After the first Percy Jackson movie, The Lightning Thief, I wasn’t sure if the franchise was going to get a second chance. It did, and Sea of Monsters continues the effort of makers of the Percy Jackson movies to disappoint fans. I will say that Sea of Monsters was a better movie than The Lightning Thief. It was funnier and the characters were more balanced. However, Sea of Monsters, just like its predecessor, strays from Rick Riordan’s original story line, and this causes some problems from fans of the books (like me). I know it is almost impossible for movies to live up to their books (except for The Painted Veil in which case the movie is a million times better than the book), but it is perfectly possible to create a decent cinematic rendition of a good story. Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Harry Potter movies, and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe all managed to turn magical and mythological books into entertaining movies. So where are the makers of the Percy Jackson films going wrong?
I think the problem is that the writers of the movies don’t understand the characters of the book. This isn’t an acting problem (though Alexandra Daddario won’t be up for any Oscars for Best Actress). One of the greatest things about the Percy Jackson series is the group of amazing characters in each book. But what the writer (and director) does with the script is limit the characters and change the plot so that the viewers are left with something that isn’t even half as good as Rick Riordan’s books.
The characters in the movie are good, but not great. Brandon T. Jackson is funny as the satyr Grover, though he doesn’t come off as the Grover of the books. Percy, played by Logan Lerman, struggles with self-doubt throughout the film, giving his character vulnerability as well as growth throughout the film. And in this movie the writers actually gave Percy some of the funny lines, instead of giving them all to Grover like they did in The Lightning Thief. Annabeth, though better in this film than the first, is still disappointing. She’s just so…bleh. A few times in the movie she has an idea, but she fails to show any real excitement or emotion or energy. She lacks spirit, which book Annabeth had in spades. Jake Abel could have been a little more sinister, though he was still pretty cute. Silena is in a scene, but you don’t ever get a good look at her.
The best characters in Sea of Monsters were probably the new additions. Anthony Head replaced Pierce Brosnan as the centaur Chiron, and he got a few funny quips in. Stanley Tucci, fantastic in any movie, was hilarious as the god of wine Dionysus, and perhaps the most accurate portrayal of the original character in the books. Douglas Smith was adorable as Tyson, Percy’s Cyclops half brother, and Leven Rambin was good as Clarisse, the daughter of Ares. The biggest addition to this cast was Nathan Fillion as the Greek god Hermes. Fillion, as always, is hilarious, despite his one brief appearance.
Besides the characters, the filmmakers tamper with the plot. When it comes down to it, the makers of the Percy Jackson movies just don’t capture Greek mythology like Rick Riordan does. The myth about the Olympians overthrowing their Titan father Kronos was incorrect. Percy did not go looking for Grover in the beginning because Grover didn’t go missing until half way through the movie. The way Percy and Clarisse teamed up was also slightly changed. Circe wasn’t even in the movie. The director just changed too much. He should have kept the movie closer to the book and it would have worked better.
Eventually filmmakers needs to realize that the most successful book to movie adaptations are the ones that don’t stray too far from the book. In a year or two, if we see The Titan’s Curse come to theaters, I hope the characters and the plot are closer to the book.