Reviews

In 'Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters', Our Hero Recovers the Future

As Percy fights back against the Ur Bad Dad Kronos, he's slammed and banged repeatedly into the rubble of Circeland.


Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters

Director: Thor Freudenthal
Cast: Logan Lerman, Brandon T. Jackson, Alexandra Daddario, Douglas Smith, Leven Rambin, Nathan Fillion
Rated: PG
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Year: 2012
US date: 2013-08-07 (General release)
UK date: 2013-08-07 (General release)
Website
Trailer

Circeland has seen better days. An amusement park of the mythological sort, it once boasted a glorious roller coaster and Ferris wheel, games and delights designed to entertain crowds of gods and demigods. But now -- that is, near the end of Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters -- the place is abandoned, grim and grey, the rides dilapidated and the grounds barren. As they approach from offshore, Percy (Logan Lerman) and his halfblood friends remark the wreckage. Still, they remain intrepid, and once they make land, clambering into a rickety ride named The Plummet of Death, they begin to sing, "It's a small world after all."

It's a little cute, this joke. It's also a little sad, given that Circeland is played here by a real-life abandoned amusement park, namely, the East New Orleans Six Flags Amusement Park, yet un-rebuilt following Hurricane Katrina. Aptly scary and dark, the place sets up for the halfbloods' battle against an especially nasty giant Cyclops Polyphemus (Robert Maillet), who makes it his business to eat every halfblood who comes his way. Nevertheless, Percy -- along with best girlfriend Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario), best rival Clarisse (Leven Rambin), daughter of Ares, and newly discovered half-brother Tyson (Douglas Smith) -- makes his way to the bottom of the Plummet of Death, where Polyphemus is keeping both the Golden Fleece the kids mean to retrieve, and oh yes, the satyr Grover (Brandon T. Jackson), who happens to be Percy's best boy friend.

The ensuing contest between the kids and the monster takes up a few minutes of set-piece action, during which the kids outleap and outrun Polyphemus, dashing about his lair and tossing the Fleece between them in a not-very-elaborate game of keepaway. This frustrates Polyphemus, but he's creaky and slow, as well as blind in his one eye. In this, the Cyclops embodies the problem of the Circeland, and more broadly, the problem of decay and abandonment too. He's a relic, left behind. Once revered -- or at least feared seriously -- now he seems mostly easily dispatched, a bit of the past no longer relevant for this generation.

That's not to say that every instance of the past is so dismissed: Percy spends a bit of time, for instance, worrying about his relationship with his dad, the god of the seas Poseidon, who doesn't respond to his repeated efforts to communicate (it's worth noting that his mother, the very nice and infinitely patient human played by Catherine Keener in the first film, doesn't even get a mention in this sequel). Sea of Monsters restructures Percy's feelings of abandonment into a life lesson, which is to say, he learns that even if he feels lonely or confused by his absentee dad, that's okay, because he's really en route to feeling empowered to take control of his own future, to change the fate he's been told might be his.

To articulate and also cast doubt on that prophesy, Percy's father figures -- the irascible director of Camp Halfblood Mr. D (Stanley Tucci) and the sometimes-wise centaur Chiron (Anthony Head) -- tend not to offer very convincing answers as to what's in store for him. He gets better advice from Hermes (Nathan Fillion, whose very appearance counts as this film's best special effect), the father of Percy's perpetually grumpy-boy enemy Luke (Jake Abel). Abiding on earth under the guise of running a UPS store, Hermes is both fleet and cynical, suggesting that Percy find his own way, and not only react, flatfooted, as Luke appears condemned to doing.

Luke's vengeance against his absentee dad consists of resurrecting the worst dad ever, Kronos (a digitized demon played by Robert Knepper), most famous in classical mythology for eating his children in order to preserve his power. Poseidon, Zeus, and Hades all escaped that fate, and instead sent Kronos into a Zod-like oblivion; when he comes back to earth on that abandoned amusement park, he's especially interested in punishing Poseidon's son, which makes for some blustering and pounding.

Lucky for Percy, with all his fretting, he's actually not assumed the fate that might have been his. Rather, he's aligned himself not with fathers but with his peers, and most especially, with Tyson. (Their adventures are episodic, sometimes fun and sometimes just goofy, with effects ranging from charming to unconvincing.) That Tyson is initially rejected and ridiculed by the other camp kids specifically because he's a Cyclops allows Percy the chance to show his good sense, as a member of the next generation who can leave the bad past behind and open himself to a multiculti future. As Percy fights back against Kronos, the ultimate embodiment of he self-interested past, he's slammed and banged repeatedly into the rubble of Circeland. And so Sea of Monsters illustrates the costs of forgetting, of abandoning, of not seeing the future.

5
Music
Music

All Kinds of Time: Adam Schlesinger's Pursuit of Pure, Peerless Pop

Adam Schlesinger was a poet laureate of pure pop music. There was never a melody too bright, a lyrical conceit too playfully dumb, or a vibe full of radiation that he would shy away from. His sudden passing from COVID-19 means one of the brightest stars in the power-pop universe has suddenly dimmed.

Music

Folkie Eliza Gilkyson Turns Up the Heat on '2020'

Eliza Gilkyson aims to inspire the troops of resistance on her superb new album, 2020. The ten songs serve as a rallying cry for the long haul.

Music

Billy Corgan Brainwashed Me: '90s Alternative Rock and the Introspective Abyss

Once in its thrall, these days I find the overriding message of '90s alt-rock especially naïve and even dangerous.

Music

Human Impact Hit Home with a Seismic First Album From a Veteran Lineup

On their self-titled debut, Human Impact provide a soundtrack for this dislocated moment where both humanity and nature are crying out for relief.

Music

PopMatters Seeks Music Critics and Essayists

If you're a smart, historically-minded music critic or essayist, let your voice be heard by the quality readership of PopMatters.

Music

Monophonics Are an Ardent Blast of True Rock 'n' Soul on 'It's Only Us'

The third time's the charm as Bay Area soul sextet Monophonics release their shiniest record yet in It's Only Us.

Music

Bobby Previte / Jamie Saft / Nels Cline: Music from the Early 21st Century

A power-trio of electric guitar, keyboards, and drums takes on the challenge of free improvisation—but using primarily elements of rock and electronica as strongly as the usual creative music or jazz. The result is focused.

Music

JARV IS... - "House Music All Night Long" (Singles Going Steady)

"House Music All Night Long" is a song our inner, self-isolated freaks can jive to. JARV IS... cleverly captures how dazed and confused some of us may feel over the current pandemic, trapped in our homes.

Books
Books

Does Inclusivity Mean That Everyone Does the Same Thing?

What is the meaning of diversity in today's world? Russell Jacoby raises and addresses some pertinent questions in his latest work, On Diversity.

Books

Phuc Tran's Existential Trip of a Memoir, 'Sigh, Gone'

Phuc Tran's smart, tough memoir, Sigh, Gone, might launch a broken down kid to read 150 great books—for free, at the local library.

Books

Classic Shōjo Today: Moto Hagio's 'The Poe Clan'

Moto Hagio's The Poe Clan manga series a gender-fluid melodrama marked by deep psychological trauma.

Books

John Pham's ​J​&K​​ - It's a Matter of Perspective

In J&K, John Pham explores perspectives in the psychological sense. Like Picasso, he views things from more than one angle.

Film
Film

'Slay the Dragon' Is a Road Map of the GOP's Methods for Dividing and Conquering American Democracy

If a time traveler from the past wanted to learn how to subvert democracy for a few million bucks, gerrymandering documentary Slay the Dragon would be a superb guide.

Film

The Road to Murder in Love and War: Three Films from Claude Chabrol

The character's in Claude Chabrol's The Third Lover, Line of Demarcation, and The Champagne Murders are obsessively doubled and mirrored, reflecting and refracting their hunger for sex, love, money, and power.

Film

'Memento' Is the Movie of the Attention Economy

We are afraid of time, and so like Leonard in Memento, we kill it, compulsively and indiscriminately.

Film

What Lurks Beneath: 'Jaws' and Political Leadership in the Time of COVID-19

Boris Johnson admires the Mayor in Spielberg's Jaws. Remember him? He was the guy who wouldn't close the beaches -- and sacrifice that revenue source -- during a public crisis.

Recent
Music

JARV IS... - "House Music All Night Long" (Singles Going Steady)

"House Music All Night Long" is a song our inner, self-isolated freaks can jive to. JARV IS... cleverly captures how dazed and confused some of us may feel over the current pandemic, trapped in our homes.

Music

All Kinds of Time: Adam Schlesinger's Pursuit of Pure, Peerless Pop

Adam Schlesinger was a poet laureate of pure pop music. There was never a melody too bright, a lyrical conceit too playfully dumb, or a vibe full of radiation that he would shy away from. His sudden passing from COVID-19 means one of the brightest stars in the power-pop universe has suddenly dimmed.

Music

Folkie Eliza Gilkyson Turns Up the Heat on '2020'

Eliza Gilkyson aims to inspire the troops of resistance on her superb new album, 2020. The ten songs serve as a rallying cry for the long haul.

Music

Human Impact Hit Home with a Seismic First Album From a Veteran Lineup

On their self-titled debut, Human Impact provide a soundtrack for this dislocated moment where both humanity and nature are crying out for relief.

Music

Monophonics Are an Ardent Blast of True Rock 'n' Soul on 'It's Only Us'

The third time's the charm as Bay Area soul sextet Monophonics release their shiniest record yet in It's Only Us.

Film

'Slay the Dragon' Is a Road Map of the GOP's Methods for Dividing and Conquering American Democracy

If a time traveler from the past wanted to learn how to subvert democracy for a few million bucks, gerrymandering documentary Slay the Dragon would be a superb guide.

Music

Bobby Previte / Jamie Saft / Nels Cline: Music from the Early 21st Century

A power-trio of electric guitar, keyboards, and drums takes on the challenge of free improvisation—but using primarily elements of rock and electronica as strongly as the usual creative music or jazz. The result is focused.

Books

Does Inclusivity Mean That Everyone Does the Same Thing?

What is the meaning of diversity in today's world? Russell Jacoby raises and addresses some pertinent questions in his latest work, On Diversity.

Music

The Killers - "Caution" (Singles Going Steady)

The Killers go for the big hooks and singable anthems on "Caution", but opinion is sharply divided about the song's merits amongst our Singles Going Steady panel.

Music

Lilly Hiatt - "Some Kind of Drug" (Singles Going Steady)

Lilly Hiatt sings about a different kind of love on "Some Kind of Drug". Hers is for a city and the impact gentrification has had its soul.

Music

There's Never Enough Time for Folk Music's James Elkington

The sometimes Wilco and Richard Thompson sideman, in-demand producer, and songwriter, James Elkington, muses on why it's taking longer than he expects to achieve more in a week than most of us get done in a lifetime.

Music

Billy Corgan Brainwashed Me: '90s Alternative Rock and the Introspective Abyss

Once in its thrall, these days I find the overriding message of '90s alt-rock especially naïve and even dangerous.

Books

Classic Shōjo Today: Moto Hagio's 'The Poe Clan'

Moto Hagio's The Poe Clan manga series a gender-fluid melodrama marked by deep psychological trauma.

Music

Salsa Band LPT Hints at the Genre's Future

LPT's debut album, Sin Parar, hits all the right notes for a contemporary salsa album.

Music

Jennah Barry Offers Up a Warm, Sublime Collection of Memorable Tunes on 'Holiday'

Canadian indie folkster Jennah Barry returns with her long-awaited sophomore album, Holiday, which takes on a looser, more relaxed approach.

Music

Fotocrime's '80s-Inspired Rock Is Often Half-Baked

Fotocrime's South of Heaven is interesting mostly in that it's one of the most mediocre rock records I've heard in a long time.

Music

Maria McKee Puts Down Her Electric Guitar and Picks up Dante on 'La Vita Nuova'

"Show Me Heaven" was another country. Maria McKee has moved to England, immersed herself in the Classics and turned away from the 21st century.

Books

Phuc Tran's Existential Trip of a Memoir, 'Sigh, Gone'

Phuc Tran's smart, tough memoir, Sigh, Gone, might launch a broken down kid to read 150 great books—for free, at the local library.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews
Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.