This summer, writers, critics, and bloggers dedicated a good deal of ink, or least pixels, to the many Hollywood misses. Most bemoan the amount of money spent on lavish FX and the over abundance of huge action sequences. I’ll include myself in that category. While I like great action as much as the next guy, more and more, I’m not emotionally invested in what’s going on up on the screen. Enter Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters. Somehow, this relatively modest movie manages to do what the supposed ‘event’ films like Man of Steel, Pacific Rim, and World War Z didn’t. It entertained me.
With FX more on par with what you see on TV and dialog and acting akin to Disney channel shows (which I like BTW), Percy Jackson succeeds because a) it has a decent story behind it, and b) because it doesn’t try to be more than it is. Yes, it has a dire, end-of-the-world threat, but that threat doesn’t play out in big cataclysmic sequences. The focus remains on the main characters, and the situations they get themselves into–and out of. That’s what was lacking in the other summer releases–the intimacy. Yes, it’s cool to watch super-beings devastate Metropolis, but the perspective is wrong. It’s distant. We see it at the macro level, not the human one. Ditto for Pacific Rim. I recall reading that movies have characters remove helmets, etc., in situations people never should, because the audience needs to see their faces. The Jaeger are a buffer between the audience and the characters–to the film’s detriment.
Percy Jackson suffers none of these problems, and I think that’s why it succeeds where the other movies fail. It’s all about Percy and his friends. Up close and personal. Yes, it’s cheesy and predictable. Yes the FX were just passable, and no the acting–the incredible Stanley Tucci aside–wasn’t great. Somehow, it drew me in anyway. And isn’t that the point of a movie. To entertain it’s audience?
Speaking of audience–my theater was packed. This was the first time this summer that’s happened. The moral–well, go ahead, Hollywood. You can make your dark, brooding, introspective movies. Very few–hello Dark Knight–pull it off. In the summer, give me more Percy Jacksons. They’re more fun. Oh, and in case you’re wondering–I never read the books.