The second in the series of films based on Rick Riorden’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians is even better than the first. The young actors are more comfortable, their characters better established, and the special effects more, well, special.
We learned in the first film that Percy (Logan Lerman) is the son of Poseidon, one of the gods of Olympus and brother of Zeus and Hades. Because his mother was human, he is considered a demigod. As this film begins, he is safely at Camp Half-Blood with the other children of gods and mortals, including Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario), the daughter of Athena, goddess of wisdom, Luke (Jake Abel), the son of Hermes, god of messages and deliveries, and Clarisse (Leven Rambin), daughter of Ares, the god of war.
We see in flashback Percy’s friend Grover (Brandon T. Jackson), a satyr, Annabeth, and Luke first arriving at Camp Half-Blood, pursued by murderous monsters. Another young demigod named Thalia sacrificed herself to save them, and in death Zeus turned her into a tree that provided an impenetrable safety zone around the camp. In the present day, as Percy is losing a competition to Clarisse and feeling dejected and alone. His mother is gone, his father does not respond, and he does not feel that he has what it takes to live up to the expectations everyone seems to have for him. Yes, he saved the world in “The Lightning Thief,” but was that really him? He does not feel like a hero. The support of centaur Chiron (Anthony Head), Annabeth, and Brandon does not reassure him.
A new arrival at Camp Half-Blood shocks Percy. It turns out, he has a half-brother. When a god and a human have a child, the result is a demigod. But when a god and a nymph have a child, the result is…a cyclops. (“The politically correct term is ocularly impaired.”) As much as he longs for family, it is hard for Percy to accept this one-eyed person named Tyson (Douglas Smith) as family.
He does not have much time to think about it. Camp Half-Blood is attacked by a bronze Colchis bull. Thalia’s tree is poisoned and the protective shield is destroyed. Clarisse is assigned the task of retrieving the golden fleece that can repair the tree, but Percy, Annabeth, Grover, and Tyson set off as well. But the golden fleece is guarded by a scary giant cyclops who uses it to lure demigods so he can eat them. And the people who want to destroy Camp Half-Blood are after it, too. A series of CGI adventures lie ahead of them, including rides on and in various mythic creatures and a little help from Hermes (a terrific Nathan Fillion) and Poseidon.
Like the books, the films have a nice balance between the mythic scale of the adventures and the teenage problems that can feel every bit as grand and daunting, a nice balance between the classic and the modern, with a sprinkling of humor when it starts to get too intense. Locations range from an amusement park to a UPS store to the inside of a sea monster and things move briskly along to a conclusion that is exciting and touching as well.
Parents should know that this film has a lot of fantasy peril and violence with some scary monsters. There are several apparent deaths but (spoiler alert) just about everyone turns out to be all right.
Family discussion: How did Percy feel about his brother? Why did Percy doubt himself and what did he learn from this adventure?
If you like this, try: the books and the original film — and read books about Greek myths like Greek Mythology for Teens: Classic Myths in Today’s World and Heroes, Gods and Monsters of the Greek Myths