[Nightmarish Detour Review] THE SEA BEAST

[Nightmarish Detour Review] THE SEA BEAST
Courtesy Netflix
The love of monsters and creatures must come from somewhere. For many people, this appreciation gets planted by watching children’s films. Here’s looking at you, Jim Henson! Pairing the monsters with a fun adventure always works well, which is why THE SEA BEAST is a must-see. Coupled with memorable sea creatures, a story that actively encourages empathy, and fully-developed characters, you can’t go wrong adding this to the summer viewing list. THE SEA BEAST gets the inner child Sarah-stamp of approval!

From Academy Award-winning filmmaker Chris Williams (Moana, Big Hero 6), viewers are catapulted back to a time (a bit inspired by the 1700s) when sea monsters reigned the seas. The stories of monster hunters are the stuff of legends, with the stories being passed down to each generation. This is how young Maisie Brumble (Zaris-Angel Hator) is inspired to pursue her path to becoming a monster hunter. This leads her to ultimately sneak onto the Inevitable, the ship that houses a great many legendary hunters.

Celebrated for their kills and protecting the lands, who can blame her? Certainly not the great Jacob Holland (Karl Urban), whose life was upended by the monsters when he was a child. Now a legend in his own right, he works to slay the monsters just as the hunters did before him. However, one fateful night, everything changes, and an unexpected ally starts to open his eyes to other possibilities. A tale that takes us through uncharted territory, THE SEA BEAST doesn’t dumb down its messaging. This creates a well-thought-out seaworthy story for both children and adults alike.

It should go without saying that the big draw here, at least for the bulk of viewers, will be the creatures. The team’s usage of colors and mostly kaiju-like sizes helps to create that distinct otherness and separation between the humans and the monsters. While a bit on the cute side and not the Sarah definition of cute, the team has done a great job designing the creatures we get to see in the film. Inspired heavily by other oceanic creatures (sharks and whales being two of the most easily recognizable), the details added into the textures of the skin, how certain creatures are lit, etc., keep things grounded. Warning alert for parents, but your kiddos will bug you about two specific creatures in the film for hugs. You’ve been warned.

Cr: Netflix © 2022

Looping back on the details and designs, the investment shines onscreen in THE SEA BEAST. Whether it’s a kingdom on the water, a lagoon, or underneath the sea, the attention paid to the settings is nothing short of breathtaking. While the spotlight is on the sea creatures, the human characters aren’t neglected here either. Of the major speaking characters, there’s a complexity that is much appreciated, especially for a film geared towards kids. This is easily a world any viewer will want to dive into. Featuring a diverse set of characters, there’s literally someone for everyone to project onto to live their best internal monster hunter life. Ripe for playacting!

THE SEA BEAST is a lengthier animated film that takes its time building relationship dynamics and planting the seeds of the questions it wants its audience to ask. The work done by Zaris-Angel Hator and Karl Urban, who voices Maisie and Jacob respectfully, truly is the anchor of the film. With that said, the third act of the film does feel a bit rushed. After spending time carefully building the pace and the depth of the relationships, the transition into the final act hits like a storm. Fast and hurried, the action and escalation is an unexpected pivot in execution. Ultimately, it can feel overwhelming.

What keeps THE SEA BEAST from steering completely off course is the writing and character development of screenwriters Chris Williams and Nell Benjamin. The slow steady grip the characters have on our hearts as we plunge rapidly into the choppy waters of the final portion of the film helps. We’re not unmoored by each bomb that gets uncovered, and when the dust settles, the conclusion resonates. And, ultimately, the lessons the team hopes to convey hit home, especially in our more turbulent times.

THE SEA BEAST is well-done. If this had come out when I was a child (compared to the notably darker Pirates of the Caribbean film), I can easily see my younger self inspired to live my best seafaring monster hunter life. The creatures are mostly larger than life, creating that sense of otherworldliness and mortality that the humans feel in the film. The animation is stunning, and it’s clear the team studied the ocean (in particular the lighting and its general murkiness) extensively. And for kids and adults alike, it’ll be difficult not only to fall in love with the creatures but with Maisie Brumble as well. An all too relatable character, she’ll be much-beloved for generations to come.

THE SEA BEAST premieres on Netflix on July 8, 2022!

Sarah Musnicky
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