Tuesday, August 6, 2013

PERCY JACKSON: SEA OF MONSTERS Review: 2 out of 10 (A Mount Olympus of Crap)

PERCY JACKSON: SEA OF MONSTERS is the newest fantasy based on the Rick Riordan novel of the same name.  It is a sequel to the 2010 film PERCY JACKSON and THE OLYMPIANS: THE LIGHTNING THIEF which perhaps is the longest film title in recent history.  It continues the adventures of Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman) who is the son of the god Poseidon, and thus, is a demigod with unique powers.  Here, Percy and his friends search for the Golden Fleece to save an ailing magical tree that protects their home.

To confess, I did not see the first film...nor have I read the books.  However, I am familiar with the series as one that appeals to the "young adult" reader crowd phenomenon that seems all the rage in Hollywood.  After all, tweeners rule the box office.  I don't want to get into too much of book adaptation vs. film and the accuracies and inaccuracies.  I have certainly discussed this point ad nauseum on this blog in the past.  What I would reiterate is that they are two different mediums--one in print focusing on the reader's imagination and the other as a visual medium that attempts to offer a representation of the book on screen.  Having said that, film adaptations can *and should* be films that stand on their own merit.  Reading the books should not be a requirement to seeing the film.  If a film cannot explain all the characterizations and representations adequately--it fails as an adaptation.  If one must go to the novel as a point of reference to understand a film--the film fails as a product. 

In short, PERCY JACKSON fails this test.  The film fails to offer enough exposition to the world it creates and some of the baffling behavior that happens within.  For instance--Percy is the son of Poseidon and has special abilities with water and healing.  However, at one point in the film he can create near tidal waves, raise up water walls to stop bullets, and surf on a giant 40 foot wave to escape his enemies.  But in other scenes, he needs a paddle to row his lifeboat.  WHAT?!?!?  He also has a pen that turns into a sword.  However, there are sequences in which he battles creatures or other demigods where he doesn't use it at all.  WHY?!?!?  Again...fans of the novel might have explanations for these things--but that does not matter here.  A film bears the burden of explaining these narrative gaps.  And when a kid only uses his supernatural powers in circumstances that serve to advance the plot, that film/script/book is, to not put to fine a point on it, stupid.  But let's be clear.  It isn't that I was lost or couldn't follow along.  It wasn't difficult.  I was just forced to rely instead on my knowledge of another set of better (MUCH better) films.  I would stay stop me if this sounds familiar--but you likely wouldn't read past the second bullet point.

  • Percy Jackson is a teen with special powers and is part of a prophecy
  • Percy/Harry doesn't want the responsibility put on him as the "chosen one"
  • He attends a school...er...camp that is populated with other wizards...er...demigods
  • He has a female friend from school/camp who is really smart
  • He has another buddy who offers lots of comic relief and is pretty snarky
  • There are professors, whoops...camp directors who guide Percy to his destiny. 
  • There is an evil wizard/demigod with blonde hair named Luke (Draco Malfoy)
This film is such a low-rent Harry Potter derivative that one wonders why J.K. Rowling and Warner Bros. haven't filed a lawsuit for creative infringement against Rick Riordan and 20th Century Fox.  Being that Riordan didn't even start publishing till far after the Potter books and films were in production is no surprise.  I could go on and on and on.  The rip-offs aren't just in larger plot points but even in the smallest of details--so much so that anyone that has seen a Harry Potter film will most certainly have bouts of cinematic deja vu.  In one particular scene, there is a cab that picks up Percy and his friends and races off  at high speeds with comical results.  It feels so much like the "Knight Bus" sequence in HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN that it is remarkable; or should I say--it is quite unremarkable. 

Unremarkable is a word I would use to describe this entire film.  Not only is the film a paint-by-numbers swindle, the set design and special effects look like they came out of basic cable.  Did someone raid the production teams from ABC Family or the Disney Channel to make these movies?  Well, at least they got a god to direct this mess: Thor.  Yes, Thor Freudenthal wins for the most ironic connection to a film by a given name.  Considering that his filmography includes HOTEL FOR DOGS doesn't exactly invoke confidence, however.  One other humorous note.  All these demi-god kids who are spawn of Greek gods having children with humans. In the film's very weak exposition is says that "on occasion" the gods have relations with humans and spawn these demi-gods.  These children are then sent for protection/training to Camp Half-Blood. (yeah...even that name isn't original) But there are *hundreds* of these kids running around these camps!  Hardly occasional!  Has no one introduced contraceptive devices to the Greek god culture?  Should someone set up a Planned Parenthood office at Mount Olympus?  I mean, they may be immortal and mythological...but maybe someone ought to teach these gods to be a little more sexually responsible.  Come ON!

Seriously... I am certain these books and films will find an audience.  For Potter fans who yearn for another book, or enjoy young adult fantasy, this might whet the appetite.  Also, for film fans looking for unoriginal, imitative, plagiaristic shells of celluloid, you will enjoy PERCY JACKSON: SEA OF MONSTERS.  Anyone else, stay away from supporting this scam of a film.

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