PG. For some reason, Percy Jackson got a free pass when a bunch of other stuff didn't. Again, it all comes down to the target audience. There's a lot of scary monsters in the movie. There's regular violence involving kids. There's an evil villain who is a kid. Let's wrap our head around that. Okay, he's a teenager, but still. But the language is pretty tame and the violence is fantasy. I'm a big advocate for the PG rating, but I wish it was just consistent. PG.
DIRECTOR: Thor Freudenthall
Okay, when I wrote about Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, I thought that people were nuts for hating that series. I thought it was way better than people gave it credit for. In my mind, it came down to people-who-read-the-books and people-who-saw-the-movie and I supported the film for being what it was. Okay, I take it back. I can see why people don't like these movies. I'm so sorry to everyone involved in this movie. I'm sure that there was an attempt to make the best product possible. After all, you have Stanley Tucci and Nathan Fillion in your movie. There was at least a degree of fan service happening in this movie. But there's a lot that's really messed up about the sequel to this film.
At one point in Hollywood, and I'm sure that this is still going on today, there was the logic that YA property was considered instant gold. Everyone wanted that sweet Harry Potter and Twilight money. But then, YA franchises were being scrapped midway through the series. There would be films that would introduce other films that would never happen. Listen, I haven't seen any of the Divergent movies, mainly because I'm not into YA at all. But it's really weird that you treated these films like they were episodes of television. I think Sea of Monsters is what happens when there's writing on the wall. The first Percy Jackson film wasn't exactly held high as an example of what someone could do with a YA franchise. It made its money back and it was a recognizable property, but mega-corporations only deal in sure-fire wins. Look at Spider-Man 3. That movie financially crushed at the box office, but it didn't make the money that the studio wanted it to make. Sea of Monsters reads as a movie that had one chance to succeed or else it would have been cancelled.
As a guy who watches a lot of media, I'm used to stories being truncated to suit studio needs. It was a thankless job being a lukewarm Chuck fan. I enjoyed the show. My wife and in-laws loved the show, but I enjoyed it. But one thing that was always abundantly clear was that the show was constantly on the chopping block, at risk of being cancelled. As such, every season finale always felt like a potential series finale. Sea of Monsters had to be so great to keep the franchise going and I think it knew that it couldn't guarantee that success. So what did it do? It tried to be both a season finale and a series finale. I haven't read the books. My daughter has. She's mildly obsessed with them and has re-read all the entries time-and-again. She told me while the film was going on all the stuff that happened in future books. There are a lot of moments that really don't fit in this story and even as someone who knows nothing about the book series could guess, there are moments that are both a mix of fan service and as a means to tell a more important story than the one that they were dealt with.
Because that's the vibe of Sea of Monsters as a whole. There's movie that I could just not get into with this one. The story starts off with this rivalry which is actually pretty interesting character wise. Percy lives in a world where saving the world at least once is commonplace. That's fascinating to me. Knowing that, even after this epic adventure, that he's still a small fish in a big pond is kind of cool. But after that, the movie is lost on me. There's the attempt to get the Golden Fleece, which seems really in the wheelhouse of a modernization of Greek mythology. But there's a lot of story that has a "who-cares" element to it. It's really hard to find the empathy to feel bad for a tree. I know that sounds cold, but I think everyone involved in the story is also aware of the weirdly low stakes that is involved with trying to save a tree. The story attaches all this meaning to the tree. The tree is keeping Camp Half-Blood safe from outside forces. Okay, that's a point in its favor. The tree also used to be a person. That's all stuff that is imbuing this tree with traits that it normally wouldn't have.
But even when we are told all of this, we have no emotional connection to the tree. I can see why Annabeth would have some kind of attachment to this tree. It makes sense for her. But the rest of us only got to experience the tree-not-as-a-tree in a quick flashback at the beginning of the film. The Fellowship of the Ring starts with this history of Middle Earth to establish the importance of the One Ring. If the story was involved helping one of those people, it wouldn't have the emotional weight to carry a lot of the story. We're told that we should care about these characters despite the fact that they haven't been attached to Percy in any meaningful way.
There's something that the Percy Jackson movies really want to do right and that's not necessarily working. I hate to say that the Fast and the Furious movies might actually be doing something better here, but the focus on family seems to be a running motif throughout these stories. I really don't want to throw Rick Riordan under the bus because I know that he distances himself from these films. But it almost feels like all YA protagonists have to be orphans with a struggle for finding their parents. There's a bit too much Harry Potter with this element. But it seems like everyone has daddy issues in these stories. As such, we get kind of a Dawn situation from Buffy the Vampire Slayer thing happening. The movie injects this artificial tension between Percy and Tyson, Percy's newly discovered half-brother. There could be a real story there, but Percy seems really cool with it from moment one. So there are all these beats that are indicating that there's a conflict that really isn't there. Instead, we get this weird Cyclops racism thread with the story.
I'm not crazy to think that Annabeth's hatred for the cyclops people seems kind of forced? She has this absolute fear of the cyclops people after they murdered her friend and she turned into a tree. (These are things that I write about instead of hanging out with my kids.) It's gotta be some kind of complete blindness towards the problem they are trying to address, but in a movie that addresses racism, they replaced the one Black character with a white guy. There's all these elements to this movie that seem like they want to be bigger than its parts. But again, this feels very much like every season of Chuck. When you don't know if you'll be back, you throw all these disparate elements in the movie and none of them feel fully fleshed out. Is this a story about family? Is this a story about being cool with staying out of the limelight? Is it a story about racism? Or are we dealing with the larger mythology of the Percy Jackson series.
The thing is, I really wanted to like this movie. I loved being one of the few people who dug the first movie and I thought that I could be the hipster who loved Percy Jackson. But instead, there's a lot of stuff that doesn't allow me to grasp onto anything. There's a part where a lot of characters are straight up eaten. It straight up gets silly and boring at the same time. There's something kind of magical about the first movie. All of these elements seem so cool and unique. But this one treats magic as commonplace. It's got some Lost World: Jurassic Park vibes with "We've seen this before." I don't know. I can see why they didn't make anymore, but I think it's one of those self-fulfilling prophecies. Since they knew that they might get cancelled, they threw everything in. But if they didn't throw everything in, they might not have gotten cancelled.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.