The Sea Beast is a beautifully animated and magnetically voiced-performed pirate’s tale with Fantastic Beasts and Jurassic Park narrative totallings.
During their youth, plenty of people have had a quick obsession with pirates. I’m not going to lie; I did as a kid, too. And quite significantly since I grew up during the birth of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise and constantly played Peter Pan. Although nowadays I have a couple of criticisms towards the two, I will admit that both are genuinely influential to many filmmakers. One of them is director, screenwriter, and animator Chris Williams. That love for those projects isn’t seen in his previous features, Bolt and Big Hero 6, because those allude to other pieces of work, like Krypto the Superdog and Neon Genesis Evangelion, respectively. However, his latest feature (the first one in eight years, Netflix’s The Sea Beast), has various narrative elements and scenes implemented from them. And I’m happy to say that this was visually breathtaking and actually surprising due to hearing little about it beforehand.
The Sea Beast begins with the aftermath of destruction – a thunderstorm is chopping the seas in half, there’s fire everywhere, and we see a ship broken down into multiple parts. Next, we see a young kid holding for dear life to pieces of a broken vessel, scared because there’s a big beast beneath the sea. The creature is so massive that even Poseidon himself would fear it. Well… that’s how it’s being described in the various stories and tales the kids read to each other, like fairytales. But, unlike the pirates in the famed Jack Sparrow-led franchise, they are praised here and talked about as sheer heroes. Meanwhile, in the box office hit films, they are treated as rebels who go against their own country. But, of course, we later discover that that kid is our main protagonist, Jacob Holland (played by the grizzly-voiced Karl Urban, whose voice is finely fitting for a pirate/monster hunter).
He’s the right-hand man of the one at the helm, the leader of The Inevitables, Captain Crow (Jared Harris). After a rough attack, Captain Crow is shaken – broken and rugged. This causes him to start thinking of the future of his crew and who will be the right fit to be captain when he lets go of the mantle. His best maneuver is to move on after he has accomplished his thirty-year extending goal: find and hunt the beast that took his eye. Crow will leave his ship to Holland once the beast is down and presented to the king and queen since he’s “captain material”. The rest of the story revolves around learning that the royals started the war between sea beasts and man and that not all creatures are monsters born for destruction. Amidst that, a young girl, Maisie Brumble (Zaris-Angel Hator), stows away on their ship to follow in their parents’ footsteps of becoming a sea beast hunter.
In the first couple of seconds, you know that one is in good hands with director Chris Williams at the helm. This is because, animation-wise, The Sea Beast is astonishing and beautiful to look at. The animation is so vivid that one could smell the sea brine. When it comes to its story, there is plenty to get enticed and fascinated with, but at the same time, that’s where people might have some issues with the film. It’s like Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, but instead of having wizards roaming around in New York capturing lost mythical creatures, ranging from all different shapes and sizes, we have pirates searching for them across the seas. That narrative is engaging by itself, particularly when one has enchanting beasts to look at and be in awe of. Still, it ultimately leads to the main point that’s expected when you put a creature being looked at as a placeholder for God and man against each other.
It’s the Jurassic Park (or Godzilla) story totaling, in the end, for better or worse, because it causes a lesser impact since most will know where the story is headed. In these situations, the director and crew must find ways to engage its audience enough to uphill those narrative flaws, and The Sea Beast has enough charming and captivating moments to do so. How do they do this? By referencing multiple pieces of works with animated heft. The first sea beast attack, and one during the middle section of the film, reminded me of the last scene in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, where Jack Sparrow is forcefully fighting against the mighty Kraken. It also has other aspects similar to that franchise as well, like the Queen and King forcing pirates to do their dirty work, the ship with hundreds of fixed cannons, and a grand fight in a whirlpool against a great beast. There’s even a quick nod to Pinocchio, with being trapped inside the bellows of the beast and Godzilla with one colossal monster fight (and the sea beast’s roar).
The battles in The Sea Beast don’t come near to containing the same amount of thrill as those in the famed franchise, but it at least has compelling characters you enjoy spending time with. The leading duo of Urban and Hator deliver plenty of energy onto their character’s voices that it’s palpable, their bond getting stronger as the film transgresses. That’s the critical magnetic factor of the film. You connect with these characters as their perspectives change when confronted with a different reality and new morals. You stay for the sea monsters and leave with great characters brought to life by top-notch vocal performances. Although their story arcs might not be polished to a great extent, one manages to go with the movie because of Williams’ direction. The visualization is stronger than the pen this time around, when, in Big Hero 6, it had a balance between the two. Albeit it is great to see him back crafting films that bring the world being tackled to life.
The Sea Beast will be available to watch globally on Netflix on July 8, 2022.