With Logan Lerman, Alexandra Daddario, Brandon T. Jackson, Douglas Smith, Anthony Head. Written by Marc Guggenheim. Directed by Thor Freudenthal. Rated PG for fantasy action violence, some scary images and mild language. 106 minutes.
If not for the Harry Potter books, then Rick Riordan might never have gotten any traction with his Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. Truth be told, the popular YA books recapitulate much of the Potter series only making most of the characters American and exchanging wizardry for Greek mythology. That description, however, does Riordan’s books a grave injustice for they are much more than their bare-bones outlines.
The 2010 adaptation of “Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief,” the first in the five-book series, fell short of the $100 million blockbuster mark in the U.S., but easily topped that in foreign box office. So, by the grace of gods almighty (and the pressures of the marketplace), Percy (Logan Lerman) is back in PERCY JACKSON: SEA OF MONSTERS. This time the demi-god (his father was Poseidon, his mother a mortal) is on a mission to save the secluded camp run by Chiron (“Buffy” staple Anthony Head replacing Pierce Brosnan as the centaur sage). The magical tree that protects the camp has been infected with a fatal disease. What is needed is the Golden Fleece, which can restore life.
Unfortunately, the Fleece is in the Sea of Monsters, which we mortals know as the Bermuda Triangle. Percy, joined by his friends Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario) and the faun Grover (Brandon T. Jackson) are on a mission to get the Fleece. They will have to face Luke (Jake Abel), who is estranged from his father Hermes (Nathan Fillion), and who wants to bring Cronos back to life. For those of you not up on your mythology, Cronos was the evil Titan known for devouring his children and who was vanquished by three of them: Zeus, Hades, and Poseidon. Also in pursuit of the Fleece is Clarisse (Leven Rambin), a good demi-goddess and daughter of Ares, the god of war, who happens to be Percy’s rival at camp.
Although the movies are heavily dependent on CGI effects––including a mechanical bull and a stained glass Cronos––the mixture of mythology and the modern world is quite clever, drawing from the source novels. Hermes, the god of messengers, is shown here operating his own version of UPS. Stanley Tucci takes over the role of Mr. D (for Dionysus), who is being punished by Zeus by having all his wine turned to water. He wryly notes that the Christian deity does that in reverse.
As with the books, the focus is on the young heroes, and the central trio of Percy, Annabeth, and Grover share the dynamics of Harry, Hermione and Ron. Yet the young actors, returning to their roles from the first film, make them their own. Fans of the books should enjoy this and young readers not yet exposed to them may want to seek them out after thrilling to this latest installment.
Whether “Sea Of Monsters” will do sufficient worldwide business to get the other three books to the screen remains to be seen. In the meantime, this one is a special effects laden fantasy where one can actually follow the action and focus on the characters. This summer, that’s quite an achievement all by itself.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His first novel, Shh! It’s A Secret: A Novel About Aliens, Hollywood and the Bartender’s Guide has just been released. He teaches at Suffolk University and lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.