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“The Sea Beast” review: Oscar bets on animated adventure

“The Sea Beast” review: Oscar bets on animated adventure

With “The Sea Beast”, Netflix throws its harpoon at an Oscar nomination in 2023 for animated film.

While the film’s dialogue and characters are not exactly unique, it is visually remarkable, and it actually is About something. It is a tearing yarn, a beautifully rendered one kaiju adventures on the high seas that use imagination to ask relevant questions about the stories we believe in and who benefits from that belief.

The viewers are thrown into the deep end with an immersive opening sequence that depicts the aftermath of a ship’s destruction. We are in a world of wooden ships at war with monsters; a kingdom by the sea has largely been maintained by a class of “hunters” whose job it is to get rid of these giant creatures in the seas.

This is followed by a clumsy exhibition that introduces Maisie (expressed by Zaris-Angel Hator), a young orphan who adores hunters, reads endlessly about them and looks forward to becoming one. We know where it’s going. We meet Jacob (expressed by Karl Urban), rescued from a sea monster attack as a child and now a Strapping Young Man and powerful hunter himself. Jacob has been raised by the greatest of hunters, Captain Crow (Jared Harris) and his faithful first mate, Sarah Sharpe (Marianne Jean-Baptiste); he is now queuing for the captaincy of their ship, The Inevitable. Until then, Crow is their captain, a common pursuer of the most famous of the giants: His personal white whale is called “The Red Bluster”.

A giant green monster with a hard shell and tentacles attacks a wooden ship in the animated "The sea animal."

“Brickleback and the Inevitable” is not an alternative rock band, but a fair description of the monster and the ship that are engaged in battle in this scene from Netflix’s animated film “The Sea Beast”.

(Netflix)

Jacob and Maisie’s paths will cross, and the two will meet the most fearsome creatures the sea has to offer, and gather important truths along the way.

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“Sea Beast” succeeds practically as a monster fighting adventure with exciting battle scenes – there is less “Master and Commander” than giant monster movie, à la Godzilla), with titanic creatures doing their thing and humans learning lessons in their destructive wake.

Unfortunately, these people tend not to be particularly memorable. Jacob, for example, is not as charming or, ahem, animated as virtually any live-action performance of Urban (recently by “The Boys” and “Thor: Ragnarok”), the actor who tunes him.

A young girl becomes friends with a very cute, small, blue monster in the animated function "The sea animal."

Not all monsters are scary – Maisie (expressed by Zaris-Angel Hator) gets a friend in “The Sea Beast”.

(Netflix)

However, the monsters are wonderfully made. Those who are meant to be threatening are. Those that are meant to be cute are very. Somehow the limited facial expressions that gave them a lot speak for themselves. Viewers will probably remember the two primary “beasts”, and will probably be impressed by the wild leviathan attacks.

Co-written (with Nell Benjamin) and directed by Chris Williams (“Moana,” “Big Hero 6”), what “The Sea Beast” lacks in sparkling dialogue or merriment on the high seas, is more than offset by the beautiful, detailed textures and rich cinematography. There are pictures with epic sweeps and downtime moments that are randomly decorated. Light and colors effectively create atmosphere. The underwater sequences are arresting. This is the type of achievement that is likely to be remembered at the time of award.

Running it all is a lesson that is not usually among the offerings of big studio animations’ Big Bag of Morals. Although some may reject it, the film’s depths are deeper, diving for something interesting to share with children (or stuck adults): What are the roots of traditional hatred? Are they, and their violent consequences, “inevitable”? It encourages viewers to reevaluate beliefs based on stories instead of experience and logic. Who tells these stories? What is their agenda?

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While “The Sea Beast” stands out with action, creatures and achievements of extraordinary animation, it leaves viewers with a gnawing thought: “Maybe you can be a hero and still be wrong.”

“The sea animal”

Considered: PG, for action, violence and some language
Operating time: 1 hour, 55 minutes
Player: Available on Netflix Friday

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