Thursday, August 8, 2013

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters [2013]

MPAA (PG)  CNS/USCCB (A-III) (2 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (C+)  Fr. Dennis (3 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review (M. McCreadie) review
AVClub (A.A. Dowd) review

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters [2013] (directed by Thor Freudenthal, screenplay by Marc Guggenheim, based on the book series by Rick Riordan [IMDb] entitled Percy Jackson & The Olympians (2005-) [wikip]) is the second installment of a somewhat derivative childrens' book series (a la J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series) about a young, previously listless boy named Percy Jackson (played by Logan Lehrman), who had been diagnosed as being ADHD, and had been growing-up in a single mother household in New York prior to being sent in the series' first installment Percy Jackson: Lightning Thief [2010] to "Camp Half-Blood" on Long Island one summer (CHB becoming the series' Hogwarts...) and only there discovering who he really was and why he didn't seem to "fit in" at home:  He himself was a "half-blood" (a demi-god, with his father having been the Greek God Poseidon).  There he made friends (again a la Harry Potter...) with other "half-bloods" (children of earth women and various generally deadbeat/never-really-around Greco-Roman dieities).  And at least the potential for a really fun series was born ... ;-)

Most of the critics have seemed unimpressed (see above).  I find myself in perhaps the surprising position of being more positive about the film / series than most, perhaps because:

(1) I don't necessarily find Greco-Roman paganism particularly threatening (It's really quite Earth centered ... what happens to Poseidon (a sea God after all...) once one steps off the Earth and goes to the moon or "Alpha Centauri..."?  These were not exactly conceived as "Gods of the Universe ..."), and ...

(2) I've always liked fun/creative takes on a good story:  So I did enjoy that chief Olympian God Zeus had his son Dionysus (known in the film as "Mr. D" and played by Stanley Tucci) as the Master at this "Camp Half Blood" for all the Gods' illegitimate/and often enough otherwise neglected children.  And yet, since Dionysus (the God of Wine after all) did like his vino (and yet was being made responsible for all these young kids...), Zeus put a curse on Dionysus' wine always turning it into water as he poured it into his glass.  Frustrated, Dionysus tells a Centaur: "You know the Christians have a guy who can do this in reverse ;-).  Now THERE's a God!" ;-)

In this story, Percy, Anabeth (daughter of Athena the Greek Goddess of Wisdom and played here by Alexandra Daddario), a young satyr (half-man/half-goat) named Grover (played Brandon T. Jackson) go on a quest to find the Golden Fleece, that was to have the power to heal, and particular heal a friend of theirs named Thalia (a daughter of Zeus), who had died at the end of the first story and had been converted by Zeus into a Tree that now protected the rest of the camp.

On the other side of the coin was Luke Castellan (played by Jake Abel) the rather bitter son of Hermes (played by Nathan Fillion), who as the messenger of the Gods, was truly "never ever there" for Luke when he was growing up.  So Luke was bent on getting a hold of the Golden Fleece as a means of resurrecting the Olympian Gods' great Nemesis, their father and king of the Titans, Chronos who once resurrected would presumably bring an end to the Olympians' rule.   (Amusingly, and a mild "spoiler alert" ... Luke had scoured the Earth and all its caves for the sarcophagus of Chronos and found it ... in a Cleveland museum ;-).  And so as this story proceeds there are some homages and send-ups of both Clash of the Titans [1981] [2010] and Raiders of the Lost Ark [1981]...)

All in all, I found the film quite entertaining, but I wouldn't recommend it anyone who hasn't had at least some exposure to Classical (Greco-Roman) Mythology as without some knowledge of the Greek/Roman Gods, a lot of the story would be missed.  So parents, I wouldn't see much of a point of taking a kid to this film who's below say 6th, 7th or 8th grade.  On the other side of the coin older teens might find the film a bit childish/boring.  Still a lot of the jokes/send-ups are quite funny ;-).

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