Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters – Review
The latest Percy Jackson film is a lot of fun as it tackles a number of very complex issues—and it does so with a PG rating! This story centers around Percy’s struggles with the gods, with family and with his own worth and calling. This makes it a great opportunity for some deep discussions with a broad range of people.
Part of Percy’s struggle has to do with the pressure he feels to live up to his reputation and the expectations placed upon him—partly due to his past success and partly due to the fact that he’s Poseidon’s son. He had a great moment in the past, but he wonders if maybe he’s a “one-quest-wonder” (as Grover puts it). Was it was just luck that he succeeded in the last quest? Is he the great hero people now think he is, or was his success due to the others who went with him? And how do you live up to being the son of a god? That’s a lot of pressure. He wants to be great, but he’s not sure if he is. Add to that the confusion of a very ambiguous prophecy, and some serious questions about predestination and free will, and you have a guy who is really struggling with who he is. Does he have a destiny? Can he control his destiny?
These are some very BIG questions and some very BIG, very real challenges—ones that have plagued mankind of all of time—not just in literature and philosophy class, but in real life as well. In the end, the movie chooses an element of mystery over simplistic answers, which is wise. So while you won’t find answers to these questions, you will find that it challenges you to think about these big ideas, and, that it gives an easy segue into some robust discussion. You’ll also find a sympathetic (and ultimately hopeful) character in Percy if you’re feeling pressure to live up to impossible standards and questioning your calling.
Percy’s struggle to live up to his reputation is tightly connected with his family struggles. He’s the son of Poseidon. His dad is literally a god. Those are some BIG shoes to fill. Even with a great, loving, interactive dad, it can be a challenge to deal with that kind of pressure, but Poseidon is an absentee father. Time and again we see Percy doing all he can to communicate with his dad, and getting nothing in return. He keeps trying and trying, but he’s discouraged and disappointed in his dad’s lack of response.
There are two other characters in the movie which serve as foils to Percy and his daddy issues. Luke is the negative extreme. His anger and bitterness at his father has led him down a path of rebellion and destruction. Ironically, rather than become a better man than his father, he’s become far, far worse. His heart is poisoned with bitterness.
On the flip side of Luke is Tyson, the half-brother Percy never knew about. I think most people will say that Tyson, Percy’s half-brother/Cyclops, is their favorite character in this movie. He’s the “emotional heart” of the movie (as the actor, Douglas Smith, himself said in an interview), and he provides much of the comedic relief. The other thing though which is undeniably endearing about him, beyond the laughs he provides, is his childlike faith. He’s just so bright eyed and eager and hopeful, so full of life and love… you can’t help but like him. His heart is free of guile and full of hope and love.
I think Tyson is the person everyone wants to be, because he’s so happy and good-natured, even though in reality, few can figure how. Percy certainly wants to be more like his brother, but can’t figure out how. Percy can’t figure out how to set aside his disappointment. He doesn’t want to be like Luke, eaten up with bitterness, but he can’t help being a little jaded. He keeps trying to reach out to his dad, but his father’s silence is painful. It hasn’t stopped him from trying; he hasn’t despaired all together, but there’s a sadness and a heaviness that he can’t shake. He’s haunted by the question of why his dad won’t answer him.
Tyson isn’t burdened by any of Percy’s heaviness. He has perfect confidence that his dad will respond. Check out this scene where he rushes to the water (Poseidon is the god of water) and says “Water! Dad will help!” You can see his pure heart as he confidently, sweetly asks his dad for help.
What you don’t see in this clip, but you will see in the movie, is that the help doesn’t come right away. And when nothing happens, Percy says, “Nice try big guy, but don’t be upset when he doesn’t answer.” He may not be full-on bitter, but he is definitely jaded.
Percy’s issues with his dad (and Luke’s and Tyson’s) are inseparable from his issues with god, because his dad is a god. This is interesting, because so many of us project our issues with our fathers onto God, as if God is just as human as our fathers. While this is true in Greek mythology where the only difference between man and god was the power the gods had, it’s definitely not true according to the Bible. God, according to the Bible, is all-knowing, all-loving, merciful, ever-present and all-powerful and perfect. None of these things are true of the Greek gods.
So all these issues Percy is having with his Dad, are also issues having with god. And here is perhaps where the movie is most useful—when we compare Poseidon’s response to Tyson verses his seeming non-response to Percy. First off, I said “seeming non-response” because he was responding to Percy, more than Percy realized, Percy just didn’t recognize it. He didn’t recognize it for two main reasons: It didn’t come when Percy expected, or how he expected. The other reason Percy didn’t see it when Poseidon responded, was that he quit looking for it. He was so hurt by Poseidon’s silence, that even though he still went through the motions of talking to Poseidon, he wasn’t really expecting an answer—so he didn’t really look for it or wait for it.
Tyson’s utter confidence that Poseidon will of course respond is quite a contrast. He seems naïve. He seems like a child. But that is the beauty of it. His confidence leads him to wait and look for the answer to his prayers. He has a sense of joy because of his confidence in his relationship with his father god. He trusts his father god, and that’s something Percy lacks.
Jesus wants us to come to him with that same confidence and child-like faith that we see in Tyson. In Luke 18:16-17, Luke records Jesus interacting with children and teaching his followers the value of their child-like faith. “Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 17 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” Jesus also talks about how the Father God can be trusted to do far better by us than our earthly fathers do. “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for[a] a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:11-13) And in the book of James, Jesus’ brother exhorts us to ask of God with unwavering faith we see in Tyson. “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do,”(James 1:5-8).
Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters does a good job of illustrating three very different responses to God. Luke is angry and bitter, and it’s made him dangerous and hateful. Tyson is confident and trusting, and it’s made him loving and full of grace. Percy is somewhere in the middle, confused and hurting but determined not to become like Luke, wishing he could be more like Tyson. The exciting thing is that that is enough. Poseidon meets him where he’s at. He does answer Percy; he does help him…and in the end, Percy begins to recognize it and his confidence in his relationship with Poseidon is ultimately strengthened.
So in the end, I have to wonder who are you? Who am I? Bitter Luke, child-like Tyson, or somewhere-in-the-middle Percy?
Questions for Discussion:
- What are your thoughts on predestination or free will?
- How would you feel if there was a prophecy about your life? Encouraged? Trapped? Other?
- Percy struggled with the pressure of living up to his past success and his father’s image. What pressures do you struggle to live up to?
- Do you feel that people expect too much or too little of you?
- Do you feel like (or have you been told that) you have a calling on your life, a purpose to fulfill? How does that make you feel?
- Who do you relate to more in your relationship with your father? Luke, Percy or Tyson?
- Who do you relate to more in your relationship with God? Luke, Percy or Tyson?
- Do you tend to project your feelings and ideas about your earthly father onto your heavenly father?
- Do you have the same issues with God that you do with your dad? Or are they different?
- In what ways does your father help your understanding of God? In what ways does he interfere or harm your understanding of God?
- What did you admire about Percy? About Tyson?
- Do you feel that God answers you? Or does He seem to be silent?
- Do you think you expect God to answer you, or do you expect that He won’t? How does that expectation affect the way you listen/look for answers?
- How can you become more childlike in your relationship with God?
Click here to read a list of quotes from Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters!
By Stacey Tuttle