********* 6 out of 10 *********
Rick Riordan’s book series Percy Jackson & the Olympians is not one of the most richly worded texts to be found in the library, but it surely excels in its story-telling. The five-book series narrates the tale of the quest undertaken by a demigod Percy Jackson and his friends to stop the return of the enslaved fallen Titan, Kronos. Written in a rather simplistic manner, the books have still been very popular as the richness of the adventures thrill the heart and the references to Greek mythology delight the mind. Rick Riordan has weaved together a wonderful story in his book series and he has used his tools well, viz. his pen and the innumerable pages at his disposal to create endearing characters that you keep learning more and more about as the story progresses. Now the thing to remember when adapting a movie from such a book series is that the writer of the screenplay does not have that much luxury. A 2-hour movie has to build up its pace as a movie should, not as a book. There are elements that should be removed, new ones introduced, jumps from one scene to another made cleaner and not feel like turning to a new chapter. This may come at the expense of facing the wrath of some book lovers, but the movie audience is much larger. Ask the people who created the film series on Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings. Innumerable aspects of the story were left out, all for creating a tighter movie storyline that would entertain in its rigid timespan. The problems that have encompassed both the movies of the Percy Jackson series began at the very beginning… they could never create the perfect movie screenplay from the storyline of the book. And even though the visual effects are engaging and the broad story seems worthy of a watch, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters leaves us with a mediocre taste at the end of it all.
Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters continues the story from where its predecessor Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief left. Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman) and his friends Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario) and the satyr Grover (Brandon T. Jackson) are at Camp Half-Blood, the safest place for half-bloods (who are the children of a God and a human). This is where Percy meets up with an unexpected guest, another child of the God Poseidon, Tyson (Douglas Smith), who is a cyclops. But before they can get too well acquainted, the Camp is attacked as its perimeters are breached. The attack is heralded by Luke (Jake Abel), of course, the disgruntled son of Hermes. To setup the perimeter once again, another demigod Clarisse (Leven Rambin) is sent on a quest to fetch the Golden Fleece. But behind her secretly follow, Percy, Annabeth and Grover, on a quest of their own as a prophecy haunts Percy’s mind. Riddled with questions to which he has no answers, Percy Jackson faces a daunting task to achieve his goal, while a relentless Luke pursues with an agenda of his own. Sounds adventurous, doesn’t it?
The first movie Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief had been released in 2010; it earned $226 million worldwide on a production budget of $95 million, which aren’t great numbers but it probably was a so-so hit for the studio that the sequel was given a green light. The sequel is however releasing three-and-a-half years after the first movie’s release whereas the tale in the book had unfolded only a year after the adventures of the first. The actors have grown a bit more than they should have, and while they have matured too in their skills, the timelines have now gone for a toss. Not that the movie provides any explanation on it! There have been changes behind the cameras though, but not necessarily for the better. Marc Guggenheim has written the screenplay for this sequel, and while his works have largely been in the TV and comic domains, his only other film screenplay has been for 2011’s Green Lantern (ouch!). Taking over the directing duties from Chris Columbus is Thor Freudenthal, and while he has a slightly longer career in the movie business, his previous directorial works include Hotel for Dogs and Diary of a Wimpy Kid. With no disrespect to these two gentlemen, it is a bit naive of the studios to hand over such a delicate work of creating a movie from a popular fantasy based book to ones with limited experience. While they do try their best, the movie still ends up looking as chapters from a book, jumping from one place to another, and lacking a seamless transition in between.
Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters was claimed to be closer to the book than the previous one. Well, it initially tries out to be, but then fails to grapple with so many events in the book that the screenplay gets all jumbled up. There are obvious deviations of the movie’s plot from the book, and that is not the worry at all, but mellowing down some key aspects of the story, or missing it completely, did not really help the movie’s cause. These are some of the areas that the writers should have been more careful about.
1) The movie completely misses out on the chemistry between Annabeth, Luke and Thalia, who had come to the Camp together as children. Annabeth’s continued admiration for Luke and the camaraderie the three shared forms a strong theme in the book series and is lost in the movie, which is surprising since the movie did in fact focus on the portion of the three reaching the Camp together as children and the sacrifices they had to endure enroute.
2) Annabeth does not hug Percy that often! C’mon. While in the second book, the friendship between the two grows, there is still a rigidity between them, and the occasional banter, with Annabeth calling him a “Sea Weed Brain” at times. Annabeth’s character is way stronger and independent in the books, and her depiction on screen was left quite weak by the screenplay.
3) The climax completely deviates from the book, which would have been fine if it would have been devoid of loopholes. That entire scene towards the end when the heroes are tied-up is probably the weakest in the movie, and the reason could be that there was no text from Riordan to refer to! The battles are lame, and the absence of the more powerful Gods in a time of such crisis is absurd; the book (actually the fifth one) carries with it a far better explanation of what the Gods were really tied-up with so that they could not help Percy Jackson in the climatic finale.
4) What!? No Chiron and centaur attack on Luke? They just missed out on one of the best moments that the book had!
While the movie carries with it a sense of mediocrity, the credible acting performance of the main cast does brighten up the movie’s story somewhat and even makes some moments enjoyable. Logan Lerman has been a part of Hollywood for quite sometime now, starting way back as a young lad in What Women Want (2000), and in the last few years he has grown as an actor, someone who now could carry the weight of the movie on his own shoulders. He does play Percy Jackson as you would have imagined the character to be, someone burdened with a sense of duty and hopelessness at times. The supporting cast puts on a good show, limited by the lesser demands of the screenplay, but doing their best nonetheless to make up for it. A special mention for Anthony Head who takes on the role of Chiron this time from Pierce Brosnan and even though in a brief role, he puts on quite a strong show. They really should have built more on his character.
The music from Andrew Lockington does not capture the adventurous mood perfectly well, adding to another shortcoming of the film. But that is more than made-up by the visual brilliance created in the movie, which is a treat. The mad bull in the beginning or the horse-like water creature Hippocampus or the cyclops, the visual effects have their splendor and make the movie’s budget appear more than the modest value of $90 million. In all, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters is another case of what it could have been, but failed to be. It still has its enjoyable moments and coupled with great visual effects, it wouldn’t be time badly spent. But the ones who loved the books are the ones who are likely to leave the movie theatre with a grudge. And they would be praying that there is no third movie on its way…