Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Case for Different PJ

Okay, okay, I know I should not have had high expectations of Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, not just because the first film in the series, Percy Jackson and the Olympians: the Lightning Thief, was naff and made several years ago now, but because the poster and previews were uninspired and word of mouth was pretty negative too. And when the previews before the feature were amazing (for Enders Game (though Ben Kingsley playing an NZ Maori with a pretty shocking Australian accent was a bit distracting), Hunger Games 2 and Thor 2, the film itself had a lot to live up to. 

But then, I like the Greek gods, Nathan Fillion and Anthony Head so I proceeded anyway.

Logan Lerman as Percy did a fairly good job as the lead in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, but here he seems as dull and devoid of talent as most of the rest of the cast.  Admittedly, the main cast are all struggling with a story that is definitely sub Potter in its character development, but they really seem to be more intent in keeping with the rather obvious and mechanical nature of the script rather than trying to break through and show some kind of spark.  Stanley Tucci makes a surprise and welcome appearance at the start of the film, bringing a hint of mischief as Dionysus, but Anthony Head gets very little to do as Chiron and he also is really only seen in the beginning.  Once the main characters leave camp, there is only one brief spark of fun and energy when Nathan Fillion makes his brief cameo (and a pointed comment to the beloved Firefly series), and then it’s back to the normal plod. 

I remember the books being entertaining, but then the books allowed me to have “wiggle room” with how I pictured things to be.  The film obviously has to visualise everything the book may have only hinted at, but some of the decisions seem to make no sense whatsoever.  

For example, the heroes end up on the baddies’ ship at one stage.  In my mind, I had imagined this to be a large vessel, perhaps even an old ocean liner or something, with a huge amount of space that could be empty or nooks and crannies right for hiding in.  In the movie, this ends up a large launch-type boat, with three levels and, as it is crawling with hostiles, almost no feasible place to hide.  Perhaps this is because a smaller boat is cheaper, but really, it robs anything set on the boat with anything approaching a sense of drama or tension, as it is blatantly obvious they will be found, and it is equally (and painfully) convoluted as to how they get off again. 

Likewise, Percy says hello to literally one other person outside of his inner circle in a film, and that one person turns out to be a person who pops up later for the sole purpose of showing that people in the camp make it out.  The irritating thing is that the line is so forced that there is no need for the later encounter, as it’s obvious to all that this is what this person has been set up for. 

In trying to sum up the film in one word, I think I settled on the word “empty”.  Some of the special effects are decent (I saw it in 2D so perhaps the worst ones were made with the 3D release in mind) and the story passable, but it is executed with a complete lack of flair or style and the majority of the actors seem to have less life in them than the zombies that briefly appear.  Percy’s powers are used in haphazard, illogical ways, though all the white actors seem to have had their eyes digitally enhanced so that they all shine in an unnatural shade of bright blue – and they all seem abnormally large too. 

It also does not help that the principle bad guy appears to have all of his dialogue dubbed, as he speaks with a deliberate and dull slowness that seems to indicate his voice has been digitally lowered to make him more threatening.  And the less said about the attempted humour (by anyone but Fillion), the better.

However, the row of 10 year olds who sat behind me rustling their cellophane food bags behind me seemed to be mostly engrossed by what was going on, and there was one tragedy that audibly saddened them, though a second was too forced for even them to really care.  So the film evidently has an audience, and I am evidently not quite the one it is aimed at, though I went anyway…

Verdict: Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters is a paint by numbers movie with no surprises, so splashes of innovation or colour or life whatsoever.  Here’s hoping this puts the nail in the coffin of the series.  Please, just give up on the books already.  4 tasks of Heracles out of 10.


missrabbitty said...

can we look beyond ben's accent in ender's game? i enjoyed the book and hope the movie is good (but i find the book is always better in these matters). and another question...surely there are enough older, decent kiwi actors to play mazer rackham?

R said...

Cliff Curtis!! He would rock. Or Temuera Morrison in full Jake the Muss mode for a more threatening sensibility. Perhaps Rawiri Paratene for the more mature look? There are options... none possible now of course. R

missrabbitty said...

tem has hollywood teeth. he should have never done that..i like tem but maybe cliff is better...though uncle bully. hmm...who should i vote for?