MRR Review: "Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters"

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Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman), son of the Greek god Poseidon, embarks on a journey with his friends Annabeth Chase (Alexandra Daddario), Clarisse La Rue (Leven Rambin) and Tyson (Douglas Smith), his half brother, to retrieve the Golden Fleece and save Camp Half-Blood in this urban fantasy adventure, also the sequel to 2010's Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief.
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MRR Review: "Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters"

Length: 106 minutes
Release Date: Aug. 7, 2013
Rated: PG (fantasy-action violence, some scary images, and mild language)
Directed by: Thor Freudenthal
Genre: Family/Adventure/Fantasy

The past ten years or so have seen a resurgence of interest in films dealing with topics drawn from the world and myths of ancient Greece. Much of this interest stems from the fantastic effects now available with computer-generated imagery, or CGI. One of the biggest-grossing films dealing with Greek mythology was "Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief." Due to its box-office success, a sequel was inevitable. So, refill your backpack with plenty of supplies and place an emergency call to your local neighborhood satyr, because it's time to head back to Camp Half-Blood. "Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters,"the long-awaited follow-up to 2010's "Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief," opened Aug. 7, 2013. Once again, it's time for moviegoers to hitch a ride with Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman), the rugged teenage demigod, on his latest escapade into the Sea of Monsters.

Thor Freudenthal has replaced Chris Columbus, director of "The Lightning Thief," at the helm for the franchise, and critics have so far given a mixed response to the second sojourn of Poseidon's son. After the box-office success of "Percy Jackson & The Olympians," it was almost inevitable that Lerman would return in the hero's role; this time he has to save Camp Half-Blood, the boot camp for Greek demigods run by the centaur-cum-teacher Chiron. Anthony Stewart Head ("Buffy the Vampire Slayer") takes over from Pierce Brosnan in the role. The basic plot of the movie is a kind of synthesis between elements of JRR Tolkien'sThe Silmarillionand the classic "Jason and the Argonauts"; a magical tree protecting the camp is poisoned (The Silmarillion), so the son of Poseidon must go and retrieve the Golden Fleece to heal it ("Jason and the Argonauts").

The question that is probably intriguing people the most is whether "Sea of Monsters" measures up to "The Lightning Thief." Well, the first installment pretty much exhausted the classiest monsters from the classical Greek myths, such as the snake-headed Medusa and the head-regrowing hydra, and this is reflected in the fact that "Sea of Monsters" is more nimble entertainment, unfettered from the requirements of the original story. Many critics are also saying that this second installment is slightly better made than the first movie. Whereas Columbus created a slightly brooding feel to "The Lightning Thief," reminiscent of what he did with "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," the new helmsman, Freudenthal, brings in his visual flair and ability to create CGI spectacles, much as he did with his work on "Stuart Little."

One aspect present in "The Lightning Thief" that is sadly lacking in "Sea of Monsters" is the star-studded cast of major Greek gods and the artists who played them. This time around there is no Zeus (Sean Bean), Persephone (Rosario Dawson), or Ares (Ray Winstone). Poseidon, Percy's dad, is mentioned often, but there's no Kevin McKidd, not even as a voice in Percy's head. However, two deities to watch out for this time around are Dionysus, the god of wine (Luke Camilleri has been replaced by Stanley Tucci), and the messenger of the gods, Hermes (Nathan Fillion takes over the role from Dylan Neal). These two are definite scene-stealers, and both actors turn in fine performances. Jake Abel (Luke Castellan, the lightning-stealing son of Hermes) does return for the second installment. Anthony Stewart Head may indeed have centaur genetic material in his DNA as he turns in a masterly performance in place of Brosnan.

The true stars of this movie, however, are the visually spectacular—and loud—CGI effects. Watch out for the sequences set in the Sea of Monsters (or as audiences will know it, the Bermuda Triangle) and the climactic finale, which features an awesome, immense representation of the father of the gods, Kronos. The movie also has its share of well-constructed old-school production values; an abandoned Six Flags Amusement Park in East New Orleans, which was abandoned after Hurricane Katrina, doubles as a very realistic and creepy mockup for Circeland.

Moviegoers and fans alike will have no trouble keeping track of the characters' development from the first film, and the fight scenes are gripping to watch and highly entertaining. "Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters" isn't going to go down in history as a classic, but it is a movie directed and crafted by people who know how to entertain an audience for a little under two hours. By keeping the plot simple and utilizing good, clean storytelling in combination with some truly wonderful special effects, Freudenthal has created a modern-day odyssey that the intended teenage audience will be more than happy to share in.

Rating: 3 out of 5