With The Sea Beast, Netflix is throwing its harpoon at a 2023 Oscar nomination for an animated feature film.
While the film’s dialogue and characters aren’t exactly unique, its visuals are remarkable, and indeed it is around some. It’s a shredding yarn, a beautifully rendered one kaiju Adventure on the high seas that uses imagination to ask relevant questions about the stories we believe in and who benefits from that belief.
Viewers are plunged into the abyss with a captivating opening sequence depicting the aftermath of a ship’s destruction. We are in a world of wooden ships at war with monsters; An ocean-side kingdom was largely maintained by a class of “hunters” tasked with clearing the seaways of these giant creatures.
This is followed by a clunky performance introducing Maisie (voiced by Zaris-Angel Hator), a young orphan who idolizes hunters, reads endlessly about them and can’t wait to become one. We know where this is headed. We meet Jacob (voiced by Karl Urban), who was saved from a sea monster attack as a child and is now a strapping young man and powerful hunter himself. Jacob was raised by the greatest hunter, Captain Crow (Jared Harris) and his loyal first mate, Sarah Sharpe (Marianne Jean-Baptiste); He is now up for the captaincy of their ship, the Inevitable. Until then, Crow is their captain, a habitual stalker of the most famous giants: his personal white whale is called “The Red Bluster”.
Jacob and Maisie’s paths will cross and the two will face the most fearsome creatures the sea has to offer and uncover important truths along the way.
“Sea Beast” is a successful monster fighting adventure with exciting fight scenes – it is less “Master and Commander” and more giant monster movie à la Godzilla) where titanic creatures do their thing and humans in their devastating entourage learn lessons.
Unfortunately, these people tend not to be particularly memorable. Jacob, for example, isn’t as charming or, um, animated as virtually every live-action performance by Urban (recently, The Boys and Thor: Ragnarok).
However, the monsters are beautifully crafted. The ones meant to be menacing are. The ones meant to be very cute are. Somehow the limited facial expressions that allowed them spoke volumes. Viewers will surely remember the two primary “beasts” and likely be impressed by the ferocious Leviathan attacks.
Co-written and directed by Chris Williams (“Moana,” “Big Hero 6”), Chris Williams (“Moana,” “Big Hero 6”) more than makes up for his beauty in what “The Sea Beast” is all about lacking sparkling dialogues or hilarity on the high seas, detailed textures and rich cinematography. There are shots with epic panache and downtime that are casually embellished. Light and color create an effective atmosphere. The underwater sequences are captivating. It’s the sort of achievement that’s likely to be remembered at the time of the awards ceremony.
Moving everything forward is a lesson not typically included in the big bag of morals offered by major animation studios. Though some may dismiss it, the film digs deeper, looking for something interesting to share with children (or die-hard adults): What are the roots of traditional hatred? Are they and their violent consequences “inevitable”? It encourages viewers to reconsider beliefs based on stories rather than experience and logic. Who tells these stories? What’s your agenda?
While striking with action, creatures and feats of exceptional animation, The Sea Beast leaves viewers with a nagging thought: “Maybe you can be a hero and still be wrong.”
“The Sea Monster”
Rated: PG, for action, violence and some language
Duration: 1 hour 55 minutes
To play: Available on Netflix Friday
https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/movies/story/2022-07-07/review-sea-beast-animated-netflix ‘The Sea Beast’ review: Animated adventure stakes Oscar claim