Movie Review & Director Interview – Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters

*Disclosure: We received passes to screen Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters prior to its August 7 release; no other compensation was received. I was also able to participate in a phone interview with the movie’s director, Thor Freudenthal. All opinions expressed are honest and my own.

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The second installment of the Percy Jackson movie series – Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters – is in theaters nationwide August 7, 2013. Our family was able to attend a pre-screening of the movie, and as enthusiastic fans of the books, I have to say: we were pleased.

Percy Jackson Sea of Monsters movie poster

About Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters

Based on the publishing phenomenon, PERCY JACKSON: SEA OF MONSTERS continues the young demigod’s epic journey to fulfill his destiny. To save their world, Percy and his friends must find the fabled and powerfully magic Golden Fleece. Embarking on a treacherous odyssey into the uncharted waters of the Sea of Monsters (known to humans as the Bermuda Triangle), they battle terrifying creatures, an army of zombies, and the ultimate Evil.

Starring Logan Lerman, Brandon T. Jackson, Alexandra Daddario, Jake Abel, Douglas Smith, Stanley Tucci.

Our thoughts on Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters

Actors

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The actors first introduced in Percy Jackson: Lightning Thief (Logan Lerman, Brandon T. Jackson, Alexandra Daddario) all seemed more solid, more grounded in this movie. They have definitely matured. Filmmakers did make one change in casting from the first movie, which I thought was well-done and not too distracting. My kids and I all felt that the casting for the new characters introduced in Sea of Monsters – Mr. D, Clarisse, Tyson, Hermes – was pitch perfect. Especially Nathan Fillion as Hermes. Oh! – he’s so divine he practically steals the whole show. And it was nice to see that filmmakers responded to fan outcry that Annabeth’s hair actually be blonde.

Action/Adventure

There is a lot going on in Sea of Monsters! There were a few points when I was genuinely freaked out by the different creatures, monsters, and perils faced by the main characters. If your child is familiar with the world of Percy Jackson and not particularly sensitive, then you should be fine. But just be mindful that – especially in 3D – there is a lot of action and noise happening at close range. For all of that, though, I will say that none of it is blood-and-guts and no one (that I remember) actually dies.

Humor

We loved the constant infusion of humor woven through the action of this movie. It seemed like every time things were getting a little too intense, a witty wise-crack would come from one of the characters, breaking the tension. In a phone interview with Sea of Monsters Director Thor Freudenthal, he explained his intention in pacing the film this way:

Director Thor Freudenthal with stars of Percy Jackson Sea of Monsters

Central to it all, to me, was the story about kids who have all been dealt kind of a rough hand because their parents are gods, and they’re absent gods. So, it’s up to them to sort of find their own place in the world.

. . .  [but] what I tried to achieve is lean a little bit more on the pacing and the sense of humor of the books.

There is kind of a light tone starting from the chapter heading in the books to Percy’s own voice really narrating everything in the kind of funny, sardonic, irreverent way that we wanted to translate here.

The challenge is that you’re also dealing with the death of characters, the sort of looming darkness of the villain, and so forth. It’s a tough thing to kind of all bring under one hat. But that was the attempt.

On sticking to the books

Was Sea of Monsters an absolutely faithful re-telling of events from the book? No. Was it a better, more solid attempt than the first movie? In my opinion: yes. While some story lines were left out and some were significantly altered, there were several parts of the movie that were faithful to the book and kept the main arc of the story going. Director Thor Freudenthal spoke with us about the challenge of bringing books to film:

. . . in a book, you literally can open the book at any page and read a fun episode or story or a tangent that … presents you with something awesome or something funny, whereas [a] movie generally has to be on one particular track.

It’s a very singular track. It’s one straight line that moves forward without much deviation. So, what that means is you have to find that sort of simple story arc, as we call it, or the goal that the character has or faces. And then group everything else sort of underneath it and hang every sequence and everything that that movie does has to be in service of that story.

. . . Percy Jackson … is a sprawling, multi-hundred page epic. And in a two-hour movie, you can’t really do that. We had to sort of make really tough choices to keep the pace up and create a three act structure.

Bottom line:

Percy Jackson Sea of Monsters Banner

I was really pleased with this “re-boot” of the Percy Jackson movie franchise. I feel like filmmakers injected a new sense of “oomph” and purpose into Sea of Monsters, and managed to better tap into the spirit of the books. When asked how it felt to come in as the new director on a sequel, Thor Freudenthal said: “It’s kind of interesting to bring…a fresh coat of paint to a house that’s sort of half built.” My kids and I are ALL hoping 20th Century Fox decides to continue building that house, since we would love to see the other books in this series come to the big screen.

For more information about Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters online:

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  • Jenn_FiveDollarShake

    We haven’t read the books, but this movie looks like a lot of fun. We’ll be seeing it on the big screen for sure. I love that you had the opportunity to talk with the director. What a fascinating job he has.