I would have loved Rick Riordan's "Percy Jackson" novels growing up. I was fascinated by the gods and mortals of Greek mythology, which Riordan uses as a backbone for his five novels. Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, a sequel to film adaptation Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, has neither the budget nor the caliber to top Harry Potter, but Director Thor Freudenthal's film is breezy entertainment and a fun way to introduce children to Greek mythology. Logan Lerman returns as Percy, and supporting cast members Stanley Tucci, Nathan Fillion and Brandon T. Jackson are game for adventure. Quickly paced and action-packed, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters is above-average family entertainment.
Avid readers are no doubt familiar with Percy's demigod status. The son of a mortal woman and Poseidon, Greek God of the Sea, Percy escaped being wrongfully accused of stealing Zeus' lightning bolt in the first film. He now studies at Camp Half-Blood alongside friends Grover (Jackson) and Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario) and finds himself in competition with Clarisse (Leven Rambin), the demigod daughter of Ares. When a mechanical bull breaches the force field protecting the camp, Percy's old adversary Luke (Jake Abel) explains that he and a number of other demigods are looking to overthrow their absentee parents. With the help of his newly discovered, Cyclops half-brother Tyson (Douglas Smith), Percy begins a quest to retrieve the magical Golden Fleece from Polyphemus' lair in the Sea of Monsters in hopes that its healing abilities can save the camp.
The Percy Jackson films have thus far avoided the gloomy, serious drama packed into the later Harry Potter adaptations. They also avoid the cloying, Young Adult romance of Twilight. Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters is thoroughly entertaining, from early scenes inside the camp to Percy's wild taxi ride inside the Chariot of Damnation to the final showdown shot at New Orleans' closed Six Flags amusement park. The story gets a little convoluted at points, and Percy's race to find the fleece parallels Luke's own search. Luke wants to use the Golden Fleece to reanimate fallen Titan Cronus and use his powers to strengthen Luke's fellow demigod outcasts. Some plot points aren't as precise as they should have been, but screenwriter Marc Guggenheim does a nice job incorporating events from the previous film while moving forward with this new story.
A bit of shaky dialogue and a small helping of cheese aside, Sea of Monsters certainly has its pleasures. The cast is quite affable, particularly Lerman and Smith. Tucci appropriately hams it up as Dionysus, the God of Wine, and Fillion's Messenger of the Gods Hermes now works at a shipping store. There's a lot of this wink-wink humor in Sea of Monsters, and it mostly works. There are other mythological creatures on display, like a giant Cyclops and the fabled sea dragon Hippocampus. There are far worse ways for children to get excited about Greek mythology, and Sea of Monsters is a decent film to boot. Freudenthal keeps the pace lively and action fun, and allows his young cast to have fun without going too far off course. I think this sequel slightly edges past its predecessor, and it should have plenty of replay value for younger viewers.
The 2.35:1/1080p/AVC-encoded transfer from Fox is as slick and clean as you would expect for a new release. The 35 mm film has a bit of inherent softness, and no one is going to mistake the cinematography as gritty. Detail is good throughout, from close-ups with revealing facial details to wide shots with crystal clear texture and depth. Colors are bold and nicely saturated, and black levels are good.
The 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix is very impressive. And very loud. The film benefits from excellent sound design, and this mix handles the numerous action effects with ease. The wild taxi ride sends the viewer directly into the maelstrom, and the out-to-sea action effects rush and crash around the sound field. Dialogue is crystal clear, and the mix retains excellent clarity and range. The score is dynamic and crisp, and all elements are balanced appropriately. There are a number of alternate mixes (5.1 Dolby Digital mixes in French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Ukrainian and 5.1 DTS mixes in German and Russian.) and a plethora of subtitle options (English SDH, French, Spanish, German, etc.).
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
This two-disc "combo pack" includes the Blu-ray, a DVD, and both iTunes and UltraViolet HD digital copies. The discs are packed in an eco-case, which is wrapped in a holofoil slipcover. Extras are disappointingly sparse: Tyson Motion Comic (5:50/HD) is an entertaining piece that expands the story for Percy's half-brother, Tyson. Deconstructing a Demigod (4:11/HD) is basically a brief, EPK-style making-of, and Back to Camp Half-Blood (2:39/HD) touches on the cast. It's All in the Eye (5:00/HD) shows how the filmmakers created Tyson's one-eyed look. Finally, you get two Theatrical Trailers (2:25 and 2:12/HD).
If I had kids I would definitely let them watch Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters. The second film adaptation of Rick Riordan's YA adventures, Sea of Monsters is both breezily entertaining and a fun way to introduce young viewers to Greek mythology. Not as accomplished as Harry Potter but much better than most adolescent adventures, Sea of Monsters should play well with its target audience and their parents. Recommended.