There’s something to be said about Netflix’s original movies. In many ways, they feel like ideas that would have been successful if produced for the big screen but they failed for one reason or another. At the same time, so many of them have a distinct “straight-to-DVD” mockbuster feel.
And it feels like Netflix’s newest animated film The Sea Beast falls perfectly into that trap. While a lot is great about this movie – particularly in the first half things take a turn for the predictable and muddled in the film’s second half.
The Sea Beast could have been brilliant if it was 30 minutes shorter. Certain plot threads could have been cut. We would have been left with an absolutely gorgeous and action-packed swashbuckling adventure.
The Sea Beast follows the orphaned Maisie who stows away aboard The Inevitable, a ship full of monster hunters. Maisie wants to follow in the steps of her deceased parents. When The Inevitable goes after the Red Bluster, the most dangerous monster known to man, things quickly go wrong stranding Maisie and future captain Jacob.
There’s also a very minor subplot regarding the King and Queen – who want to replace the Hunters, with their own Navy – presumably to save money…But since The Inevitable’s captain Crow, already has a grudge against the creature, it’s pretty unnecessary.
The art direction and animation in The Sea Beast are some of the best stuff Netflix has put out. Ever. And the character design!
Even though there were dozens of people on board The Inevitable and even more in the backgrounds – each one had a unique design. They came in all sizes, shapes, and races. You have Black women wearing traditional African clothing, and people with peg legs and eye patches.
And I thought that was really cool. Despite the fact the setting’s clear British influence, the team still took the care to have a diverse cast. Race and gender don’t matter when it comes to hunting.
Nobody tells Maisie that she can’t become a Hunter because she’s a girl. In fact, she’s never told she can’t become one at all. She just can’t be one right now. Because she’s a child.
A good portion of the film’s first act is taken up by this huge action sequence where The Inevitable’s crew is taking down a Leviathan-like monster. And it’s here that we really get to see Jacob display all his talents.
He runs swiftly, climbs up the masts to catch a crewmate in mid-air, and the action is so smooth, so fluid — that I was in utter awe. It was an intense and dramatic scene for a kid’s movie – it wouldn’t have been out of place in a more adult-oriented movie like Princess Mononoke.
The action demanded all of my attention. With the first battle of the movie looking how it did, my boyfriend and I were left wondering: How could they possibly top this?!
The thing is — they couldn’t. I really appreciated what this film was trying to go for and the message it was trying to send but the movie’s second half really didn’t feel like it had progressed naturally.
In How to Train Your Dragon, the idea of the dragons being ultimately friendly is at the very crux of the film. In The Sea Beast, it comes off as almost secondary. The first half of the film makes it seem as though the adventure will focus on who can slay the Red Bluster first – with the Navy using underhanded methods and not following the Hunter’s Code.
Instead, the Navy pretty much gets forgotten. Instead, focuses on the relationship between Jacob and Maisie. The idea that the Red Bluster or Red, as Maisie calls her, isn’t evil…
The whole idea just isn’t well integrated into the story. The characters don’t spend a lot of time building up a relationship between the humans and the beast.
There just doesn’t seem to be enough of a bond between the three, that I can actually believe they’re close. The closest comparison I can think of is Toothless – whose size and huge personality make it easier for him to communicate. Body language doesn’t work for Red – she’s too big.
She saves their lives – but she doesn’t necessarily try to help them survive and I don’t totally see why she saved them in the first place.
Again, whereas How to Train Your Dragon is more of a misunderstanding between the humans and the dragons – it appears as though the hatred of the Sea Beasts was a deliberate and malicious act on part of the royal family…
There are tales told of towns monsters utterly wiping out towns or kidnapping women. Fine. I understand the propaganda. The issue is – the idea of it being propaganda, again, isn’t really bought up until halfway through the movie.
The stories we hear about the crew aboard The Inevitable in Maisie’s storybook are 99% true – and the one that we do hear is fake, and is played off as more of a joke. Reporting that Jacob killed 4 sea beasts in two days, instead of 5, doesn’t really come off as propaganda.
It just feels like an idea that was tacked on at the end.
I respect that the crew wanted to talk about some tough topics and revisionist history in this movie. The fact that The Sea Beast also decides to kind of repeatedly reinforce this message when it does come up, makes the second part of this movie a little unbearable.
The first half and second half almost feel like completely different movies. The first part is so action-packed and full of excitement that the slower second half feels like a different movie. It’s just not well-balanced in my opinion.
I really enjoyed the first half more – I don’t watch a lot of live-action films these days, so it’s rare that I see a good action sequence. So, I appreciate that and honestly just kind of wish there was more of it.
I understand the need to discuss tough topics in kids’ movies…but also, sometimes it’s okay just to have the monsters be monsters. But what do you think?
And that’s the scoop.
Release Year: 2022
Length: 119 minutes
Director/Story: Chris Williams
Screenplay: Chris Williams, Nell Benjamin
Producer: Chris Williams, Jed Schlanger
Voice Actors: Karl Urban, Zaris-Angel Hator, Jared Harris, Marriane Jean-Baptiste