PERCY JACKSON: SEA OF MONSTERS
Starring: Logan Lerman, Alexandra Daddario, Brandon T. Jackson
Director: Thor Freudenthal
This sequel to 2010's Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief has a meandering plot and one-dimensional characters - and its special effects, while passable, suffer from the occasional creak. But Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters has an amiable charm that is sometimes missing from fantasy films.
Like the original, this follow-up is based on a book from the series written by Rick Riordan. The stories revolve around an unlikely, but funny, mix of ancient Greek mythology and modern-day teenage life. Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman) may superficially have the problems of any adolescent boy, but he's a actually a demi-god - the son of a human mother and the god of the sea, Poseidon. His friends are variously half-satyr, half-cyclop, and half-god, such as Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario), daughter of the goddess Athena, and Clarisse (Leven Rambin), daughter of Ares, the god of war.
The first film leant heavily on the Harry Potter films, and depicted how Percy discovered he was not fully human. Directed by Chris Columbus, of Home Alone and two Potter instalments, it was for a slightly older audience than the sequel. Thor Freudenthal, whose previous effort was the 2009 family film Hotel for Dogs, has made a movie that appeals to older children more than young adults.
This time around, the filmmakers leave the real world behind and set the action in a fantasy zone. The story starts in a forest camp for the "half-bloods" (as the demi-gods are known). When the magic tree that keeps this haven safe from predators is poisoned, Clarisse and Percy set out to find the legendary Golden Fleece to rejuvenate it. But competition comes from the traitorous Luke (Jake Abel), who wants the Golden Fleece to bring a murderous old beast called Kronos back to life.
It's surprising that the confluence of mythology and teenagers doesn't jar. After about 10 minutes, it seems natural that the kids talk about the Greek gods in a way that humans talk about their parents. The half-bloods could be any teenagers with superpowers.
Although fun, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters is shamelessly derivative. The finale, with the Golden Fleece and an arcane box, is a direct copy of the final scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Even Kronos looks like the Lord of Darkness in Ridley Scott's Legend.
The scene is clearly set for a third Percy Jackson. It will be interesting to see which way the filmmakers take the franchise.
Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters opens on August 15