When first published in 2005, critics were quick to dismiss Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson & the Olympians series out-of-hand as an Americanised rip-off of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter juggernaut. However, the novels proved incredibly popular, melding ancient Greek mythology with contemporary characters in a way that builds on the familiar legends, while expanding the universe to accommodate 21st Century sass and spectacle.
Sea of Monsters, from Diary of a Wimpy Kid director Thor Freudenthal, is the second instalment in both his literary and cinematic adventures, and sees Percy the half-blood son of Poseidon embark on a quest to track down the Golden Fleece. Along the way he must overcome a Colchis Bull, the Taxi of Damnation, and all number of rival gods and monsters before they even reach the titular Sea of Monsters (better known to mere mortals as the Bermuda Triangle).
Admittedly, Potter fans will struggle to shake off the spectre of Rowling’s series, with its trio of hormonal heroes, magic-infused adventures and arsenal of top-tier character actors supporting largely unknown leads.
Without Potter’s ridiculous budgets or universal acclaim, Jackson & Co have their work cut out to make a similar impact on the zeitgeist, but in Sea of Monsters the blend of fantasy, comedy, adolescent angst and iconic mythology comes together in a confident and spritely package that proves consistently entertaining. There’s even a knowing cameo from Nathan Fillion as Hermes to offer some comedic respite for fans of a particular short-lived TV show.
This review first appeared in Cathay Pacific’s Discovery Magazine, December 2013