Table of Contents
Photo: ‘The Sea Beast’
The Rise of An Artist
Chris Williams is a filmmaker who got his start in the industry working at Disney, mainly as a storyboard artist. 2008 was a big year for him though, as not only did he co-write and co-direct the feature film ‘Bolt’, but the animated short he helmed, ‘Glago’s Guest’, saw release at the Annecy International Film Festival, a short that got him the position as co-director on ‘Bolt’ in the first place. A few years later, he would go on to co-direct another Disney film, ‘Big Hero 6’. After two solid decades of working with Disney, Chris left the company and turned to Netflix, where he would make his solo directorial debut with a film based on his own screenplay. A number of years later, and that film has finally arrived on the platform. But is that film any good? Did years of experience at one of the largest companies in the world pay off?
‘The Sea Beast’ (formerly known as ‘Jacob and the Sea Beast’) follows a sea monster hunter named Jacob (Karl Urban), who’s part of a ship crew dedicated to hunting down vicious sea creatures. While stopping in a town one night, he meets a young orphan girl named Maisie (Zaris-Angel Hator) who’s eager to join them. After sneaking aboard their ship following a natural refusal from Jacob, the two have a run-in with their prime target, a gigantic monster known as the Red Bluster. But is the great beast really as heartless and destructive as the legends make it out to be?
A Sea-Faring Success
Apart from thinking ‘The Sea Beast’ looked decently fun from the trailer that I had skimmed a week prior, I went into Netflix’s latest animated outing not completely sure what to expect…which made the film all the more pleasant of a surprise for me. I found ‘The Sea Beast’ to be a thoroughly enjoyable film from beginning to end. I love a good adventure film, and in that regard, this movie delivers. There’s no shortage of exciting action scenes and strong characters, and the sense of scale and atmosphere of this film’s world is simply remarkable. There’s so much to explore alongside the characters, and when creatures or settings need to feel large in size…they feel enormous. The excellent animation on display further contributes to this “epic” feel the film manages to pull off so well. Everything moves the way it should and with proper weight, and lighting and color are both very easy on the eyes. It’s safe to say that Chris Williams has more than proven himself as a solo director.
The acting in ‘The Sea Beast’ is also particularly strong. Karl Urban sells his role as the experienced monster hunter Jacob…though I will admit, as someone who loves ‘The Boys’, it was funny to see him in a role where he wasn’t cursing right and left. Jared Harris plays Captain Crow, Jacob’s tough-as-nails first in command, and he does an excellent job as well. I was also pretty impressed by Zaris-Angel Hator’s performance as Maisie; she gives her character the proper sense of warmth and confidence that she was written with. Without breaking down the rest of the cast actor by actor, I’ll save some time and just say that just about everyone’s good in this film.
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It’s a Big World Out There…Emphasis on “Big”
As mentioned earlier, this film goes for a very grand tone, with a lot of “big” things happening on screen, and the direction complements these things very well. The various action scenes involving great big sea monsters are surprisingly intense, and there are quite a few gorgeous wide shots that emphasize just how incredible this film’s fictional world really gets. One particularly beautiful sequence features a sea monster swimming beneath the surface of the ocean, passing by stalks of seaweed and big, glowing jellyfish. It’s a moment straight out of a nature documentary, and it’s one of many where I just found myself completely immersed in the film’s universe. Despite being a Netflix original, this is the kind of film that would work excellently on the big screen, so much so that I almost kind of wish I saw it during its limited theatrical release.
As much as I’d like to spend the rest of the day heaping praise onto this film, there are a few minor aspects that hold it back from being what I would consider a masterpiece. This is an animated family film, and as such, it contains a few tropes commonly associated with such films. The character of Maisie in particular feels like one that was written with kids in mind, what with her being an overly precocious kid herself. While I didn’t dislike her as a character, I wasn’t overly fond of the predictable way the films humorously juxtaposed her and Jacob; with the skilled monster hunter with a lifetime of experience at sea having trouble communicating with the Red Bluster, while the little girl he’s with managing to talk to it with the greatest of ease. It doesn’t take up too much time, but it’s the one aspect of the film that really didn’t click with me; for a film that generally doesn’t hold much back (containing things like violence, minor cursing, and even a bit of on-screen blood), seeing it play the lighthearted moments safe comes across as a bit jarring. On top of that, the message that ‘The Sea Beast’ goes for isn’t super deep and there are no new grounds broken in regards to themes, but it does at least convey such messages pretty well.
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Should You Watch ‘The Sea Beast’? Most Certainly!
I know I used this analogy in the title of my ‘Turning Red’ review, so I hope you’ll pardon this brief bout of repetition, but ‘The Sea Beast’ really made me feel like a kid again. Back in the mid-to-late 2000s, I would see a good number of the latest widely-released animated films through home video rentals, stuff like ‘Happy Feet’, ‘Monster House’, ‘Shrek the Third’, and yes, even Chris Williams’ earlier outing ‘Bolt’. Had ‘The Sea Beast’ come out during that same time period, it would’ve felt right at home with such films, and I’m happy that kids today can have similar experiences to mine. There’s a real sense of timelessness with this film, a sense of timelessness that encompasses other beloved modern animated films like ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ and Netflix’s own ‘Klaus’. ‘The Sea Beast’ gets my wholehearted recommendation, especially for those who love animation. This is one for the whole family.
Cast & Crew:
Directed by: Chris Williams
Written by: Chris Williams, Nell Benjamin
Starring: Karl Urban, Zaris-Angel Hator, Jared Harris, Jim Carter, Doon Mackichan
By Austin Oguri
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Austin Oguri is a screenwriter and has deep appreciation for the art of film in general, he aims to offer unique perspectives through his film reviews and feature articles. He also has a soft spot for lesser-known works, and enjoys spotlighting them whenever he can. Austin has always found it necessary for people to encourage and bring out the best in each other, and as a writer at The Hollywood Insider, he can combine that ideology with his ability to think outside the box and truly express his love for the arts in the best ways possible.