‘Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters’ is Driven by Myth

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CHICAGO – Although on the surface, the Percy Jackson stories may seem like Harry Potter rip-offs, the use of a mythology theme and a slyer sense of humor does give them some distinction and life. It also provides several moments of unintentional laughs in “Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters.”

One disadvantage of the Percy Jackson series is that it always has to introduce itself. Their concept is so daunting, that it takes a bit of time to process. Percy Jackson is the half-human, half-god son of Poseidon. He goes to a “camp” populated by other demigods to learn divine skills. So far, so Potter. But it is the explanation of all the relationships in the camp that is somewhat batty, and they’re given exposition with bursts of mangled dialogue that must connect a relationship to some Greek god, and at the same time what power is derived from them. This is the type of information that is easily forgettable, which creates a choppiness to the film. However, the series also has a good sense of humor, winking at the camera often and making fun of the very hyperbole associated with being the sons and daughters of gods.

Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman) is the half human/half god son of Poseidon, going through his training at Camp Half-Blood. His allies at the camp include Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario) and Grover (Brandon T. Jackson). The force field that protects the camp is falling apart, and it is found that the tree that controls the field – possessed by a former student named Thalia who was killed protecting the camp – is dying at the same time.

Stanley Tucci, Logan Lerman
Mr. D (Stanley Tucci) and Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman) in ‘Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters’
Photo credit: 20th Century Fox

The gang of teen demigods want to go on a mission to obtain the Golden Fleece, which contains healing powers. This is complicated by a one-eyed Cyclops named Tyson (Douglas Smith), who claims to be Percy’s half brother. He tags along on the mission, which includes the god Hermes (Nathan Fillion), the villainous Luke (Jake Abel) and an adventure in the Sea of Monsters.

The Percy series has a lot of explaining to do. Several of the characters do Aaron Sorkin-like “walk and talks” to explain who they are, what they do and what Percy has to do next. And those explanations drop out of their mouths in garbled and unnatural rhythms, such as “I’m Tyson, son of Poseidon and a Cyclops, but I’m a good Cyclops and want to meet my half brother Percy.” All the exposition of character and story run like this, and lead to now-who-is-this-what-do-they-do style questioning throughout the film.

This film is also an example of the law of diminishing returns for use of computer generated special effects. How the human characters interact with the effects give a nice indication of how much sitting around and waiting on green screen sets the actors had to do. Everything just comes out stiffer in films like these – dialogue, movement and connection – and in Percy the intimate one-on-one scenes worked much better than the confrontation moments with whatever monster or obstacle the keyboard jockeys had conjured.

There was some good casting, though. The good versus evil boys, Percy vs. Luke, have a great chemistry through two movies. Logan Lerman, who proved himself so aptly in last year’s “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” has a nice casualness as Percy, with less overkill than Daniel Radcliffe’s Harry Potter. Jake Abel relishes his villain role, which makes it more savory. The reliable Stanley Tucci (Mr. D) adds some nice comic relief, and gets to wear another cool hairpiece to cover his balding pate.

Douglas Smith
Watery Equine is a Horse of Course: Tyson (Douglas Smith) and Friend in ‘Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters’
Photo credit: 20th Century Fox

The women in the film were unusual. The girls at Camp Half-Blood were divided between the ambitious shrew Clarisse (Levin Rambin) and the doey-eyed Percy lover Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario). Daddario also had a different look in this film as opposed to the first one, it seems that this production wanted to slather more make up on her and emphasize certain parts of her body – it was a bit unsettling. It was a reminder of the old “Saturday Night Live” sketch in which Lindsay Lohan plays Hermione in a Harry Potter take-off, coming back to Hogwarts with a shiny new adolescent-formed body.

Finally, Percy does have a good sense of humor about the greek-god-in-modern-times element of the story, even if some of the laughs were unintentional. Jokes about Hermes’ occupation, his snake companions, taxicabs and Cleveland kept the film on its toes. The film needed less walking and talking, and more of the “gags of the gods.”

“Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters” opens everywhere on August 7th in 3D and regular screenings. See local listings for 3D theaters and show times. Featuring Logan Lerman, Alexandra Daddario, Brandon T. Jackson, Stanley Tucci and Jake Abel,. Screenplay adapted by Marc Guggenheim. Directed by Thor Freudenthal. Rated “PG

HollywoodChicago.com senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

By PATRICK McDONALD
Senior Staff Writer
HollywoodChicago.com
pat@hollywoodchicago.com

© 2013 Patrick McDonald, HollywoodChicago.com

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