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Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013 03:25 pm

Sea of Monsters a bland, rote exercise

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Fox 2000 Pictures had their hopes set high for the Percy Jackson series. With all the bestselling novels among the teen set, the series had all the earmarks of being the next Harry Potter. Several other failed launches were touted in the same way (How about the Lemony Snicket series or Beautiful Creatures from earlier this year?), making it increasingly more obvious just how unique and well-made the Potter films were. While I liked most of the first Percy Jackson movie, it certainly didn’t set the domestic box office on fire, taking in only $89 million. So why in the world has a sequel been made? Quite simply to satisfy foreign markets which turned the film into a hit. It raked in nearly $138 million overseas sending the total gross for the project past the $250 million dollar mark.

With that sort of interest, you would have thought that Fox would have put a bit more effort into the follow-up, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters and with their investment ($90 million), you would expect a better looking film done with a bit more energy. However, as directed by Thor Freudenthal and blandly acted by the returning cast, all involved seem to be fulfilling a commitment rather than looking to set the movie world on fire. Moving at a deliberate and at times tedious pace, Monsters is a bland affair that looks as if it were cheaply done on the fly with little enthusiasm.

The story gets off to an intriguing start. We see the protective border of Camp Half-Blood (for the uninitiated, this is where all demigods go to get training) breeched by a raging mechanical bull (if I didn’t know any better, I’d swear my stepson Nathan did the computer work for this creature in our basement, but I digress …). Seems the mystical tree that casts a spell of protection around the camp is dying and the only thing that can heal it is the Golden Fleece. Despite grave warnings to the contrary, Percy (Logan Lerman), his would-be girlfriend Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario) and his Satyr buddy Grover (Brandon T. Jackson) head out to retrieve it, though they must venture into the treacherous Sea of Monsters to do so.

The problem that plagued the first film carries over to this one, that being that it cannot escape the fact that all the characters and all they go through are hopelessly derivative in nature. There’s nothing here that we haven’t seen done better before whether it be in the Potter films, the Lord of the Rings series or even the Journey to the Center of the Earth movies. If you’re going to embark on a quest, it better be epic in nature in order to capture the interest of today’s audiences and the little jaunt that Percy and his crew undertake comes off as a trip to the corner store for a gallon of milk. It’s predictable, lacks excitement and what with the cheaply rendered monsters that must be vanquished, there’s never a sense that they’re ever in peril. Having opened softly at the box office here (a $14 million take over its first weekend), it seems as though word is out that there’s no magic at play here. Whether those with a less discerning eye in other lands embrace the film, thus demanding a third installment and damning me to wasting another 100 minutes of my life, remains to be seen.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

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