Fans of Rick Riordan and Percy Jackson rejoice! The second movie installment, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters hits theaters this week. I recently attended a press screening and brought with me the biggest Percy Jackson expert I know, my 12-year-old niece.
If you are new to the Percy Jackson juggernaut, here’s a quick recap. Percy Jackson thinks he’s an ordinary boy, but then finds out he’s the son of Poseidon. He meets other half-human, half-god kids at Camp Half-Blood, sort of an outdoorsy Hogwarts for demigods. In the first installment, Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief, Percy goes on a quest to recover Zeus’ missing lightning bolt. By the end of the movie, [spoiler for the first book and movie] he discovers Luke, disgruntled son of Hermes, is the Lightning Thief.
Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters begins back at Camp Half-Blood. The heroic luster of retrieving the lightning bolt and saving the world has worn off, and Percy is full of self doubt. Clarisse, daughter of Ares, the god of war, fuels his doubts by being generally awesome in camp activities and snarky and competitive with Percy. Percy’s friends Annabeth, daughter of Athena, and Grover the satyr, try to bolster his confidence, but it’s the help of his absentee father that he seeks. Instead of getting his father, though, he gets a half-brother he never knew he had: a brother that happens to be a cyclops.
When there’s a serious threat to Camp Half-Blood, it’s Clarisse, not Percy, picked to go on the quest to save it. The tree that protects the camp has been poisoned, and only the Golden Fleece can heal it. Now it wouldn’t be a movie if our heroes didn’t go after it, too, so Percy, Annabeth, Grover, and his new cyclops brother, Tyson, start a quest of their own. The villainous Luke is back, and he wants the Golden Fleece for a wholly other purpose — resurrecting Kronos to bring about the fall of Olympus to make room for a new generation of gods.
The movie is an entertaining, action-packed adventure with comedic touches to keep it from getting too serious. I enjoyed Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters much more than Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief. The first movie was goofier and had cheeseball special effects. Sea of Monsters features more sophisticated movie-making, with effects that are actually worthy of being in 3D.
The performances are all great. This may mark my age, but Logan Lerman who plays Percy reminds me of a young Christian Slater. He just the right mix of dreamboat and nerd. Brandon T. Jackson as Grover steals every scene he’s in. He really needs to be the star of his own movie. And the movie grownups have casting that will make many GeekMoms very happy. Anthony Stewart Head plays Chiron, a sort of Giles to Percy’s Buffy. Stanley Tucci is perfectly cast as Mr. D, also known as Dionysus, the god of wine. In the best casting of all, Nathan Fillion places Hermes, a smooth-talking businessman and messenger to the gods. Firefly fans will enjoy a little side joke he slips in about cancelled shows.
I wish I liked the girls a bit more. Annabeth and Clarisse have such similar smart-talking styles that it can be a little hard to tell them apart. It’s nice that they’re both powerful, though, and thanks to them, the movie passes the Bechdel Test. I also appreciate that though there are clearly sparks between Annabeth and Percy, there’s no action on those sparks. She’s not there to be a love interest. She’s a friend, a hero, and a demigod.
I’ve only read the first book, but my niece was generally pleased with Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters‘ faithfulness to the book. She was very glad to see Annabeth’s hair restored to blonde after being a brunette in the first movie. [Spoilers ahead] She was a little bit put out that Kronos, who doesn’t make an appearance this early in the book series, makes an appearance in the film. The scene he’s in really called for it, though.
For the non-Percy fan, I also brought my 8-year-old daughter. It may be scary for some 8-year-olds, especially with a scene that gets all Arc of the Covenant, but this is a girl that’s read and seen the entire Harry Potter series. She’s not easily shaken. She enjoyed the movie but isn’t in a hurry to read the books. Instead, she’s been devouring George O’Connor’s Olympian series. That’s fine by me, but I’m going to go read The Sea of Monsters now.