A few years after saving the world teenage demi-god Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman) is still training at Camp Half-Blood alongside his friends Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario) and Grover (Brandon T. Jackson), but suffers a crisis of confidence. All eyes are now on cocky new demi-god on the block Clarisse (Leven Rambin) while Percy has accomplished nothing of merit since and been reduced to cleaning stables and scrubbing floors. On top of that Percy's hitherto unknown half-brother Tyson (Douglas Smith) arrives at the camp and, though shunned by other half-bloods including Annabeth because he is a cyclops, seems to share a closer bond with their father, the sea god Poseidon. A surprise attack somehow breaches Camp Blood's hitherto impregnable defences and heralds the return of Percy's old enemy Luke (Jake Abel) now armed with a mad scheme to resurrect the evil titan Cronos. Smart girl Annabeth quickly deduces their only hope lies in retrieving the legendary Golden Fleece that resides somewhere in the depths of the Sea of Monsters, known to mortals as the Bermuda Triangle. Percy and friends are all set to go but to their surprise the task of completing the quest goes to a team headed by Clarisse.
Patience pays off. While the first movie, Percy Jackson & The Lightning Thief (2010) did not set the box office alight on opening weekend it gradually accrued a respectable haul worldwide. In the meantime charismatic lead actor Logan Lerman saw his stardom rise off the back of some critically acclaimed roles. Both these factors combined to ensure Twentieth Century Fox took another stab at adapting Rick Riordan's Greek mythology themed fantasy novels although Lerman himself quipped by the time they make a third one he will most likely be in his forties. This time around original director Chris Columbus handed the reins to Thor Freudenthal, the German born conceptual artist and animator turned filmmaker behind the hugely popular family film Diary of a Wimpy Kid (2010) which itself spawned sequels. Freudenthal's visual gifts result in a sleeker film with a faster pace though the narrative remains a little awkward in spots, shoehorning Tyson into the action with scant explanation for his origin and overplaying both his comical clumsiness and Clarisse's abrasiveness to the point where they grow rather tiresome.
Opening with a suspenseful and surprisingly intense prologue very well performed by child actors Katelyn Mager, Samuel Braun, Bjorn Yearwood and Alisha Newton, the plot plays with an intriguing idea as Percy fears he may have peaked too soon. Riddled with doubts over his abilities and eclipsed by contemporaries, he seems more intent on proving himself than ever before but finds that his actual heroic qualities are something besides those he thought he had. One of the more endearing traits of this particular teen fantasy franchise is that it foregrounds the hero's kindness, generosity and way with encouraging others over any ability to blast villains to bits. Additionally the return of Luke poses some ominous questions reflecting key themes in Greek mythology such as the concept of children manipulated as pawns by capricious gods. Writer Marc Guggenheim delivers a script rife with sardonic wit ("You want to go on a quest? Oh, it must be Thursday") and just plain funnier gags with witty reinterpretations of Greek mythological tropes, e.g. the three blind witch cab drivers with a single eyeball, multi-armed servers at the coffee house and a running gag about politically correct terms for monsters. To endear this to fan boys even further the filmmakers include a scene-stealing turn from cult favourite Nathan Fillion as the god Hermes who serves as Percy's equivalent of James Bond's Q, handing out life-saving gadgets.
The special effects have been kicked up a considerable notch with the rampaging giant mechanical bull, epic back-story artfully rendered as an animated mosaic, rainbow-hued hippocampus carrying the heroes across the sea and the enormous gaping guardian of the titular undersea realm among the eye-catching highlights. The film's tendency to do away with then resurrect key characters grows somewhat repetitive and the open ending that points to a sequel is unsatisfying but the underlining message remains winning: forget the past, forget prophecies, just write your own future.