Animation films have been coming from left and right from Disney’s Encanto, Pixar’s Turning Red and Lightyear, and more recently, Illumination and Universal Studio’s hit film, Minions: The Rise of Gru. It’s Netflix’s turn however to try out their hand and luck in the animation front with The Sea Beast — the focal point of this review.
As of writing, this animated film stands tall in the number one spot in Netflix Philippines’ Trending films. From Academy Award-winning filmmaker Chris Williams (Moana, Big Hero Six), The Sea Beast is set to redefine the meaning behind the word adventure. The film features the voices of Karl Urban, Zaris-Angel Hator, Jared Harris, Dan Stevens, and many more. The Sea Beasts are set in an era when terrifying beasts roam the seas and monster hunters are regarded as highly celebrated heroes. One of the most notable of them is the great Jacob Holland but everything flips upside down for Holland when a young Maisie Brumble stows away on his fabled ship. Holland instantly gains a new and unexpected ally which also changes the tides for the hero as they must now join forces on an epic history-making journey through uncharted and unforgiving waters.
The hype, rise to fame, and overall promise that The Sea Beast sets, definitely got our attention which was the very reason why we took the time to review the film in its entirety here at This is Hype Ph. If all goes well for The Sea Beast as well, this will not the be first Netflix distributed/original animated film to make a mark on the streaming platform with hits such as The Mitchells vs. the Machines and Klaus.
The Sea Beast Review: Spoiler Warnings
We will keep this review of The Sea Beast plain and simple and free from spoilers. We will therefore limit our discussion to the overall direction of the film, its animation style, and some of the themes tackled in the film.
A Two-Toned Movie
There are a lot of elements that The Sea Beast has going for itself but the film admittedly feels like two different films entirely all smooshed into one. That’s not to say that it’s a bad thing at all. Tonality wise however it becomes distinctly clear that there are elements and aspects to The Sea Beast that feel like two separate entities. This is seen both in terms of the film’s story and visual direction.
On the visual front, The Sea Beast sets the tone in two somewhat polar opposite ways. The first half of the film boasts darker-toned animation techniques that remind me of Arcane from its very immersive and life-like settings, down to the very grungy and rough around-the-edges look for the characters. This visual direction melds perfectly with the swash-buckling and pirate themes and elements of the film. There were even moments when these specific darker tones and stylistic choices resembled films such as Pirates of the Caribbean and Mad Max. These stunning visual applications were even able to highlight both dark and lighter backgrounds that shifted back and forth which enabled vibrancy and diversity in terms of color. Towards the middle of the film, however, the animation stylistic choices would slowly change — adapting similar cartoonish graphics as seen in films such as Moana, How to Train Your Dragon, and Abominable. These shifts showed, in my opinion, slight inconsistencies and again usage of various styles that could have been applicable for two separate films. As a whole, though these shifts and changes were executed well with every detail being very adept to the given scenes and overall story.
In a similar fashion to the visual side of things, the story also felt like there were two very distinct storylines occurring simultaneously and it was all the more visible due to the tonality set by every other element. For the first few minutes or so, we get a great picture of the pirate-like heroes with all their quirks and flaws. The action scenes were intense and heart-racing which allowed the film to really shine in terms of pulling off such a feat on an animated scale. The fast-paced nature of it all allowed room for viewers to become entranced with the film. It was simply a great way to get things started. Towards the middle of the film, things do get a bit clunky with the pacing dragging along its feet but the emotional quality still remains intact. Again it wasn’t necessarily a huge letdown but in terms of the consistency of the story as a whole, there was just some slight back and forth tonality-wise.
A Monstrously Deep Tale
One of the downsides that this film may have however is the familiar direction that it brings. Nothing new is brought to the table when we talk about the story and even the development of the creatures found in the film. As mentioned there is a similarity that the film has with movies such as How To Train Your Dragon and Abominable. The also formulaic nature of humans (especially kids) interacting and being able to develop a bond with monstrous creatures wasn’t at all innovative. The very design of the supposedly treacherous monster Red is so similar to that of Toothless from How To Train. The resemblances are uncanny. It’s the kind of treatment that makes the character still look appealing and adorable despite its supposedly monstrous characterization. The way the story flows is also very similar to the fact that ruthless-looking villains plague the story with the goal of vanquishing the said monster in question.
Despite some similarities and tropes used in such stories, The Sea Beast manages to accomplish two things, it remains engaging and profound. The film manages to catch the viewer’s attention early on and also is able to keep it until the very end. There are some points in the narrative that do drag a bit from time to time but for the most part, the movie is entrancing to watch again both story-wise and because of the stunning visuals. What makes this film stand out however is what occurs somewhat towards the end of the film. The big twist to be honest was at first underwhelming and predictable. The film however shifts gears when the film suddenly tackles political themes and the power of the next generation to make a significant change even with governmental rulings and policies. There was a very relatable, deep, and profound message that hit very hard and close to home towards the end which made The Sea Beast all the more interesting to witness. These themes honestly saved the day for the film as it avoided being just another run-of-the-mill animated film and into something more meaningful.
The Sea Beast Review: Final Verdict
As seen in our review of The Sea Beast, this is an animation film with a lot of promise and it does succeed for the most part. It has its fair share of ups and downs as it tends to lack consistency, and emotional depth and can be dragging at some brief moments. It does however shine due to the immersive designs, beautifully crafted animation styles, and profound nature of some of the story’s themes. It’s a pretty decent animated offering and is in the running at being one of the more entertaining and exhilarating ones that we have gotten so far for the year. A must-watch film for the entire family!
Hype Meter: 8/10
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