Based on Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson & the Olympians young adult novel series, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters picks up a few months after the events of the underwhelming Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief in which Percy (Logan Lerman) and his fellow demigod best buds Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario) and Grover (Brandon T. Jackson) successfully returned Zeus’ (Sean Bean) stolen thunderbolt and Percy came to an understanding with his absent father Poseidon (Kevin McKidd) and took his place among the other half-human sons and daughters of the Olympian Gods.
Things have quieted down a bit as the introspective Percy has begun questioning his own abilities as a hero as he is constantly outshone by the bitchy Clarisse (Leven Rambin). When the safety of Camp Half-Blood (the truly awful name for the secret village where the demigods dwell) is put in jeopardy Clarisse is assigned to retrieve the Golden Fleece in order to bolster the protective barrier around the camp which has begun to fail.
Realizing he must confront his destiny, Percy sets off on his own quest with Annabeth, Gover, and his new cyclops half-brother Tyson (Douglas Smith) to find the troublesome Luke (Jake Abel), who is responsible for Camp Half-Blood’s plight by poisoning a tree which used to be a person (don’t ask), and retrieve the Fleece before Percy’s enemy can use it to resurrect Kronos (Robert Knepper) and declare war on Olympus.
Although there are fun moments and some impressive array of monsters (my favorites being the clockwork bull, Clarisse’s zombie crew, and the Charybdis), the sequel suffers from the same failings of the first film including poorly thought out plot issues and character motivations (Luke’s actions to purposefully draw Percy into the quest make absolutely no sense), another helping of pseudo-pop-psychology, more than a few lines of groan-worthy dialogue, a juvenile premise that still comes off as nothing better than a low-rent Harry Potter, and bland lead characters who are overshadowed by various celebrity cameos (most notably Anthony Head, Stanley Tucci, and the terrific Nathan Fillion as Hermes).
Much like the first film (or any number of Clive Cussler novels) our protagonists often find themselves getting sidetracked in various subplots which wouldn’t be a big dead if, you know, the fate of the world wasn’t at stake. You would think that would motivate everyone to stay on task. Even despite these issues, and Percy’s lingering self-doubts, the film’s ending is never in doubt (nor is the final “twist” surprising in any way).
Lerman, Daddario, and Jackson but together workman like performances although they aren’t asked to do much other than spit out condensed mythology nuggets, jump into battle, and appear surprised from time to time. Rambin draws the short-straw as the ridiculously one-note Clarisse whose ultra-competitiveness and attitude borders on parody. Douglas Smith fares a little better as the doofusly heroic hard-to-kill cycloptic brother of our hero, but the character is used so often as a walking punch bag for comic relief it’s hard to him take seriously.
Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters is a B-movie that simply doesn’t know how to transcend its genre. It’s entertaining at times, but there’s an obvious lack of craft in a multitude of areas that makes it impossible for me to recommend. At times it feels like a really well-produced high school play. Those who enjoyed the first film should have a similar experience here (with more consistent effects, although without the cow-throwing Minotaur), but as the second film in a proposed ongoing franchise this sequel doesn’t do much to sell the stories and characters to new viewers.