Review: “Percy Jackson & the Sea of Monsters”

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Warning: Contains minor spoilers for the book series and the first film

percy-jacksonThe cinema darkens. My 3D glasses are crammed on my nose in front of my regular glasses. After adverts and trailers, the certificate for Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters finally comes on the screen, and my nerves tingle with excitement.

First I should say where I stand on the Percy Jackson series as a whole. I have read the whole first series—recently finished—and the first two books I have read at least twice. From the end of the first paragraph of The Lightning Thief, I was a fan. I saw the film and deemed it good, but not as good as the book.

And now to The Sea of Monsters. I came out the cinema feeling somewhere close to the way I felt leaving it after Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: seething, but went on to buy the DVD and watch the film millions of times anyway.

In that case, it was a reaction to the characterisation in an otherwise good film. For The Sea of Monsters, however, I reacted to the plot.

I had expected changes from the book, and anyone going to see the film not expecting some major changes will be sadly disappointed—or just plain shocked. After seeing The Lightning Thief, I did consider that most of the changes there were justified—as much as it pains me to admit, quite a bit of Riordan’s material is not what you would call cinematic, and there are so many details and side-plots that most have to go by the wayside; for example, exchanging Hades’ role for a tussle with a hydra.

However, I do not feel all the changes to The Sea of Monsters were justified. Entering the Sea, yes. Leaving out Grover’s own quest, sadly, yes. The big flashy finale? Obviously I don’t want to spoil, and I won’t, but I will say that I am looking forward to seeing how the screenwriters dig their way out of that one. You leave the cinema with the feeling that you are much nearer the end of the series than you should be.

Plot aside; the special effects were as good as the first, and the plot they did end up with was pretty clear, even for those who haven’t seen or read any of the series. The stained-glass animation was pretty spectacular, and clarified the backstory for those not up on their mythology. The film’s opening includes the story of Thalia’s pine tree, which was one of many details left out of the first film—probably the sensible way to do it, though it felt quite sudden.

With regards to characters: Percy I’m not sure about, I might have to reread the book to get a feel of how well he was done. Annabeth, I’m still waiting for a mention of her love of architecture—it’s such a big part of her in the books, but so far I haven’t spotted it in the films. Also, I’m not certain why they suddenly realised she is supposed to be blonde. Call me nitpicky, but she should have been blonde from the start—now it looks like she’s dyed her hair, which is something I cannot see Annabeth actually doing. Grover met expectations! Tyson was sweet enough, but I’m sure I remember him as more of a child. Clarisse was far too nice, and too pretty. Chiron … I’m sorry, whilst I do like Anthony Head, I much prefer the original portrayal of Chiron—he was much warmer and less distant. Mr D was not how I pictured him at all, but amusing enough; same for Hermes. It’s a shame we didn’t get more of that behind the scenes with the other gods, like with The Lightning Thief, but then they might have had to cut something else, so I suppose it was for the best.

Having said all that criticism, I still enjoyed it. As I said, while I seethed over Goblet of Fire I’ve still watched it time and time again. I would still recommend watching the film, whether or not you’ve read the books—however, if you haven’t seen the first film, I advise watching it first; despite the intro you probably get a better idea of what’s going on if you’re fully informed.

Also, while I usually encourage anyone who is planning to read the book(s) a film(s) is based on, to read the book(s) first—I would say if you’ve only seen The Lightning Thief and haven’t read the books, read them—all five—BEFORE seeing The Sea of Monsters, as there are one or two slight spoilers in the film.

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