The island-situated residence of the half-human, half-Greek god youngsters in Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters inevitably summons memories of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series and its majestically placed castle home for Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Percy Jackson, a son of Poseidon, and his peers dwell in Camp Half-Blood. It’s a much less formal place than Hogwarts. While there are personal rivalries and competitive games at the camp, this American-style sort of school is more a perpetual summer camp than an institution of higher magical instruction in the tradition-bound British sense.
Sea of Monsters, the second film adaptation of a book from Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, has a much lighter tone than Rowling’s frequently foreboding Potter books. Even with the fate of the world hanging in Sea of Monsters, Percy and his friends’ exploits lack Potter weight and anxiety.
Part of the lightness can be attributed to leading man Logan Lerman. His Percy never gets anywhere near the intensity of Daniel Radcliffe’s always panicked, harried Harry.
Sea of Monsters launches with a prelude featuring four children escaping to the island refuge that has been established for their kind. One of them, Thalia Grace, confronts the children’s pursuers, distracting the bad guys so that her companions may reach safety.
Thalia is killed but her father, Zeus, uses her body to erect an invisible barrier that will shield Camp Half-Blood and its inhabitants from further invasion.
Of course, barriers are made to be broken and, not so many years later, the shield that emanates from the tree that sprung from brave Thalia’s body is pierced by a fire-breathing, devilishly destructive mechanical bull.
No one seems to notice that it’s Percy who slays the invading bull. With the camp and its residents in mortal jeopardy, its director, Dionysus (Stanley Tucci), assigns star student Clarisse La Rue (Leven Rambin), daughter of Ares, god of war, with the job of stealing the golden fleece from a cyclops who lives on an island in the Sea of Monsters, known to humans as the Bermuda Triangle.
Dionysus, and everyone else at Camp Half-Blood, hope the fleece’s magical healing powers will revive Thalia’s tree, which has been poisoned, and resurrect the protective barrier.
Sea of Monsters gets more interesting, more fun and less Potter-like after the sanctioned Clarisse and the unauthorized Percy leave the island in their independent pursuits of the golden fleece.
Percy is accompanied by his friends Annabeth Chase (Alexandra Daddario), satyr Grover Underwood (Brandon T. Jackson) and the cyclops half-brother he’s just met, Tyson (Douglas Smith). Clarisse travels with a crew of creaky Civil War-era zombies who apparently have no interest in eating the flesh of half-deities.
Nautical tale that is, Sea of Monsters offers some effective wave effects. The film’s creatures, especially a bat-wolf thing in league with Percy’s nemesis, Luke Castella (Jake Abel), aka the Lightning Thief, aren’t bad either.
Definitely not in the same class as Rowling’s Potter series, Sea of Monsters nevertheless is a passable late-summer action-fantasy-adventure for younger audiences.