If you are an astute moviegoer, then you're likely asking yourself "How the heck did we get a sequel to Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief?" After all, the film failed to make back its production budget of $95 million at the box-office with a take of $88 million and that's without marketing figured in.
Blame the world. While the original Percy Jackson wasn't exactly a bomb in the U.S., its U.S. figures alone surely wouldn't have resulted in another film based upon the Rick Riordan novels. The film was rescued by the rest of the world, however, where it snagged another $137 million plus to make a sequel much more palatable for the folks at 20th Century Fox. With a production budget right about the same at $90 million and a much slighter marketing campaign this time around, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters will most likely need solid global receipts if it has any chance of giving the folks at 20th Century Fox a decent return on their money.
I'd be stunned if it happens here in the U.S., especially since the film opens alongside the sci-fi/thriller Elysium, the Jennifer Aniston comedy We're the Miller's, and Disney's latest animated feature, Planes. Fortunately for Percy, none of its opening weekend competition is particularly strong and the original Percy's rental numbers were strong enough that at least modest box-office numbers should result.
While its competition is fairly weak this opening weekend, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters is the weakest of the bunch.
If only for my delightful nephew, who has been anticipating this film since it was first announced, I found myself wanting to surrender to this latest Percy Jackson adventure and to be able to give it at least a modest recommendation.
Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman) is what's known as a half-blood, the son of the Greek god Poseidon and half human/half immortal. I'm not sure what that means for his half-life, but I digress. Percy and his fellow half-bloods attend a magical training camp called, you guessed it, Camp Half-Blood. Grover (Brandon T. Jackson) is Percy's nerdish best friend, Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario) his brainy friend, newcomer Tyson (Douglas Smith) is another son of Poseidon and just so happens to be a Cyclops, and Anthony Head is here as the Harry Potteresque mentor/teacher for them all. Percy is tasked with getting his hands on the Golden Fleece before Luke (Jake Abel) is able to do so with his ill-meaning intentions. Nathan Fillion is here as Hermes, giving the film a few minutes of spark, while the always reliable Stanley Tucci is here as Dionysus.
While virtually everything about Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters sounds like a retread of such films as Harry Potter and the Twilight films, that's really a bit deceptive because Rick Riordan's source material does have a definite original spark to it. Somehow, it simply gets lost in the translation - again. Director Thor Freudenthal (Diary of a Wimpy Kid) takes us from one CGI set to another without much of a purpose and the film's dialogue is filled with enough wood to make another ark.
When the first Percy Jackson film was released, Logan Lerman was still a bit of an unproven commodity and it wasn't particularly jarring to see him so appallingly ineffective and bland. After promising performances in The Hunger Games and The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Lerman has shown us what he can do and watching him flounder with insipid dialogue and just plain silly set-ups is downright painful.
It seems far too early in Lerman's career for a paycheck film to enter the picture, but there's little denying that Percy Jackson has to be considered a paycheck film given the quality of Lerman's work in the past couple years.
My gut tells me that the 'tweens who are targeted here will find much more to enjoy than the adults who will be easily able to name the frequent cinematic rip-offs and pop culture references going on throughout the film. The worst thing is that even the usually dependable performers, such as Stanley Tucci, seem quite aware that what's unfolding here is nothing more than a global money grab amidst cinematic mediocrity. Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters may very well be one of the first and most blatant examples of a major Hollywood studio intentionally targeting a film for global release and not seeming to be particularly worried about U.S. box-office prospects.
That's a good thing, because I have a feeling Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters is destined to drown quickly. Then, Lerman can move ahead and look forward to his next Hunger Games adventure.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic