With Harry Potter director Chris Columbus at the helm, 2010’s Percy Jackson & the Lightning Thief was clearly bidding to become cinema’s next teen fantasy franchise, but the film’s demigod hero proved no match for JK Rowling’s boy wizard.
Undaunted, Logan Lerman’s Percy, the troubled American high-school kid who happens to be the son of Greek god Poseidon, is now back for his second big-screen adventure, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, determined to show he’s more than a one-quest hero.
Percy’s mission this time is to retrieve the Golden Fleece, a feat that will somehow save the demigods’ imperilled home at Camp Half-Blood. To get the fleece, Percy and a trio of chums – fellow demigod Annabeth and satyr Grover, both returning characters, and misfit newcomer Tyson, a non-threatening Cyclops who turns out to be Percy’s half-brother – have to venture into the Bermuda Triangle, outwitting and outfighting various rivals and enemies as they go.
Along the way, Rick Riordan’s books, the film’s source, provide some nifty re-inventions of Greek myth, such as recasting the Graeae, three blind sisters with one eye between them, as a trio of squawking, squabbling New York taxi drivers. Later on, Greek messenger god Hermes turns up as the head of a parcel delivery service, a scene that allows actor Nathan Fillion an in-jokey quip about his cancelled TV series Firefly.
For the most part, though, the film’s fusion of ancient myth and modern teen fantasy seems clumsy and forced, and makes the story’s all-too generic quest narrative appear muddled rather than engaging. Sequel director Thor Freudenthal handles the action sequences competently enough but, like the film itself, they’re serviceable rather than stirring.
In cinemas from Wednesday 7th August.
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