Movie Review: ‘The Sea Beast’

Filmmaker Chris Williams (Big Hero 6) is back with another animated feature, but is Netflix’s The Sea Beast worth your time? While The Sea Beast might not be the most original or ground-breaking animated film in recent memory, it would be a lie to say that this film is anything other than an absolute delight.

In an era when terrifying beasts roamed the seas, monster hunters were celebrated heroes and none were more beloved than the great Jacob Holland. But when young Maisie Brumble stows away on his fabled ship, he’s saddled with an unexpected ally. Together they embark on an epic journey into uncharted waters and make history.

When it comes to recent animated offerings, I can’t think of a bigger movie than The Sea Beast. Director Chris Williams, who is one of the creative minds behind beloved Disney animations like Bolt, Big Hero 6, and Moana, has crafted an outrageously fun swashbuckling adventure. The Sea Beast is an incredibly entertaining animated adventure, filled with breath-taking animation, epic-scale set pieces, and a surprisingly touching theme. It feels kind of cheesy or cliché to say, but The Sea Beast is the rare kind of animated film that has something for everyone. The film is very clearly targeted towards children, particularly when it comes to the cuteness of some of the characters, but Williams has made sure to give the film enough substance to entertain older members of the audience as well.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about The Sea Beast is the way that the movie wears its larger themes on its sleeve. While it doesn’t go as far as to bash you over the head, the theme at the heart of the film is something that will undoubtedly lead to a much-needed discussion with the younger members of the audience. The idea that “you can be a hero and still be wrong” is something that we’ve seen in many films before, but it works surprisingly well with The Sea Beast‘s fantasy setting. The film manages to reflect our own world more accurately that anyone could expect, while still delivering a fun, swashbuckling adventure.

As far as the characters are concerned, The Sea Beast is just fine. For the most part the film takes the characters exactly where you expect, but I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t hit with a few surprises along the way. Jacob Holland, portrayed by The Boys star Karl Urban, has a surprisingly compelling arc – as everything he’s ever believed is brought into question. Maisie, who is voiced by Zaris-Angel Hator, is a fun protagonist and Williams was wise to present the film from her perspective. The lack of a proper antagonist is where the film struggles, with Captain Crow (Jared Harris) failing to become an imposing or scary presence throughout the film. The Sea Beast doesn’t side step around some of the more complicated issues, and this allows Williams to delve deeper into the characters. As is the case with almost every animated film, the fantastical character far outshine the human ones. The sea creatures are brought to life wonderfully here, and I was particularly impressed that Williams was able to make the beasts likeable and cute, without taking away what makes them the most feared and dangerous creatures in this world.

The only thing holding The Sea Beast back is its lack of originality and the predictability of the narrative. While there’s no doubt that Williams has delivered an outrageously fun adventure, with some of the best animation that I’ve seen in a long time, it’s hard not to feel that we’ve seen it all before. The Sea Beast doesn’t do quite enough to set itself apart from the crowd, with characters, sequences and a narrative that feel like they were taken straight out of the How To Train Your Dragon franchise. It should also be noted that the film takes too long to get going, with a slow and seemingly directionless first act. When we get into the meat of the story, however, I wouldn’t sacrifice a single moment.

While it’s far from the most original animated film, with characters and a narrative that were clearly influenced by other works, The Sea Beast is an incredibly fun, touching and beautifully animated adventure film. If you’re looking for an easy distraction, or something for the entire family, The Sea Beast might just be the film for you.

Rating: 3.5/5

About The Sea Beast

Director: Chris Williams

Cast: Karl Urban, Zaris-Angel Hator, Jared Harris, Dan Stevens, Jim Carter, Doon Mackichan, Marianne Jean-Baptiste

In an era when terrifying beasts roamed the seas, monster hunters were celebrated heroes and none were more beloved than the great Jacob Holland. But when young Maisie Brumble stows away on his fabled ship, he’s saddled with an unexpected ally. Together they embark on an epic journey into uncharted waters and make history.

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