The Sea Beast wants to be an adventure for the whole family.
We’d say that’s true – as long as the family doesn’t include children of the very young variety.
An often gripping tale set on the high seas where massive ships fire cannons at giant creatures that roam the waters, creatures also attacked by human spears.
This is an animated film worthy of its PG rating.
The film, which debuts on Netflix this week, begins with a terrified boy in a raging ocean, clinging to a makeshift raft while a ship burns nearby and a giant animal swims just below him.
Then we switch to another kid, Maisie Brumble (Zaris-Angel Hator), who reads to other orphans from the book Tales of Captain Crow.
“There was a time when children feared the night,” Maisie reads with great drama, “because the hours of sleep brought with them horrifying visions—the dark days when these horrible sea creatures ravaged our shores and no ship at sea was safe. ”
Crow and the men and women like him are the proud “hunters” who patrol the waters these days to make sure the people on land are safe from “monsters”.
Maisie soon escapes the orphanage and finds herself aboard the Inevitable, the large ship captained by none other than Crow (Jared Harris).
Her appearance enrages Jacob Holland (Karl Urban), deputy for the Inevitables and Crow’s surrogate son. (The boy in the water? That was a young Jacob whom Crow rescued and trained to be the future captain of his ship.) However, Crow takes a liking to her and lets her hang around while he and his crew set sail for another adventure.
Crow is the Ahab of this story, his Moby Dick is the giant creature known as the Red Bluster. Crow has been obsessed with his capture for 30 years and recently promised to take it to the king (Jim Carter) and queen (Doon Mackichan).
Netflix wants many of the story’s key elements to be kept under wraps, so just know that Jacob and Maisie will be separated from the inevitable and will need to become allies, at least the uneasy kind, if they’re to survive. And while he feels he has so much to teach the plucky girl — “You’re too young to be that mean,” he tells her at one point — she might be the one teaching him some important lessons.
The Sea Beast is well cast, with Urban (Star Trek, The Boys) being an excellent choice for a seaman. Likewise, Harris (“Mad Men”, “Foundation”) has the matter with the grizzled ship’s captain under control. And the lesser-known Hator (“Morbius”) gives Maisie, an easy-to-like young heroine, the courage she needs.
The real star of this show, however, is director Chris Williams, who, according to the film’s production notes, has long had a love for adventure stories like Raiders of the Lost Ark and King Kong. His excitement comes through the screen as The Sea Beast progresses through its story, even if that story is rather predictable.
And no, this doesn’t compare to his terrific, Oscar-winning 2014 film Big Hero 6 for Walt Disney Studios — it never quite finds the heart that an older film possesses — but it pulls you into his Spell and hold you tight you over there. Whenever Williams is the captain of a movie — his directing credits include 2008’s Bolt — he deserves a look.
At two hours, The Sea Beast is a bit long for an animated film. And again, for the really little ones, it can be a little cringeworthy at times, despite plenty of cuteness to go along with the more stressful moments.
On the other hand, there are lessons for the slightly older about whether you should trust everything you’ve been told just because you’ve been told.
So take our word for it—or maybe don’t, in the spirit of this lesson: The Sea Beast is a journey worth taking.
The Sea Beast is rated PG for action, violence, and some speech. Running time: 1 hour, 59 minutes.