The Sea Beast

July 8th, 2022




The past few weeks I have introduced my son to various animated kids movies, from Peter Pan, to 1940’s Pinocchio, and One Hundred and One Dalmatians, all of them which fit into the golden age of animated features. That streak was followed up with Minions: The Rise of Gru, which is a far distance from what Walt Disney established, but the medium of animation is always shifting, and when I introduced him to The Sea Beast it was an entirely different kind of adventure. Director Chris Williams whose previous works have all made an impact, winning the Oscar for Big Hero 6, winning the world with Moana, and his underrated dog on a road trip movie- Bolt, cementing him as a major voice in the field of animation. It’s because of that status which makes The Sea Beast one of his greatest accomplishments yet. Here is a movie that arrives on Netflix and sadly deserves the IMax treatment. It’s a new age Moby Dick and a pirate adventure that we don’t see enough of, with spectacular beasts of gargantuan size, in a sea tale of a man, an orphan girl that becomes his friend, and a giant red sea monster. The final result is a visually stunning and thrilling tale on the high seas, as The Sea Beast will dive into the collection of next great animated adventures for kids to expand their imagination.

One of the old school factors about The Sea Beast is that it starts with an opening story book, where Maisie (Zaris-Angel Hator) sits on a bed, with a gathering of orphans sit around, in awe as she tells the dashing tales of Captain Crow (Jared Harris) and his first mate Jacob (Karl Urban). They sail the high seas and hunt giant monsters, all in the name of protecting the people on land, and the battle between man and beast is an often ongoing one. We soon learn that Maisie’s stay is a brief one, as she slithers out the window, and finds a way to stow herself on Crow’s ship. This means she is going along for the ride, with the stubborn Crow willing to do all it takes, even lose members of the crew, but what Maisie is able to convince Jacob is that maybe these sea creatures are just misunderstood. When the duo of Maisie and Jacob are tossed off the boat, they save the monster from certain death, developing a new friendship, and setting a course for Crow to turn on his once trusted mate.

As far as the narrative goes, The Sea Beast is not complicated, where Crow’s ship handles a few monsters prior to the massive red creature you see on the poster. It’s a mixture of a whale, an eel, and a dinosaur and his presence is felt from the start. It helps that Williams and co-writer Nell Benjamin manage wonderful set pieces, from the crew’s initial battle with a green creature, to massive scale fights on a ship that make an argument that the Pirates of the Caribbean movies could work in an animated style. In retrospect, The Sea Beast achieves what Rob Howard could not with In the Heart of the Sea, producing a massive new universe, while reminding audiences of the kind of swashbuckling tales we can be drawn to.

On top of the thrilling adventure there is the matter of impeccable animation. The details on the ship, the sand on the beach, and the clear aqua colored water. There’s a sharp visual style that is reminiscent of what Williams created in Moana, while increasing the attention to the animated texture, invoking the style of Miyazaki (Think Howl’s Moving Castle), and the classic look of Disney’s Peter Pan. Maybe The Sea Beast is flawed when Williams decides to add an adorable blobfish to the dynamic, which is a reminiscent trait of most Disney animated features, and one wishes The Sea Beast stayed true to the adult themes and abandoned any Mouseketeer cuteness.

Those quibbles are small. The bigger mistake is that The Sea Beast is only playing on Netflix and this is undoubtedly an animated spectacle meant for the biggest screen possible. The massive kaiju-style monsters are on a creative scale similar to Pacific Rim or the fun experienced with Godzilla vs. Kong. Then you add Karl Urban being fantastic as the unexpected hero, while Harris can be quite terrifying in his delivery, and the other sweaty pirate stuff is eased off with moments of delightful song. Move over Moby Dick. The Sea Beast is a brilliant and blazing high seas adventure.



Written by: Leo Brady
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