Screened Out: Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters

By : Stephen Miller
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Starring: Logan Lerman, Nathan Fillion, Stanley Tucci

This kid-friendly epic isn’t going to get any Olympian attention.

Sci-fi and fantasy audiences who love exploring cohesive worlds with clear characterization are in for a letdown. PJSOM misses all these opportunities, plus a bit more. It feels cobbled together from Homer’s Odyssey, Harry Potter, and Spy Kids. The first Percy Jackson film wasn’t much better, but at least it aimed at a unifying theme.

In this episode, Percy (Lerman), the son of the Greek god Poseidon, is at a summer camp with the rest of the young demigods, nymphs and satyrs. (Don’t get your hopes up; the place is barely more magical than our own childhood church camps.) However, Camp Half-Blood (boring name) is protected from supernatural baddies by a mystical tree. When the tree gets poisoned, the camp is threatened with extinction. Percy and his pals have to go on a quest for the Golden Fleece, yep, that one, to heal the conifer and save their beloved summer place. The fleece is on an island in the Bermuda Triangle, also known as the Sea of Monsters. (Crossing this sea should be little or no problem for Percy, because he’s the son of Poseidon, right? We’ll get to that.)

Then our tale goes off the rails. Percy finds he has a long-long brother, a Cyclops. The only way for Percy and his band to get to Florida is in a cab with three blind witches. Then, they meet Hermes in a Washington DC UPS shop, one of the weirdest product placements I’ve ever seen in a film.

The ho-hum heroes of Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters.

The ho-hum heroes of Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters.

Percy has some nifty control of water, but his powers make no sense. At one point he desperately needs a boat, and then later we find that he doesn’t really. He can heal himself with water and throw up big waves, but he almost never uses these powers when they would be most handy. The other demigods don’t seem to have similar abilities.

Ratings Key

See it now! Buy the DVD! Quote lines at parties!

Definitely worth the price of admission

It’s useful as a distraction

Maybe if someone else pays and you need a nap

Slightly worse than eternal damnation

On top of that, this is so choppy, presumably following the book, that it’s hard to feel any sense of building excitement. Attempts at humor, sorry Nathan Fillion, are mostly lame. The special effects, the Cyclops, one eye, the monsters, are not rendered realistically at all, seeming to have their own light sources outside of the natural world. And that world Percy lives in, it’s an illogical combination of the common and the magical that’s in no way inspiring.

Part of the reason we love science fiction and fantasy movies is because they give us an incredible vicarious experience. We are able to explore new worlds while picturing what it’d be like to live in them. We imagine ourselves with superhero powers, the chosen ones, the sons and daughters of gods. PJSOM is just too piecemeal and mundane to inspire such thoughts.

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