Directed by Oscar-winner Chris Williams (Big Hero 6) and brimming with adventure and good humour, The Sea Beast is an all-around great flick that exceeds its family-friendly demographic.
Audiences familiar with Dreamworks’ How to Train Your Dragon series may feel déjà vu during the initial set-up of The Sea Beast, which involves a long-standing rivalry between two different species – humans and aquatic monsters. The fights are also similar, as is the scaly character design of each underwater creature despite the variety. However, The Sea Beast sets itself apart due to its three Ds: diversity, dynamic, details.
The film’s aspiring hero, young Maisie Brumble (Zaris-Angel Hator), is well-read on the crusaders of the sea; making Maisie an immediate asset when she finds her way onto a ship of acclaimed sea monster hunters which includes the legendary Jacob Holland (Karl Urban) and his leader Captain Crow (Jared Harris). However, the hunters are feeling more pressure than usual to produce results when they’re threatened by royalty to be overturned and phased out by a naval vessel with improved methods of slaying sea monsters. Soon enough, Jacob and Maisie are separated from the rest of their crew and are forced to work together to return to the ship. They, however, meet a gigantic obstacle – the ferocious yet elusive “Red Bluster” Jacob’s crew has been searching for, and the same beast who almost killed Crow on their latest mission.
What I appreciated the most about The Sea Beast was the close attention to the scale of each fantastical creature, notably the Bluster. When Maisie and Jacob are interacting with the monster, past battles are written all over the monster’s body through wounds and scars, and they continue to be tracked all over the grand length of this creature. Each crevice and corner of the Bluster is its own discovery, taking on special environmental attributes when Maisie and Jacob are using it to survive. The Bluster feels like secret terrain, which contributes to the sacred status of this special animal. Kudos to the animation team who were able to bring these details to life.
The Sea Beast does give in to some “failsafe” qualities though, further preventing it from being a true original. For instance, there’s a segment dedicated to our independent leads finding a cute and cuddly baby beast named Blue. It feels out-of-place as an extended tangent on a species we know enough about already, but then it clicks in that kids will probably gravitate towards a glassy-eyed oddball like Blue. Or, maybe they’ll be like me and have a hard time separating Blue from another similar blue monster named Stitch from Disney’s catalogue. The Sea Beast, a worthy animated film nonetheless, feels baggy and it’s because of seemingly obligatory detours, like Blue, the movie caves in to.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie