Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters review (Blu-ray)

A young person of magical background must go to school/camp with other magically gifted teens, and go on adventures, encountering mystical creatures along the way. Sound familiar? No, I’m not referring to Harry Potter, but the Percy Jackson series. If that description sounds as though I was drawing a sweeping conclusion based on the premise of the franchise, despite not having read the books – or seen the first film, Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief – well then, you would have been correct. Until I saw Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters.

Percy – son of Poseidon, the God of the sea – and his fellow demi-gods are living at Camp Half-blood when they are attacked by Luke, son of Hermes, who is trying to resurrect Cronos, the evil former ruler of Olympus. The attack breaks a protective barrier around the camp, set up by Zeus after a Cyclops kills his daughter (who he turns into a tree) which leads to Percy and his newly-found Cyclops half-brother Tyson, and his friends Annabeth and Grover, plus a competing team headed up by Clarisse, daughter of the God of War, going in search of the Golden Fleece (which is weirdly somewhere off the coast of Florida) to bring the tree back to life, and restore the barrier, while also preventing Luke from using the fleece to restore Cronos and doom them all. All the while Percy is suffering from a lack of self confidence, which is only reinforced by finding out an ancient prophecy which may or may not predict his role in the fall of Olympus.

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters is a surprisingly fun film. I expected a mess of a film trying to carbon copy the Harry Potter formula and transpose it on to the characters of Greek mythology, and while it does borrow liberally from that formula, it is very much its own beast. This film is never going to win any awards, and it is hardly chock-full of surprises, but it moves along at a good pace, with plenty of impressive action scenes (including a couple where the 3D is really well used) and enough interesting, if not slightly predictable, twists in the tale. The tone is always kept light, even when there are moments of peril, and it makes for an entertaining family film.

The acting is something of a mixed bag. At times Lerman is somewhat wooden as Percy, really offering very little, and Jackson really isn’t given much scope beyond his one-dimensional dialogue to show his acting chops. In contrast, Daddario is excellent as Annabeth, evoking inevitable comparison to Emma Watson’s turn as Hermione in Harry Potter (although perhaps with a slightly softer edge) and Rambin excels as Clarisse, being able to maintain a mixture of cockiness and likeability, even when she is being obnoxious, in a very measured performance. A special mention should also go to Abel as Luke, who is able to remain cold and calculating, with just a trickle of emotion in everything he does – playing an effective, yet emotionally damaged villain, and at points channelling Kiefer Sutherland’s role as David from The Lost Boys at times, without ever overacting the part.  

Despite all this, the shining star of Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters is Fillion – who, in a five-minute cameo, completely steals the show. He even manages to reference the criminally short-lived yet universally loved TV Series Firefly. I won’t say more, but his performance here just goes to show how good Fillion is, doing so much with such a small part and leaving such a lasting impression.

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters is a pleasant surprise, taking the legends of Greek mythology and updating them for a modern, young audience. It is an engaging an enjoyable film, and although it has its flaws, and is somewhat predictable at times, it is a film that will entertain audiences young and old. You might say it was “de-lightening-ful”.

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Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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