Sea of Monsters leaves behind a lot of the characters from the original. And several of the actors. Lerman, Daddario and Jackson are back. Replacing Pierce Brosnan in the role of centaur Chiron is Anthony Stewart Head (Giles from Buffy the Vampire Slayer). This is actually a decent fit, as Head is capable of both intensity and scholarly attitude.
Opening with the story of how four children were running to Camp Halfblood long ago, all but one making it. Thalia, daughter of Zeus sacrifices herself. Zeus causes her to grow into a tree that creates a barrier that protects the camp.
Decades later, Percy is a minor celebrity for saving Olympus, but he is facing competition from Ares’ daughter Clarisse. She has been racking up quest, while Percy has…well, he saved Olympus. Everyone is surprised by the arrival of Tyson, who claims to be a child of Poseidon. He is not, however, half human, rather he is half dryad, which results in him being a cyclops.
The camp is startled when a large mechanical bull breaks through the barrier and starts to tear up the camp. Percy and friends discover that the Thalia Tree has been poisoned. They decide it calls for a quest to find the Golden Fleece, which could heal the tree. Clarisse strikes out on her own, while Percy, Annabeth, Grover, and Tyson go on the run.
What they also find is that they are in competition with Luke yet again. This time, he seeks to resurrect his grandfather Kronos and bring about the destruction of the world. So, the stakes are not high or anything. The kids encounter sea monsters, cyclops and oracles as they seek to stop the end of the world.
There are some things that this film does better than the last. We only meet a couple of gods, but Stanley Tucci has droll fun with Mr. D (“D” for Dionysus). He is cursed by Zeus to be unable to consume wine (cause, he is, among other things, the god of wine making, so…ironic!). When he pours wine, it becomes water. He tells Chiron, “You know, the Christians have a guy who can do that in reverse. Now that’s a god!” This film suggests there are more than just the Greek Pantheon of Gods, but it is unclear how it all works out, and the film is unconcerned by it.
Nathan Fillion appears as Hermes in a rather fun performance that plays to his charms. The story’s updates to classical characters are far more effective this time around. The Gray sisters (prophetic witches who share a single eye), are reckless cab drivers. Polyphemus the cyclops…well, he is a cyclops. But he lives under an amusement park. And Hermes runs a UPS/Fed Ex style delivery service.
The film tries to build tension with Annabeth unable to trust Tyson because he is a cyclops. But Tyson is such a sweet kid, it is a hard sell. The film also tries to give a feel like everyone rallies behind Percy. And they do, but it is entirely unconvincing as to why Clarisse so quickly abandons her chip.
The cgi in the film ranges from middling to video game cut scene level.
Sea of Monsters is not a terrible follow up, and it does do some things better than the first. But what we have is something mildly enjoyable if you are bored one evening and usnure of what to do with your night.