TL;DR – You will probably see the shape of this film for the first couple of minutes, but that does not take away how delightful the time is as we go diving through a world of monsters.
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
Disclosure – I paid for the Netflix service that viewed this movie.
The Sea Beast Review –
I think animation, especially animation focused on younger audiences, gets a bad rap. Sure, there is a lot of nonsense out there made to fill time, but that does not mean that an animated film directed toward children will be inherently bad. There are films where you can see the artistry and craft that have gone into every moment. Well, today we look at just such a film with the nautical adventure The Sea Best.
So to set the scene, for over a hundred years, there has been a war across the seas of this world. Great sea beasts stalked the oceans taking ships to a watery grave, even swiping people from the coastline as they were tending their gardens. To fight this menace, the royalty of Three Bridges hired great hunters to take the fight to monsters and keep the waters safe. The Hunters live by a clear code that all must follow, even those on the most famous hunting ship, The Inevitable. Under their Captain Crow (Jared Harris) and his forebears, they have kept the seas clear, with only the great red beast alluding them. Well, the King (Jim Carter) and Queen (Doon Mackichan) have become tired of paying Hunters to kill the beasts, so they make their own ship, The Imperator, to do the work for them. Seeing their future fall apart, Jacob Holland (Karl Urban) makes a deal with the royals, a race, and if The Inevitable gets the sea beast before The Imperator, well then, they keep working with the Hunters.
The first thing I want to talk about is the animation and design because we get some moments of absolute wonder in this movie. I think this might be the best-looking animated water I have seen in a film since the pearlescent Moana [Sea of Thieves or Horizon Forbidden West if we are talking about video games]. Every wave, swell, or ripple feels like it could be real even though it is still slightly stylised. Some underwater scenes were breathtaking as you saw that world’s beauty and danger. A level of detail here makes the world work, from the grains of sand to the large nautical kaiju. I liked how the monsters had texture and history when you got close to them, bringing an immersive element to the visual storytelling. All the monsters are also animated in a way that gives them heft and weight that you can feel as well as see the danger. It is solid characters design like this that helps sell the movie and its narrative.
While the visual component was strong, I also liked the general vibe the film was working with. It can be a red flag for your movie when you add a young precocious child into the mix that is an expert in everything. The character of Maisie Brumble (Zaris-Angel Hator) is anything but that. She comes with a nostalgic view of what the Hunters are, but that is a view coloured by her own unique past that gives her a perspective that the film needs. Her rapport with Jacob is one of the best parts of this film, up there, say with Logan in that regard. This bond is required for all the more slapstick moments to land, and goodness, were they funny. Though I should say, that part of that comes from Karl Urban’s perfect delivery. On the flip side, Captain Crow’s slow slide away from good is perfectly captured by another outstanding Jared Harris performance.
Where the film may or may not work for you comes from the narrative, and to explore that, we do need to engage with some [SPOILERS]. The main thrust of the first part of the film is that these monsters are unrelenting; even though we don’t know why this war started, we must keep fighting it. Well, from that one sentence, you will probably understand what the big end of the first act twist is. Discovering that your foe is not a relentless monster and is someone with feelings and agency is a common theme that narratives employ, and while we go through all the main plot points here in this film, it is worth a watch. Part of this was we saw characters slowly work through their histories to see how they could be led down this road. The other part of what made this work was how good that Red works as a character, both sympathetic but also still terrifying.
In the end, do we recommend The Sea Beast? Absolutely. The tone, animation, humour, characters, and story all wove together to make a joyous romp through the oceans. If you liked The Sea Beast, I would also recommend to you the How to Train Your Dragon series.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of The Sea Beast
Directed by – Chris Williams
Story by – Chris Williams
Screenplay by – Chris Williams & Nell Benjamin
Music by – Mark Mancina
Edited by – Joyce Arrastia
Production/Distribution Companies – Sony Pictures Imageworks & Netflix
Starring – Karl Urban, Zaris-Angel Hator, Jared Harris, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Jim Carter, Doon Mackichan, Dan Stevens, Kathy Burke, Helen Sadler, Shannon Chan-Kent, Max Mittelman, Helen Sadler, Shannon Chan-Kent, Paul Chowdhry & Xana Tang
Rating – Australia: PG;