The Sea of Monsters
January 25, 2016
The Dom compares the second book in Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson & the Olympians series, 2006's The Sea of Monsters, with its 2013 film adaptation.
(shows the screen with a bluish tint)
The Dom (V.O.): (translated from his angry rantings as he rages silently behind the filter) Hello, Beautiful Watchers; and how lovely it is to see you this fine day. As you can see, I felt inclined to preactivate my "calm intellectual" filter this time. I've just finished watching the rather...interesting interpretation of Rick Riordan's second novel in the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series -- and, well, let's just say it's got me a little agitated; so I thought the best thing to do was get *all* the negativity out of the way first, and then approach this comparison with an open mind.
Although the first attempt can be considered reasonable as a film, but incredibly disappointing as an adaptation, this film cannot even boast *that* accomplishment, as it shows a serious degradation in both clunky and unnatural-sounding dialogue and poorly integrated CGI effects. Yes, I *am* aware that none of that is actually my business, as I review things as adaptions, not films; but it *really* does add insult to injury when the film mishandles converting the book and leaves you without an enjoyable film as compensation -- and oh my goodness, yes, they really did do a rather inept job of making a film out of this book. The trick of balancing accuracy and good screenwriting is, of course, a *very* difficult tightrope to walk, and I *try* not to be too judgmental...
(the bluish tint disappears)
The Dom: I'm gonna take one of the DVDs and stick it *so far* up his ass- (realizes the filter has turned off and looks around nervously) Reginald?
Reginald (Off-Screen): Ya *overloaded* it, mathter!
The Dom: *Oh*! Not to worry; uhhhhh, I can be adult about this without the filter. (pauses, then starts sobbing) It's AWFU-U-U-U-U-UL!!!
People Asked: 34
Saw the Film: 12
Read the Book: 10
(text appears reading "You can't tell from the results but most of the people who read the book didn't see the film and most people who saw the film hadn't read the book.")
The Dom: The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan is based off several Greek myths and legends; but it's most heavily influenced by a poem called the Odyssey, written by a chap called Homer. (text appears reading "Well they SAY a poem but its actually a big ass book...") There are many obvious and subtle references and in-jokes to this progenitor story -- most of which, unfortunately, apparently went *right over the heads* of the film adaptors. Speaking of which, this time around, they apparently decided that the guy who did the early Harry Potter movies was no longer right for the role because these stories are just soooo different; and they put a guy called Thor in charge, a German director best known for Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Hotel for Dogs -- *interesting* choice, to say the least. Much to my personal relief, they also got rid of that awful writer Titley and replaced him with a guy called Marc Guggenheim, best known for- (shows the theatrical poster for the 2011 Green Lantern film) Ohhhhh, come on, are you frickin' kidding me? (sighs exasperatedly) This shit was doomed from the start.
What They Didn't ChangeEdit
The Dom (V.O.): Well, it seems that even *the* most half-assed of adaptations have at least a little in common with the book. The mechanical bull that attacks camp is pretty good -- there's actually meant to be two of them, but I guess one is better than nothing. Dionysus in general is okay, and his constant -- and probably intentional -- inability to get anyone's name right is an original recurring joke. If you thought Zeus and Poseidon's absence in the film is because they were too incompetent to get Sean Bean and Kevin McKidd back, then...you're probably right; but it's not *actually* inaccurate to the book -- the Big Three very, very rarely appeared in person in any of the early novels. The taxi ride with the three Graeae is reasonably accurate; although it *was* in the wrong part of the story, being the way they *got* to camp, not the way they *left* it. The Hippokampos was pretty much as described, although everyone had their *own* one in the book; *and* they showed up later, as they were the ride home. Belatedly true to the book, Percy and Annabeth have stopped making sex eyes at each other at every opportunity; although, thanks to the first film, this now seems weird -- Percy and Annabeth *do* form a romance later, but it's not in the first two books. The setup for the plot -- i.e. that the pine tree that's also Zeus' daughter *and* also a force field projector is poisoned; and they need a magic Golden Fleece of legend to fix it, *inconveniently* located in the middle of the Bermuda Triangle -- is indeed from the book, as is the Fleece working a little *too* well and bringing her back to life at the end.
Aaaaaaand whaddaya know? We're fresh out of similarities; let's move on to the much more fruitful section.
What They ChangedEdit
The Dom (V.O.): The word that best sums up this movie is "catch-up" -- the last one just *reeked* of a lack of any expectation of getting a sequel; so all the parts of the story that were designed to become recurring themes and characters were surgically removed, forcing *this* film to work overtime to introduce things that should *already* have been established, like Dionysus, Clarisse, the Oracle, the prophecy, Thalia...uhhhhh, Failure? Farlia? Eh, it's all Greek to me (a rim shot sounds). Aaaaanyways, all of these things can be considered accurate to the series as a whole, but inaccurate to *this* book in particular, at least in regards to the way they were introduced or written in.
Now, all of that said, even if you can forgive this film for the sins of its father, it *can't* be considered a particularly accurate adaption. The characters in particular are pretty much *unrecognizable* from their book originals, starting with Percy -- same issues as the last film, to be completely honest. For starters, the actor is too bloody *old* -- Book Percy is TWELVE in this book; even taking into account that they bumped him up to 17, the *actor* was 23 when they *filmed* this! Just think about that: they have a 23-year-old trying to fill a role that was originally designed for a TWELVE-year-old!
They also changed his character above and beyond what was conceivably necessary. Book Percy is a bit of a...(sighs) what's the male version of a Mary Sue? No one ever seems to complain about them, so I don't know. Anyway, he's a *serious* badass. He *does* have his character-building flaws: he's inexperienced, he's *super* slow on the uptake sometimes, and he lacks focus -- but he's definitely *not* a lovable goofball underdog. Don't get me wrong, that sort of character makes for a perfectly good hero in *other stories*; but it's not Percy Jackson! *Finn the Human* is a better interpretation than this moron.
Aaaaaaah, so you finally realized Annabeth was supposed to be *blond*, huh? Seeing as she spent the entire last movie as a brunette, I'm gonna go ahead and say it's too fucking late, assholes. Annabeth has a much bigger part in the book -- she and Percy have some serious trouble at first 'cause their conflicting personalities lead to several friendship-shaking disagreements; but they make up, and she *saves his ass* countless times on the trip. Now, if you've seen the film, think real hard: what did Annabeth do? Hmmmm. Well, she watched Percy do stuff, complained a bit, watched Percy do some *more* stuff, complained some more, watched Percy do some more stuff...and you see where I'm going with this -- Annabeth, the super badass, super smart daughter of Athena, reeeally doesn't do anything important in this film. The only time she actually gets involved in stuff is when there's a group activity; all her contributions to the quest are either cut out of the film or redistributed to other characters -- it's a waste of a good character, dammit!
Grover's not even supposed to be IN this story, or at least not as much as he is! In order to keep things fresh, Riordan would occasionally *temporarily* write out one of the characters and bring in someone *new* to take their place. In the next book, Thalia fills in for a captured Annabeth; and this was supposed to be *Grover's* turn to be switched out for Tyson. Him being captured by the Cyclops and pretending to be a sexy lady Cyclops was the *very first thing* that happens in the book; he *only* joins up with the rest of the team in the final act. Incidentally, yeah, Grover wasn't pretending to be a Cyclops *handmaiden* in the book; he was pretending to be a hot little Cyclops crumpet -- he spent most of his time trying to avoid rough sex with this guy (shows Polyphemus).
(impersonating Hannibal Lector) Hello, Clarisse. (sighs) What the fuck is going on here? In the book, Clarisse was a six-foot-tall, bodybuilding mid-teenager; for ALL of those reasons, I should not want to MASTURBATE thinking about the ACTRESS they chose to PLAY HER! Seriously, what the hell were they thinking? This chick could not be *less* like Clarisse, and it's *not* just the way she looks! Clarisse is meant to be a hardheaded and completely devoid-of-wit young woman who's *constantly* frustrated at being outdone by Percy and *unwilling* to listen to the advice of anyone around her! The FILM switches it around so that *she's* the real top dog of Camp Half-Blood and *Percy's* the insecure one.
Most frustratingly, they change it so that she and Percy end up friends at the end; that is ALL kinds of off-book bullshit! (shows Percy and Clarisse exchanging smiles) NO! STOP IT! Stop smiling at each other. You're just turning her into a copy of Annabeth! Seriously, they changed it so she just follows the same "rivals bonding over a quest" story as the last movie; combine that with the fact that they cut Clarisse *out* of The Lightning Thief and reassigned some of the stuff she would have done to Annabeth, and it becomes REALLY HARD to tell these characters apart.
Tyson's original backstory was that he was a homeless kid living in New York who was invited to attend Percy's school as part of a middle-class "feel good about yourself" outreach program. That they had him pointing out which of the gods was his father was another *good* example of the filmmakers *really* not understanding Greek mythology, as it's clearly established that *all* the non-Titan Cyclopes *are* the offspring of Poseidon! Excusable that they didn't know this? FUCKING NO! It's mentioned in the *book*, like, three times!
Like Clarisse before him, Tyson is *much* better looking than he's supposed to be -- the dude in the book was freakishly tall; he had long, overgrown yellow nails and teeth that looked like decrepit gravestones. Sea of Monsters, were you worried that if you had *ugly* people in your film, we were all just gonna stop watching in disgust? Trust me, that is *not* your biggest problem. They also made Tyson a lot less dumb in the film -- in the book, he could barely string sentences together; in the movie, he just seems a bit unfocused and naïve all the time, with the occasional really-not-funny bit where he gets confused by stuff.
I freaking *love* Nathan Fillion, but he just wasn't much like the Hermes describes in the book -- his wisecracking snakes are okay, but *he's* described as being dressed in a track suit and being *fairly* easygoing in the book. They got...half of his gifts right; the thermos full of wind is accurate, but they left out the vitamin pills he gives Percy that counteract curses and whatnot. These gifts are a good example of how the film just didn't *get* the little nods to the Odyssey that Riordan included, as the thermos and the pills were a clever modernized parody of things that were given to *Odysseus* on his adventure -- the tape gun is just...something they thought would be cool, I guess.
(shows the modernized CSS Birmingham in the film) Wait, wait...*that* thing's supposed to be the CSS Birmingham, the steam-powered American Civil War Confederate ironclad? I'm gonna go ahead and call bullshit on that -- if the separatists were packing *that* kind of heat, Abraham Lincoln would've been sucking Jefferson Davis' cock within a fortnight. If you're going to modernize -- or at least *partially* modernize -- the boat, you *can't* still have the Confederate zombies as the crew -- that makes no fucking sense; how would they know how to *work* it? And while I'm not a nautical expert, I'm pretty damn fucking sure iron boats don't float *upwards* once they're submerged -- either that or the Titanic was being a complete prima donna.
They extended the Charybdis bit, but gave Scylla but a passing mention; and *that's* a bit shit -- these two came as a dynamic duo in their original appearance in the Odyssey; Riordan understood this and gave them equal attention in the book. Anyways, they never *actually* got swallowed in the book because...you know, that would have killed them, on account of there being no logical reason there would be breathable air in the monster's stomach? The Birmingham was destroyed trying to escape after the engines overheated and exploded; and Tyson *apparently* went down with the ship, only to turn up later. The film moved the death fake out to right at the end, so he ended up only being missing for a few minutes.
The camp's *joyful* disregard for health and safety is true to the book; but stuff like a violent climbing frame was just an average Tuesday for them, not something worth cheering over -- in fact, this is kind of *tame* compared to the book; in the novel, the climbing walls had lava and flamethrowers and shit. The competition that took place in the book was a Ben-Hur-style chariot race, except with even *more* spinning razors and junk; it's interrupted before its conclusion by an attack of a flock of robot zombie pigeons -- do ya see why I prefer the book yet?
Ahhhh, the "Mist" thing, my personal least favorite change. Attention, geniuses: the Mist was not an actual mist; it's just the name for the magical power that automatically hides supernatural stuff from humans! This is an *irredeemably* stupid change -- they establish that the Mist is a rare physical thing that you have to find and keep reapplying so that people don't see what you really are, but then they *clearly* show that humans can't see the ten-armed guy in the coffee shop just a FEW SCENES LATER!!! EUUGHH!!
The prayer that summons the Hippokampos in the book was Percy's -- I thought perhaps they changed this so they could do a subplot about Percy getting jealous that Poseidon's answering Tyson, but not him; but then it...never comes up again, rendering it pointless. The amusement park is a film-only addition, and a *stupid* one for several reasons. The Circe of legend and the P.J. books was an uber-man-hater that never would have done anything that involved mixed gender appeal -- I'll come back to her *more* in the next section.
The book's climactic battle is between Percy and Polyphemus and takes place at the top of a cliff -- Tyson turns up and helps throw the giant Cyclops over the edge. In the film, after the gang half-inches a Fleece, they seal the Cyclops in his own cave with a boulder -- a boulder that he uses as a front door and moves regularly without any effort. Oh, wait, they leaned a *log* against it; I'm sure *that'll* make a huge difference.
Ahhhhh, the appearance of Kronos at the end -- my theory is, these guys got *so* carried away trying to bring this series up to speed and compensate for the bottle nature of the first film, they OVERSHOT the target! End result: the final boss appears in Level 2. Just so we're absolutely clear here, there's nothing even *approximating* the stuff that happened between the moment they got the Fleece and the moment they stuck it on the tree in the book. I probably don't need to explain why this is a problem: now that Percy's shown that he can whoop the big bad mano e mano, why the hell should we care about him coming back later? This is a classic case of a film wanting to have its cake and eat it -- they wrapped up things pretty damn good with Kronos and Luke, but then still include the book's cliffhanger ending in the form of Thalia's return. It *kind of* boggles the mind to try and understand their thought process here -- *did* they want a sequel, or *didn't* they?!
Another problem with the film's ending: why the fuck didn't they DESTROY THE SARCOPHAGUS?!?! None of the bad guys were LEFT; it was at their MERCY! Did they just...forget about it?! Book Percy would have had that thing spread out in a million pieces in the darkest depths of Tartarus and be having a sandwich by the time it took *these* retards to catch their breath!
It appears, once again, that there are more changes than time available; so let's move on to...
What They Left Out AltogetherEdit
The Dom (V.O.): The film starts with Percy already in camp; but the book begins with him attending a private hippie school, trying to resist the urge to decapitate a spoiled yuppie bully. A group of man-eating giants infiltrate the school and start attacking it with fiery dodgeballs during gym class. *This* was supposed to be the setup for Percy knowing Tyson, as he befriended him and took him under his wing long before he knew that he was a Cyclops *or* that they were related.
In the book, *Chiron* takes the blame for the tree being poisoned and loses his job to be temporarily replaced by Tantalus, an eternally tortured soul being temporarily reprieved from the Underworld, but not from his curse of being *constantly* on the cusp of starving to death and dying of thirst, but all food and drink remaining *just* out of his reach at all times -- don't feel bad; he *totally* deserves it. They make a very small, obscure reference to this character with Dionysus' wine turning to water on him constantly, something that didn't happen in the book. At the end, Percy manipulates Luke into confessing that Chiron could have done nothing to protect the camp; and he gets reinstated.
There's an epic battle with a hydra in the book that Clarisse ends up blowing up with a cannon. Hmmm, I wonder why they left that out -- oh, that's right, you already *blew* that load in the first one. Circe's mentioned in the film, but she's actually *in* the book; she runs a luxury spa resort on a separate island to the Cyclops, but it's *only* for women -- she's not very keen on men and turns Percy into a guinea pig for a bit until Annabeth rescues him. She also unintentionally frees Blackbeard, who is apparently a long-term prisoner there; she and Percy then nick his chip and cheese it -- apparently, one of Percy's god powers was the ability to fully control old sailing vessels with his mind.
The Sea of Monsters was also supposed to give you your first look at Luke's monster army; the traitorous half-bloods with him only made up a very small percentage of his forces, the bulk of which were supposed to be horrible monsters of *all* shapes and sizes. The Princess Andromeda isn't a tiny-ass yacht; it's a *massive* cruise ship 'cause it has to accommodate all these nasties. Let's see, what does the film have? One manticore and one...what is that, a Laistrygonian? I dunno.
The Dom: What *is* it about these films and de-epicking everything?! First, the showdown with Ares, now the Titans' army?! Why? WHY do you think TEENAGERS make more intimidating bad guys than gods and MONSTERS?!! It boggles the MIND!! DAMMIT, Reginald, is the *filter* fixed yet?!
Reginald (Off-Screen): Ah *think* so.
The Dom: Well, switch it on; I'm about to lose it!
(the screen turns purplish)
The Dom (V.O. with Scottish accent): (translated from his rantings) Well, this is a right plum puddin' and no mistake... Wha-? Reginald, ya silly booger, this is nae the "intellectual" filter; it's the "Scottish" filter. These are nae a people known for their calmness; switch it over, ya wee dafty.
(the screen turns yellowish)
The Dom (V.O. as Gollum): (again translated from his rantings) Stupid fat film! (sighs) Reginald, this is the "Gollum" filter; you're gonna have to try again.
(the screen turns reddish)
The Dom (V.O. as Valley Girl): (again translated from his rantings) Okay, so, TESTIIIIIING! Testi- (sighs) Reginald, this is, like, the "Valley Girl" setting. Wha- Why do we even have this setting?! God, ju- ju- Turn it off! (the screen remains yellowish) No, like, I'm totally not even mad anymore? Just, like, turn it off!
(the tint disappears)
The Dom: Ughhhhh!
The Dom's Final ThoughtsEdit
The Dom: The film made *so* many mistakes that the book had already successfully avoided -- plotholes are a bitch for all productions, but *falling into* them is made so much less *excusable* when the story you're supposed to be following didn't have them in the first place! While I stand by my statement that the writing in the last film smelt of arrogance, this one just strikes me as...generally incompetent; they went in trying to think of things that would *look* cool or be funny and made *little* to no effort to capture the original feel of the book. Unsurprisingly, the film's half-assed, only-one-foot-in cliffhanger gamble did not pay off -- the Percy Jackson films are dead; long live Percy Jackson. As you can probably imagine, I'm not at all sorry about this; it means that someday, somewhere down the line, there might be a chance of us getting something worth *watching* out of these books.
You know, I might actually be less pissed off if these were truly awful movies, but they're not -- just as films and not adaptations, they're *fairly* inoffensive. But they serve as yet another reminder to filmmakers that you have to take the bad with the good when you base your film on a book -- yes, there is a preexisting fanbase out there you can get your greedy hands on, so you're guaranteed a certain amount of interest; but that *same* fanbase is going to be watching you like *hawks* to see how you treat something that's *probably* very dear to them, and glob help you if you intentionally or accidentally don't do it justice. The Dom out.