Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters
No one ever said being a teenager and a demigod was easy. One fate or the other is probably tough enough. But the half-human son of Poseidon is still grappling with both in his second big-screen outing, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters.
Percy and his best buds Annabeth (Athena's daughter) and Grover (a satyr) are biding their time at Camp Half-Blood, a wilderness refuge presided over by the Greek god of wine Dionysus (aka Mr. D.) and the centaur Chiron (the camp's activity director). Protecting the many adolescents there from myriad mythological malefactors is a potent energy shield. And that shield, we learn, is projected from Zeus' demigod daughter Thalia, who (mostly) died while trying to get to the camp as a young girl while traveling with Percy's (now fast) friends, Grover and Annabeth, as well as their friend-turned-enemy Luke. But Zeus refused to allow his daughter to surrender her mortal coil completely, and he magically morphed her into a tree, one radiating the aforementioned shield.
There's more. When a fearsome mechanical bull shatters said shield, it leads Percy and Co. to a terrible discovery: Someone has poisoned the tree that was once Thalia. The only hope for its/her restoration? A mythical golden fleece imbued with healing powers.
Percy soon learns (from the mystical Spirit of Delphi) that his fate and the fleece's are connected in another way as well. It's been foretold that a rival demigod would seek the fleece to resurrect the Greek Titan Kronos—the wicked, powerful father of Zeus, Poseidon and Hades whom those deity brothers felled long ago. Percy's task: to procure the fleece first.
That rival, of course, is none other than Percy and Annabeth's estranged friend, Luke Castellan, who's still so angry at his father (Hermes) that he's willing to reanimate a wrath-filled god bent upon destroying Olympus … and the rest of the world too. He's no weak foe, and it doesn't help Percy one bit that the healing talisman they're after is located in the lair of a particularly foul Cyclops on an island in the Bermuda Triangle—the Sea of Monsters as the Greek gods call it.
[Note: Spoilers are contained in the following sections.]
The quest gets assigned by Mr. D. to Percy's rival, Clarisse La Rue, the arrogant offspring of Ares. But Percy, of course, feels he should go after it himself, which he does with his friends' help. (This is both positive and negative, I should note here, since Percy and Co. are sneaking away from the camp without permission.) Clarisse has a serious humility deficiency—until Percy and his friends rescue her from a monster's stomach. And later, Percy lets Clarisse take the fleece back to camp and claim credit—an act of humility she does notice. (Other characters demonstrate bravery and nobility too.)
A poignant subplot involves a character named Tyson. He's a Cyclops whose father is also Poseidon. Our hero doesn't take to his one-eyed half-brother quickly (nor does Annabeth, whom I'll come back to in a moment). Tyson is remarkable in his affection for Percy, though, maintaining a perpetually optimistic (if a bit goofy) outlook and a stalwart desire to help. Tyson eventually makes the supreme sacrifice for Percy, saying, "You'd do it for me." Afterward, Percy laments not having made the most of his relationship with a brother who just wanted to love him. And when he's given something of a second chance in this regard, Percy goes all out, striving to ensure that his half-sibling is accepted at Camp Half-Blood and convincing Tyson that he no longer needs to wear sunglasses to hide what the creature has been taught to consider a deformity.
Percy also struggles with his relationship with his father. He often goes to the ocean's edge and talks to Poseidon, longing for familial acceptance. But Poseidon's seeming silence tempts him to believe his deity dad doesn't care. And it's Tyson who helps Percy realize that Poseidon does in fact love him.
Meanwhile, when Percy and the gang connect with Hermes, the god expresses regret over how he's wounded and neglected Luke, and he longs for reconciliation with his son. "If there's anything I've learned in 3,000 years," Hermes tells Percy, "It's that you just don't give up on family."
Another illustration of a father's love is found in the fact that Zeus was so loath to let his daughter die and found a way to keep Thalia alive (albeit as a tree). And Percy says of Thalia's sacrificial decision to stay behind so her friends would live, "Every day the story of Thalia's death inspires me." Percy still has many moments of doubt, of course, specifically about whether he's up to the job of defeating Luke and gaining the fleece. But when it looks like he's failed, his friends encourage him, urging him to persevere and resist submitting to that fate.
Finally, back to Annabeth. She pelts Tyson with negativity about his eye and his race for much of the movie, despising Cyclopes in general for being so typically brutal. (One felled Thalia, as it were.) But the movie goes out of its way to teach Annabeth and all accompanying moviegoers that such prejudice based on the actions of some is a miserable way to behave. Annabeth apologizes to Tyson eventually, and she affirms him as an individual.
Clearly, Greek mythological content permeates this sequel. Percy reminds us at the outset, "At first I didn't believe it either, but the gods of Olympus are real." The overarching conflict revolves around the ancient legend of Zeus, Poseidon and Hades uniting to overthrow their evil father, Kronos. In this iteration, Kronos' remains have been gathered into a golden box that looks a lot like the biblical Ark of the Covenant (as it's depicted in Raiders of the Lost Ark at least).
A plot-significant prophecy is delivered to Percy by the creepy, corpse-like Spirit of Delphi. Almost as creepy are three magical taxicab-driving siblings known as the Gray Sisters—who share one eyeball between them as they pilot their paranormal transport (dubbed the Chariot of Damnation). We hear that Tyson is the offspring of Poseidon and a nymph.
Magical creatures are everywhere, as you can already tell, from centaurs to satyrs, Cyclopes to an enormous, many-toothed beastie beneath the Bermuda Triangle, zombie-like supplicants to vaguely Orc-like thugs and ape-like monsters with scorpion-esque tails. Magical implements help the group throughout the movie, and Percy grows in his ability to manipulate water (such as creating a titanic wave, say). Tyson is impervious to fire. He asks Poseidon for help, a request which yields a water horse known as a hippocampus.
Luke, believing Kronos will reward his worship of him, vows, "We will resurrect you, Lord Kronos. You will know vengeance, and the Olympians who scorned us will know death." Indeed, three central characters die … but are resurrected. Repeated references are made to deceased beings getting banished to "the depths of Tartarus." Near death, someone says, "At last I'll be with Thalia in Elysium."
Jesus does get a mention in the middle of all this, by the way. But it would have probably been better had He not since the end effect is to merely lump Him in with all the other gods.
Grover serves a Cyclops who's going blind by pretending to be a Cyclops "chambermaid." He wears a dress, talks in a high voice and tapes a fake eye to his forehead. When the vision-impaired Cyclops discovers the truth, he growls, "Wait—you're a dude!?"
Luke attacks Camp Half-Blood with a rampaging magical/mechanical bull. It tears up the camp with its fire-breath (a blast of which Tyson resists) and massive horns. Percy eventually rams his sword down its throat, triggering an explosion that sends the bull's mechanical parts flying.
Multiple battles feature hand-to-hand combat with fists and weapons. Most of these battles are bloodless and boast few casualties. But exceptions include a character who's impaled (offscreen) by one of those scorpion-apes' pointed tails. We see blood on this person's torso, and we see that same creature getting its offending tail lopped off. Someone's shot in the stomach with a crossbow and falls off a cliff.
Another melee involves an angry Cyclops pursuing our heroes, who eventually escape without injury. Percy and Clarisse use a Civil War-era dreadnaught's gun to blow a hole in the stomach of a massive monster that's eaten them.
Kronos' reanimation involves chunks of his body zigzagging around trying repeatedly to reattach to his main body. As enough of him gets pieced together, he goes after anyone he can get his blazing claws on. Indeed, Kronos' appearance is more diabolical than even Titan, certainly more so than human. And speaking of humans, he likes to eat them. One unfortunate victim later falls from Kronos' stomach into the clutches of a very angry Cyclops (after Percy dispatches the Titan with his father's sword).
A perilous scene involves Grover, Annabeth, Thalia and Luke fleeing to Camp Half-Blood as children while being pursued by unseen monsters in a dark forest. An animated flashback depicts Zeus, Hades and Poseidon's battle with Kronos. Oh, and the Gray Sisters' 1,000 mph driving yields a very wild ride.
Crude or Profane Language
One use of "d‑‑mit," one of "d‑‑n." Someone labels Clarisse a "mythic b—," but the word gets cut off after its first consonant. We also hear single uses of "oh my gods," "gosh," "freaking," "frickin'," "butt," "p‑‑‑ant" and "holy Styx." Somebody blurts out, "What in Hades is going on?" Name-calling includes "stupid" and "moron."
Drug and Alcohol Content
Mr. D. has angered Zeus, resulting in a curse from the senior deity that transforms Dionysius' cherished wine into water every time he tries to drink it. This results in much frustration for Mr. D.—prompting him to quip, "The Christians have a guy who can do this thing in reverse. Now that's a god!" He's frequently shown carting bottles of wine around and holding forth with regard to how great those vintages would taste.
Twice, Percy and his friends rave about and drink "nectar," which seems to have a magically invigorating effect on them. (Think of it as the Greek god version of Red Bull.)
Other Negative Elements
Grover admits to betting on the king-of-the-mountain games going on at camp.
Percy Jackson quests for the healing golden fleece with the knowledge that his fate may lead him in one of two very different directions. And in a similar way, this film goes two very different directions as well.
It's no surprise that in an action-adventure movie like Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters we witness bravery and a willingness to sacrifice for others. What is surprising is just how much emphasis the film places on those themes … as well as accompanying morals dealing with humility, forgiveness, second chances, treating everyone as individuals and the importance of fathers, however imperfect they may be. Much more so than the first film in this franchise, there are a quantity of positive themes woven into this story about an adolescent demigod courageously seeking to save a friend … and the world.
But those positive elements float amid a topsy-turvy sea of Greek pantheism, the spiritual downside of which may best be expressed by the film's tagline featured on the official website: "In demigods we trust." Supernatural magic is omnipresent as our hero takes his cues from a prophecy given by a ghoulishly spooky oracle in a world populated by petulant and self-serving "deities."
Intense, mostly bloodless violence punctures the proceedings as well. And that makes for a PG-rated movie prone to producing nightmarish images for younger moviegoers.
At the end of the voyage, then, we can easily describe Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters as a movie that's also a sea of contradictions. It's a description that's not too dissimilar from the contrasting content conundrums found in the Harry Potter franchise.