Saturday, August 10, 2013

Theatrical Review: Percy Jackson- Sea of Monsters


Date: August 10, 2013
Location: Pocono Movieplex
Time: 11:55am
Party: 2 (my sister and I)

Director: Thor Freudenthal ("Diary of a Wimpy Kid")
Type: YA, book-to-movie adaptation, sci-fi/fantasy, adventure

Length: 106 minutes (+3 previews)

Percy Jackson- Logan Lerman
Grover Underwood- Brandon T. Jackson
Annabeth- Alexandra Daddario
Clarisse- Leven Rambin
Luke- Jake Abel
Tyson- Douglas Smith
Chiron- Anthony Head
Mr. D[ionysus]- Stanley Tucci
Hermes- Nathan Fillion
Polyphemus (voice)- Robert Mallet


2 new, 1 old

The third preview was for "Catching Fire"... the same I saw during "Now you see me"... not that I mind seeing another trailer, but I heard that they released a new one recently.
(Btw, they just announced the other day that "Now you see me" is getting a sequel... to which I say, just as long as it still includes the four horsemen and Mark Ruffalo, I'm a happy camper)

First up was for the next installment of "The Hobbit" trilogy.
And it looks like Orlando Bloom is back to resume his role of Legolas

Then was the sequel for "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs".
I hadn't seen the original yet, but I dunno, there was something awfully intriguing about it. Supposedly the main character and a couple other people are going to find themselves in a land of creatures made of food.
I'm sure if my dad say it, he'd immediately blame it on drugs, as he does with a lot of things that don't make sense.
But they had a monster called "Taco-dile Supreme... apparently a killer taco.

I'm sorry, but that sounds AWESOME!!

...I wouldn't go as far as say I'm attracted by shiny objects, but I get a real kick out of the little things in life. Things that, by definition, are just "crazy enough to work" for me.

For the record, we were the only ones in the theater until at least 10 minutes into the movie. One or two people who brought a kid.
You hardly noticed they were there.

Faithful to the Book? Not So Much

Based on the look of trailers, I thought my greatest worry was that the movie wouldn't have the same feel as "The Lightning Thief." Heck, the slow motion and special effects looked like they might be a little goofy, as if they were thrown together like a cheesy Syfy Channel original movie.

Way back when "The Lightning Thief" was coming to theaters, I bought the first book and thoroughly enjoyed it. Much to my chagrin, I was unable to find "Sea of Monsters" for several months because, apparently, everyone else had the same idea. I did pick up "The Titan's Curse" and "Battle of the Labyrinth," but refused to read them until getting the next book in sequence.
Being a huge fan of Greek mythology, I devoured the book series.

I haven't reread the books since, so I knew there was a lot I wouldn't remember about this story.

In the long run, it will affect my rating somewhat because I like movies to be close to their work of origin.
While "The Lightning Thief" made a handful of chance to key plots points (the 2nd pearl's location being at Nashville rather than the St. Louis Arch; the lightning bolt coming from Luke's shield instead of Ares' backpack; Grover staying behind in the underworld instead of Percy's mom; location of the final battle scene occurring AFTER returning the lightning bolt)...

The only things in "Sea of Monsters" true to the book were the surprise ending, the origin of the barrier protecting Camp Half-Blood and the location of the Golden Fleece. Most of the time, they hit the right locations, but different things happened.
Almost as if this Thor Freudenthal dude didn't want to follow the book at all.

But after rereading the synopsis of the book on Wikipedia, I'll probably end up giving it up to "apples and oranges."
I will like certain things in both versions and pick and who did it best.

A Word for the Cast

With one exception, all the key players returned for this movie.

Pierce Brosnon was replaced by Anthony Head as the centaur camp leader Chiron. (It was a little odd, but kinda nice, to see Mr. Head in a nicer role. Unlike [the future King] Arthur's father in the BBC series "Merlin"... the ending of the series is still very bittersweet after all these months).

But the so-called "star power" was restored by casting Stanley Tucci as Mr. D (a.k.a. Dionysus). Don't get me wrong, I love me some Tucci. He's a great guy, but I didn't think they needed him just for the sake of having a professional actor on set.
The way I remember Mr. D in the book, he was scrappier, feistier and copped a helluvan attitude. Instead, they have him wise-cracking, not fully remembering names and passing off Annabeth's suggestion to find the Golden Fleece as his own idea.

Did you really need to play into that cliché, guys?

I didn't get why Alexandra had to dye her hair to play Annabeth. Was she described in the book as being blonde? Didn't they think the continuity would have been nice between the movies?
Although I love the character Tyson in the movie, I can't help but feel he was nothing like that in the book. I certainly don't remember him having any degree of eloquence in his speech.

I will, however, give a nod to two newcomers:
Leven Rambin as Clarisse- I mentioned her briefly in my "Hunger Games" review. Again, really cool to see Lily Montgomery ("All My Children") in such a strong role.
...although I can't shake the feeling that all the props Clarisse got for all her quests was added just to make her Percy's biggest demigod rival...

and Nathan Fillion as Hermes...
sure, they didn't introduce him as a jogger on the beach, but after taking a minute or two to take everything in, I had to agree their method worked just as well.
The only negative I can draw was that he was only in ONE scene in the entire movie...
I'm a HUGE fan of "Castle," love that show.

I tacked Robert Mallet at the end there because he played the 7-foot tall Blackwood henchman Drudger in Guy Ritchie's "Sherlock Holmes"... good performance here as well, even if it is just his voice doing all the work.

The Story

Spoilers ahead... unless of course you read the book

No matter how many ways they mistepped or took liberties and whatnot, what ultimately matters is that they kept to the main points.

  • Percy finds out he has a half-brother, Tyson, who is a Cyclops
  • We find out that Luke and Annabeth arrived at Camp Half-Blood under attack and their friend Thalia died in the altercation. Zeus turned her into a tree, which powers the barrier, protecting the camp from humans and enemy mythological creatures.
  • The Golden Fleece is the only thing that can save Thalia's tree, which has been poisoned
  • Clarisse is chosen to go on the quest, but Percy, Annabeth and Tyson make their own way
  • They meet up with Hermes, who gives them gifts to get them to the Sea of Monsters.
  • They arrive on Polyphemus's island where they rescue Grover and retrieve the Golden Fleece
  • Luke and Percy have another third act battle where Percy's party eventually comes out victorious.*
  • The Golden Fleece not only heals the tree, but revives Thalia
*The battle worked out completely differently
In fact, it had me worried that they'd completely resolve the plot here and they wouldn't bother with the rest of the movies.

But seeing as it's made so little at the box office so far, I'm a little worried about whether they'll get the chance... "The Titan's Curse" was my favorite book in the series.

I suppose they needed the finale to be so big and pull out all the stops, but they went too far in certain places. Especially with the clichéd "almost ending" of Annabeth getting killed by the manticore... really wasn't necessary.

Part of a review on Wikipedia comments that it is CGI heavy and there are "worse sequels"... another commented that fans will be unhappy with liberties taken like with the original.

Not entirely true. I accepted, often gladly, the differences between "The Lightning Thief" and its source material. They didn't take nearly as many liberties as they did here.

Final Words

By the end of the movie, I'd taken my grain of salt and accepted that some of the differences made for just a good a story. The mythology shook out the way it should have and in some areas, they were quite clever with the storytelling.

Like the idea of Hermes, messenger of the Gods, running a UPS-type business and also loved the fact the two snakes on his staff, the caduceus, had personalities.

oh sorry...

lol... even if I only took one class in college, I pride myself on knowing quite a bit about Greek mythology.
But every now and then, I double-check myself to be on the safe side.

What else can I say?
I did have fun watching the movie, had a good time getting back to some great characters I enjoyed reading about, and hopefully I'll get to see more of Thalia along with Apollo and Artemis in the film adaptation of "The Titan's Curse."

As a fan of the book- B
The movie itself- A-
Total- B+

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