If you read this blog consistently while I have tried, and I hope succeeded, to keep content fresh and diverse. However, as I intimated in this post particularly, I’ve been far less interested in reviewing theatrical releases lately (mini-reviews don’t fall under that category). There’s a certain bit of “FIRST” to it that can be tiresome and doesn’t allow one to reflect. Moreover the more interesting hooks to me to write about lately have been pieces about the films, that aren’t reviews like I did for The Dictator, The Sitter and most recently The Lone Ranger, to name three. It’s easier to write a review at polar extremes. However, this one came about through discussing the films and found me pretty firmly split on and that compelled me to write this. I say only to this to close this introduction: I do not write from a perspective of consumer advocacy but of vocalizing my thoughts and why they are so. If you read between the lines, you can usually decipher if the film may be your cup of tea.
Without further ado, the review…
Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters
Perhaps the best way to encapsulate my thoughts on this film would be to echo the sentiments I tweeted about it the next day and expand upon that. “Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters has highlights that are higher than the first (film) & lowlights that are lower than the first (film); a mixed bag.” I admit that I’m a fairly positive person, or I try to be. I can’t say I didn’t enjoy it, I just didn’t as much as I could have. A higher degree of satisfaction was within reach but there were frustrations and eye-rolling moments to be had.
Due to viewing commitments with different groups of friends I saw the first installment quite a few times and after just one viewing this one already felt more memorable than the initial foray. I don’t recall any really bad failings in the film prior like this one had; yet there were some things that really worked much better than before. Having said that, it’s an uphill struggle to get past all the encumbrances.
Many of the issues stem from the writing: the dialogue is frequently where there are misses. Many attempted jokes are lame but don’t land. There are some good ones. Delivery plays a role. Stanley Tucci has impeccable timing and makes most of his material work, Nathan Fillion’s brief appearance is one of the highlights, Lerman has one great line, which was given the benefitted of my anticipating.
However, these writing concerns are not just limited to the attempts at levity, but also with building character. A lot of the scripting problems lie in characterization of Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario) and Clarisse (Leven Rambin), each has a character flaw we know they’ll work through but each spends half the film repetitiously re-enforcing their one-dimensional attitude regarding their prejudice to the point of cartoonishness.
Another odd aspect of the series made itself evident first in the beginning and crystallized as the film moved on: There is a mystical cab that takes the characters part of the way on their journey. The three “drivers” have one eye among them them and drive recklessly and the cab can split; a clear homage to Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, both the book and the film pre-date this book/film pair. What it underscores is that: while both this and the Potter series deal with subcultures of superhuman beings with the fate of the world in their hands, unbeknownst to mere mortals, there’s an intangible lack of epicness that permeates this world. It’s smart and creative how the mundane hides these things, but it never gets awe-inspiring when the curtain is pulled back. The divested way this series is approaching its subject matter, fronting action first, forsaking character depth and internalized; conflict is undermining it no matter how high the stakes get.
Which brings me to the The CG, which is again hit-or-miss. Overall, it’s likely better than before but while some of the designs are great, but the work isn’t the best, which is unfortunate because that being improved would go some of the way to creating the kind of impact that is being sought here.
Logan Lerman is someone who I’ve twice nominated as Best Actor at the BAMs, in 2009 and 2012. Yet, this series gives him hardly anything to sink his teeth into. He has the one-liner moment and the compulsory scene where he can be emotional but not much in between. The stuntwork in terms of choreography and execution is Grade-A stuff and he had a small part in that, but most of those kudos go to that unit.
I’m not a staunchly anti-voice-over person. However, another misstep was the voice-over at the very end which explained the implications of what just happened and blew the doors wide open for the next installment. Had there not been that voice over and the film left off at the last line of dialogue the ending would’ve been awesome. Yes, awesome. As it stands, it wasn’t.
There are surprises to be had and when things stop needing set-up the film really clicks, pacing is never an issue. The introduction of Tyson (Douglas Smith) is a great addition in terms of character and the performance by Smith. While Freudenthal does fine here anew as he did with Hotel for Dogs and Diary of a Wimpy Kid, the series is sitting in a good place at the end that makes you hope that story and forthcoming director can really ratchet up the franchise to a newer, higher level.
Owing to that fact, I marginally give it a…