The fact that I can’t remember much about Chris Columbus’ 2010 “Percy Jackson and The Olympians: The Lightning Thief” (based on the young adult book series by Rick Riordan) isn’t exactly a good sign. Even when I went to IMDb and read through the plot synopsis my mind went blank as to quality of the picture. It also isn’t a good sign that the sequel, “Percy Jackson Sea of Monsters” (directed by Thor Freudenthal) came out two years after the first one, and in August. You’d think that if Twentieth Century Fox had a lot of faith in this “Harry Potter” knockoff (instead of wizardry and magic, it’s Greek mythology) they would have made the sequel right after the first one and released it in prime summer movie time like June or July.
With all that considered, it’s not like I went into “Sea of Monsters” with high expectations, but I thought it could be, at the very least, an entertaining and funny fantasy movie. Plus it has “The Perks of Being A Wallflower” star Logan Lerman in the title role of Percy Jackson (a regular teenager who finds out he’s the son of Poseidon) and he’s proved himself to be legitimate actor capable of carrying a movie. But alas, this film shows that “Percy Jackson” is destined to be nothing more than a C grade “Harry Potter” knockoff. “Sea of Monsters” is a miserable attempt at capitalizing on a young adult book series and earning box office dollars. The screenplay by Marc Guggenheim fails to craft an interesting story and create convincing characters and relies too heavily on its Greek mythology hook. It’s utterly pointless and much like the first film it will quickly evaporate from my memory.
Following the events of the first movie, young Percy now lives at Camp Half Blood, a secret camp deep in the woods where all of the young demigods (half god half human) can live in peace. After saving the world the first time around Jackson is in a bit of a sophomore slump. He’s worried he’s going to be a one-quest wonder, even though there’s this prophecy (there’s always a damn prophecy) that says he’s going to do great things. Anyhow, the safety and tranquility of Camp Half Blood is threatened when the special tree (don’t ask) that creates a protective barrier around the camp is dying. So Jackson and his two friends Ron and Hermi —I mean! Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario) and Grover (Brandon T. Jackson) — embark on a quest suspiciously like The Odyssey to retrieve the legendary Golden Fleece (see the Greek mythology angle there, eh? Eh?) In order to save the tree.
If that storyline isn’t riveting enough for you, there’s also a subplot involving the character of Tyson (Douglas Smith), Jackson’s half brother and the newest resident of Camp Half Blood, who comes along with them. And get this, Tyson is an ugly Cyclops so of course he’s the bumbling outcast freak who messes everything up and has to prove his worth to his attractive teen demigod comrades. Annabeth is particularly nasty to him and takes every opportunity she can to talk down to him. Real positive message that’s sending to the kids in the audience. Oh yeah, there’s also this demigod Luke (Jake Abel) the son of Zeus, who’s bad and stuff and wants the Golden Fleece for himself so he can bring back Cronos from the dead to destroy Mount Olympus. There you go, a movie that has absolutely nothing new to bring to the young adult fantasy table and hopes that you’ll overlook that on account of the Greek mythology stuff.
After the quick setup and the demigods embark on their epic journey the movie becomes one boring action set piece after another and it plays out exactly how you expect it to. Within 30 minutes I was squirming in my theater chair ready to go home. If I hadn’t been on assignment I might have walked out. To go along with that the film tries too hard to be funny. Now, I don’t have a problem with Freudenthal and Co.’s decision to go for a comedic tone, it is a family movie after all and not everything has to be dark, but every line of dialogue intended for humor in “Sea of Monsters” feels forced and almost sitcom-y. An especially terrible example comes in a scene towards the end when Percy and his lads are tied up and when Percy goes to cut Grover’s hands free Grover says: “hey don’t cut off my hands, I’m kind of attached to them.” Sometimes, it’s like Guggenheim doesn’t even make an effort.
The sad part about all of this is that I could probably overlook some of this stuff if the characters were just a little better, but they’re all either one note or have little or no reason to be there. Percy is just your typical mopey “chosen boy” with a case of the chosen one blues who doesn’t think he’s capable of saving the world again. Cry me a river. Lerman’s talent is practically wasted in the role. As for the supporters: Grover is there to provide comic relief (although he doesn’t do a very good job) and Annabeth is there because a female friend is needed for the hero. Also, the fact that she’s so mean and disgusting towards Tyson makes her annoying. As for Luke? Well, Voldemort he ain’t. I don’t think I’ve seen a more bland and forgettable movie villain this entire year.
There are some positive aspects I could spend a paragraph or two on, like the CGI or whatnot, but what the hell’s the point if the story and characters aren’t there? I realize I haven’t read any of the books but I shouldn’t have to. A movie needs to build strong characters and tell a compelling story on its own and “Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters” doesn’t even come remotely close to doing that.