I remembered almost nothing about the first Percy Jackson movie that came out as I approached the sequel. All I remembered was that I kind of liked it, but if quizzed on the plot or who was even in the film, I wouldn’t have known. I didn’t even remember that the first film was even successful enough to warrant a sequel carrying on the big screen adventures based on Rick Riordan’s popular young adult series of novels. Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters is more or less the same thing, but on a lower scale. It’s still pleasant enough family entertainment that won’t be remembered for very long, but won’t be regretted if watched.
Teenage Percy (Logan Lerman), son of Neptune God of the Sea, remains at the special camp in the woods designed to protect and train the demigod children of Olympians sired from humans. He’s having a few personal crises. He thinks he’s lost the shine that made him special and his questing abilities are called into question. His dad still won’t talk to him, and now he apparently has a Cyclops half-brother (Douglas Smith) who is really friendly, but looked down upon since he’s of feared heritage. When Percy’s previous nemesis Luke (Jake Able) turns out to not be dead after all, he sets out on a new quest (that he’s not technically assigned to thanks to a prophecy naming him directly) to retrieve the famed Golden Fleece with his friends Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario) and Grover (Brandon T. Jackson). Percy wants the Fleece to heal the tree that protects the camp from outside forces, while Luke wants to use it to resurrect the Titan God Kronos to crush the Olympians once and for all.
Director Thor Freudenthal (taking over from Chris Columbus) continues in the same sort of Harry Potter aping that made the books and the previous film such a success, and he’s clearly doing a lot more this time with a lot less at his disposal. The set pieces are kept to a strange minimum. The titular Sea of Monsters is glimpsed for maybe about three whole minutes before moving on to something else that could have been filmed cheaper on a sound stage. There’s even a portion where everyone seems to be hanging out on a really modest look yacht. There’s definitely a reason for them to be there, but it seems strangely out of place and somewhat cheap. And yet, it ends with an incredibly ingenious chase and fight sequence on board that’s actually the best part of the film. I haven’t read the books, but the ending at an abandoned amusement park on a far off island seems both a bit strange and still not exploited to its full potential.
It’s that kind of unpretentious charm and top notch work within those constraints that make the film absolutely charming, and the returning cast of primary characters bring a considerable amount of likeability. Lerman is still an engaging hero and one of the best young, working actors today. Daddario and Jackson get their moments to be the smart ones and they make the most of it. Smith’s sympathetic Cyclops is a fine addition. Abel does a great job being an arrogant villain everyone wants to boo off the screen. Levin Rambin steals the most scenes though as Percy’s chief rival and always sarcastic classmate Clarice. There aren’t too many adults hanging out this time except for plot exposition and brief comedic bits, but Stanley Tucci, Anthony Stewart Head, and Nathan Fillion (in a single scene and making the best possible Firefly reference) are welcome sights.
Sea of Monsters breezes by easily, and the fantasy is pretty easy to digest. Like the previous film, it’s slightly better than a time waster, but it probably won’t make very many lasting impressions. As far as late summer family fare goes, though, this is usually the best possible scenario we could all hope for. It goes very well with warm popcorn, cold drinks, and air conditioning.