When Percy Jackson And The Olympians: The Lightening Thief was released in 2010, the adaptation of the first book in the fantasy series by Rick Riordan found itself amidst a host of other similarly themed, teen-oriented fantasy adventures. And while it didn’t stand out among the pack, it apparently did well enough to for all involved to do something many of those other films did not do – move forward with adapting the next book in its series. The result, Percy Jackson: Sea Of Monsters, is a serviceable and enjoyable enough film in its own right, though like the original, it too does not attempt to aspire to anything greater than that.
Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman), son of the Greek god Poseidon and a human mother, has been living at Camp Half-Blood, a home for teens with similar half-divine parentage, since his last adventure. Even though he saved the gods of Olympus from going to war amongst themselves, Percy is still having trouble fitting in with the other children of the gods. When the mystical tree that protects the camp is poisoned, Percy isn’t even assigned by camp director Dionysus (Stanley Tucci) to quest for the Golden Fleece to heal it. Percy and his friends Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario), the satyr Grover (Brandon T. Jackson) and Percy’s recently discovered cyclops half-brother Tyson (Douglas Smith) set out on their own to retrieve the Fleece and solve the mystery of who is behind the attacks on the camp.
Fans of the book series will notice that Marc Guggenheim’s script distills much of the action of the original book down to a point that is detrimental to the film, shedding some plot points and combining others. The result is a story that is fairly straightforward with no real twists, turns or surprises. While Percy and his companions are racing against the ticking clock of the dying tree, there is nothing that ever reinforces that dwindling deadline or turns up the suspense on the proceedings further. And while there are a few sequences that attempt to inject some energy into the proceedings, the movie ultimately just ambles along to its conclusion.
That isn’t to say that the film is without its charms. For starters, Sea Of Monsters is not as po-faced as the king of the teen fantasy genre, the Harry Potter franchise, is. Although Percy and his friends are on a harrowing adventure and they have their own internal struggles to overcome, director Thor Freudenthal (Diary Of A Wimpy Kid) never lets that overpower the film, keeping things from getting too dour. There’s a great cameo that I won’t spoil here but which is sure to delight a particular segment of genre fans, particularly with one or two of their lines metatextually winking at them. The film also has a lot of goofy fun reinterpreting Greek mythology through a modern day lens, whether it be how the messenger of the gods Hermes spends his time these days, the way the cyclops Polyphemus lured potential meals to his island or a multi-armed barista, The nature in which Zeus irritation with Camp Half-Blood director Dionysus plays out is also a subtle joke worth watching out for.