Every year, Netflix outdoes itself with the staggering number of new releases they intend to drop in the course of a calendar year. Early on, they release a sizzle reel trailer or 2 of all the major films that hold some notoriety with the directors or A-list actors coming out that gets the excitement up for each respective film however a lot of the films fall on blind eyes – coming and going without too much of a presence being attracted to that film. I’ll admit, its overwhelming catching every single release given the number of services distributing high notoriety films along with theatrical releases.
But within the massive new release schedule, hidden gems can be found throughout the course of the year. One gem that has been tucked away since its release is the animated adventure film The Sea Beast. I’ll also admit to being late to the party with this film. Co-written by Chris Williams and Nell Benjamin off of a story by Williams and directed by him too, The Sea Beast follows in many modern animated films footsteps that came before it, appealing to a younger audience with dazzling animation and laugh out loud silly moments while conveying strong messages and themes that will appeal to an older viewer. Finding a story that blends both has been something of a standard for films of this particular medium.
Williams isn’t reinventing the wheel or bringing something new to the animation table and he doesn’t have to, the story speaks for itself. Taking bits and pieces from other films he’s worked on like the charming Big Hero 6 and Moana, Williams is taking over the helm solo in this outing. His grip is tight as he steers the stylized pirate ships true toward battle against massive mythological like beasts that rule the sea.
One beast resembles the famed kraken while another is a giant crab and others have the sense of giant kaiju monsters sent here to do battle with mankind and or one another and take control of the planet. What’s come to be known as a Red Bluster resembles the white whale, a trophy that whoever claims it, will be looked at as a hero for centuries to come.
Starting off with a story of growing tensions between beast and mankind that no one can explain the starting point, sharing a fable from one of the many books mapping out the history, Maisie (voiced by Zaris-Angel Hator) longs for a life full of adventure on the sea, helping hunters tackle and essentially poach the beasts for sport. Once caught, hunters bring their prized possessions to the King (voiced by Jim Carter) and the Queen (voiced by Doon Mackichan) who remain silent in their role in the matter. We are introduced to the charismatic Jacob Holland (voiced by Karl Urban) who is looked at as a celebrity, holding on to the pride of killing 5 beasts in the span of 2 days.
Jacob is set to inherit the ship the Inevitable from Captain Augustus Crow (voiced by Jared Harris) who is set in his ways of exacting a personal vendetta on each beast the crew comes in contact with. Possibly having something to do with his missing eye. I’m surprised Crow doesn’t have small pieces of his game strung up on his walls in his captains quarters on the Inevitable. After aiding fellow hunters from the kraken like beast, Crow, Jacob, and first mate Sarah Sharpe (voiced by Marianne Jean-Baptiste) along with their crew set sights on chasing down the infamous Red Bluster.
Much of the film follows Jacob and Maisie as an unlikely duo – a pairing that has been done countless times before where the two have varying differences but over the course of the story, common ground is found, and a bond is formed. Searching for a way to get home while uncovering the truth about the war man and beast have been involved in for a century, The Sea Beast boasts a worthy adventure to be had A mixture of familial ingredients all stirred up in a cauldron – a touch of Pirates of the Caribbean, a bit of Moana and a splash How to Train Your Dragon and Godzilla. Within this time, Williams brings in themes to the forefront that never alienate the viewer no matter the age. Surely, the older viewer will pick up on things that Williams is conveying to the audience through his film while a younger viewer will be taught a valuable lesson, or two.
In looking at the design, the few beasts that appear in full are given a wealth of details through sharp animation. Characters are crisp with soft edges and facial features while the landscape and vast open sea Is breathtaking. Clearly, all the money was spent in a way that brings this lore and mythology to life. Speaking of the mythology, Williams only scratches the surface in the course of 119 minutes. There are plenty of creatures that make an appearance, but their backstories are lacking. A bit more world building would have elevated a strong solo directorial entry where the destinations are one note.
What works with The Sea Beast and will stand out among other elements is the relationship between Jacob and Maisie with Red stealing the spotlight away from the pair. Animated with an expressive look that cannot be ignored, the Bluster is the star, embodying a kaiju demeanor with the spirit and fervor of a small animal breed. If anything else The Sea Beast will take a misunderstood animal, beast, monster and give it a chance to show it’s more than what is on the surface. All of the lies told only add more fuel to the fire when there shouldn’t be one. For the time that this adventure is playing out, The Sea Beast is sure to delight and prove wrong anyone who may have overlooked it when first released.
Screenplay By: Chris Williams & Nell Benjamin
Story By: Chris Williams
Directed By: Chris Williams
Music By: Mark Mancina
Starring: Karl Urban, Zaris-Angel Hator, Jared Harris, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Kathy Burke, Jim Carter, Doon Mackichan, Dan Stevens
Where to Watch: Netflix
Edited By: Joyce Arrastia
Release Date: July 8, 2022
Running Time: 1 Hour 59 Minutes
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%