Reviewing the first Percy Jackson outing, esteemed critic Mark Kermode noted that the Fox franchise opener bore so many similarities to the Harry Potter series that it could have easily been called ‘Benjamin Sniddlegrass and the Cauldron of Penguins’.
And this sequel to Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief doesn’t try to shrug off the comparisons to the tales of the Boy Wizard.
There’s our troubled lead who discovers his unique talents and journeys to a special school where he discovers he’s not alone. There are wise teachers, magical creatures, male and female best friends and a good-looking rival who seems to hate our hero for no apparent reason.
In his second movie outing, Percy’s also facing the dysfunction of his family life and the burden of a prophecy while also fighting to save the world from a returning baddie intent on total destruction.
But while Percy can’t compete with the cast, budget or genuine emotion of Potter, what the deity’s offspring does share with The Boy Who Lived is an exciting story. There might be very little here we haven’t seen executed with more skill, but for the film’s target market and the sizeable fanbase of Rick Riordan’s source novels, Sea of Monsters will be a stirring and spellbinding ride.
After meeting his surprise half-brother – a Cyclops – Percy’s increasing confidence in this world of gods and men is shaken by a threat to the safety of Camp Half-Blood.
And when Hermes’ malevolent son Luke (Jake Abel) makes a shocking comeback, Percy and friends Grover (Brandon T Jackson) and Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario) must risk their lives in order to find the Golden Fleece and prevent the rise of an ancient evil.
Director Freudenthal (Diary Of A Wimpy Kid) is a safe pair of hands and commendably attempts to inject proceedings with more humour than the rather stern first film. As the action ramps up towards a climax in an abandoned theme park, he also makes enjoyable nods to The Goonies and Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Lerman is disappointingly wooden after being so captivating in The Perks of Being A Wallflower but Stanley Tucci and Buffy’s Anthony Head make pleasingly droll teachers while Nathan Fillion steals the show as Hermes, referencing his much-missed series Firefly in the film’s best joke.
Percy Jackson might never unseat Harry Potter in audiences’ hearts but there’s enough derring do, 3D thrills, myths and magic to inspire young moviegoers and keep their parents sufficiently amused.