mention that Alexandra Daddario and Leven Rambin are mighty easy on the eyes as well, for those with more prurient interests? Well, they are!

So, why not show “Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters” a little love, people? The guy could use the support, from the looks of things. My lone complaint would be a warning to maybe go with the 2D version, as the 3D version, which was done post-production- almost always a mistake- is underwhelming, save an impressive finale set at an abandoned amusement park (which was actually filmed at one in New Orleans). Beyond that, it’s a fun enough time at the cinema, especially if you like this sort of thing. I give it a solid B.

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About Mark Trammell

Mark Trammell is the resident entertainment critic at UAB, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where he is also a Graduate Student and does a vid-cast movie review show. He is a life-long fan of films and has a pretty whacked-out, all-over-the-place movie collection that would give most sane people pause. He loves horror movies and Disney flicks and isn't entirely sure there is a difference. He one day hopes to put his money where his mouth is and inflict his own perverse vision on society, entirely so that he can tell people who ask: "If you think you can do better, why don't you make a movie yourself?" to shut up.
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