Destiny, friendship, brotherhood, family, and some awesome Greek mythology – what could be better for a family-friendly Saturday night? If you’re looking for a fun time with the kids, or if you’re like me and an adult who loves mythology, Percy Jackson is a demigod you should start paying attention to. Based on Rick Riordan’s incredibly popular Percy Jackson & The Olympians series, “Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters” is the second installment of the film franchise. Percy, named after the Greek hero Perseus, is the son of Poseidon and resides at Camp Half Blood, the only place on the planet safe for children of gods and mortals. There the demigods are protected from mythical creatures that continually want to hunt them down. When their magical barrier is broken by a Colchis bull released by Luke Castellan, Hermes’ son and the antagonist from “Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief,” Camp Half Blood suddenly becomes not so safe and everyone is in danger from the growing threat Luke and other demigods rebelling against their immortal parents pose. To make matters worse, a pine tree that is sacred to the camp, Thalia’s Pine, has been poisoned and is why the barrier no longer works. To get that barrier up and going again, they need the Golden Fleece, which lies on the Polyphemus’ Island in the middle of the Sea of Monsters, known to us non-demigods as the Bermuda Triangle. If Polyphemus sounds familiar, he’s the cyclops Odysseus tricked in “The Odyssey.” When Percy is passed over for the quest and Clarisse La Rue, a daughter of Ares, is chosen instead, Athena’s daughter Annabeth, satyr Grover, and Percy set off on their own mission to get the fleece because part of Percy’s destiny deals with it. Joining the trio on their private quest is Tyson, a cyclops and Percy’s half-brother, a son of Poseidon and a nereid. And as if obtaining the Golden Fleece to save Camp Half Blood and all the other demigod children wasn’t enough, Percy, Annabeth, Grover, and Tyson learn that Luke is planning to unleash a terrible evil that not even the gods of Olympus may be able to stop. While attempting to get the Golden Fleece, Grover is kidnapped by Luke’s cohorts; Percy, Tyson, and Annabeth meet Hermes, Luke’s immortal father, and get some cool gear to help them out; Tyson calls upon a hippocampus for transportation (a type of sea creature, not that spot in your brain); Percy learns he has perfect bearings when at sea; and the infamous Polyphemus is met.
The universe of Percy Jackson is similar to that of Harry Potter. You have teenagers with special abilities going on dangerous adventures that gradually evolve into a part of a bigger scheme. Along the way, you encounter strange creatures, like cyclopes, hippocampi,and Colchis bulls, as well as figures straight out of Homer’s stories and Bulfinch’s Mythology. It’s heavy in CGI but well done, enough that you actually are able to lose yourself some in this fantasy where anything is possible. After all, one of your main characters is a satyr – half goat, half human – and another has only one eye, as he is a cyclops. The fact that the movie was able to make those somewhat believable elements is a win in my book. Like Harry Potter and the supernatural young adult genre, you have to suspend your belief or you won’t find the movie enjoyable. It’s definitely a time to have fun, be a kid, and give into your imagination.
What makes this movie better than the first is that more parts of the camp are explored, the characters are given more depth, and the plot sticks closer to that of Riordan’s book, even though several huge liberties were made. We meet Mr. D, the camp director, who is really Dionysus. Chiron is back as the adult voice of wisdom, and we learn from him about the fall of Kronos (animated beautifully to look like a stained glass window scene); Kronos, leader of the titans, was the father of Zeus, Poseidon, Hades, and several other Mount Olympus figures but was overthrown by his children. The Oracle who resides at Camp Half Blood is also introduced, along with her prophecy regarding Percy, Luke, and the Golden Fleece. Charybdis is the biggest monster Percy and his friends have had to face yet, and, although drawing on “Return of the Jedi” a bit, it’s a tense scene with a very interesting resolution and show of teamwork from an unlikely Percy and Clarisse. Tyson makes a nice addition to the group of Percy, Grover, and Annabeth and adds a new set of invaluable skills, like strength, being fireproof, and the ability to smell other mythical creatures. When Percy, Annabeth, and Tyson meet up with Clarisse accidentally, they find her boat being crewed by “dead Confederate sailors whose lives have been given in tribute to Ares” because “zombies” is just thrown around too loosely these days. Clarisse, though grating at several times, also adds more backbone to the team with her feisty spirit, a nice balance to Annabeth’s sometimes brooding, overthinking nature. Percy develops a bit more through Tyson and finds new strength in himself – and his father – than he had previously thought. Grover is still a stalwart best friend and protector who is great with comedic relief and distractions for the enemy. The deep friendship Percy, Annabeth, and Grover share is the glue that keeps this series together, and, with so many dystopian films out these days, it’s nice to know that friends still matter somewhere. Clarisse and Tyson add interesting elements of acceptance and family. Annabeth has to overcome her hatred of cyclopes, and Percy has to accept that he has a brother. Hanging over Percy’s head is the Oracle’s prophecy, too, and whether or not he will let that control his future or fashion a new one for himself. For our three main characters, we see a nice share of growth for Percy and Annabeth; Grover is already a fantastic character but he’s not given much to work with in the expansion department with this movie. Maybe in the third installment?
IMDb.com rated “Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters” at 5.9/10 stars. RottenTomatoes.com has critics rating the movie at 41% and audiences at 56%. Fandango.com users rated it 4 out of 5 stars. Metacritic.com gave the movie a Metascore of 39 based on 33 critic reviews. If you don’t mind being reminded of the Harry Potter series at time in looking at the crazy, supernatural world in which these teenagers live, and with a few “Raiders of the Lost Ark” moments tossed in, “Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters” is an enjoyable movie that is safe to watch with your kids, your friends, your parents, or yourself. You don’t have to worry about lots of foul language, nudity, graphic violence (some mild violence and blood is in there but is sporadic), and it’s an enjoyable way to forget about your troubles for a couple hours. Just remember to have fun with the movie and let your inner kid out for a change. If you like mythology at all, give this movie a chance, and check out Riordan’s entire Percy Jackson & The Olympians book series. It really is brilliant and fun.
Reprising their roles from “Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief” are Logan Lerman as Percy Jackson, Alexandra Daddario as Annabeth Chase (now looking properly like her book character, as Daddario went with blonder hair for this film), Brandon T. Jackson as Grover, and Jake Abel as Luke Castellan. Some of the new cast additions include Anthony Stewart Head as Chiron, replacing Pierce Brosnan; Stanley Tucci as Mr. D; Douglas Smith as Tyson; Leven Rambin as Clarisse La Rue; Nathan Fillion as Hermes; Paloma Kwiatkowski as Thalia; Ron Perlman as the voice of Polyphemus; and Robert Knepper as the voice of Kronos.
“Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters” airs Saturday, October 25th, at 7pm on HBO. Enjoy!