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Review: The Sea Beast

March 11, 2023

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

The solo debut of Chris Williams (who co-directed Bolt, Big Hero 6 and Moana for Disney), the Oscar-nominated The Sea Beast is a pretty good animated adventure movie from Netflix that imagines a world where pirates sail the high seas, killing sea monsters at the behest of the monarchy.

Set in the 17th century, the film has two main characters; crusty sailor turned monster hunter Jacob Holland (Karl Urban), who was pulled from the sea as a young boy and raised by Captain Crow (Jared Harris) upon his ship the Inevitable, and wide-eyed young orphan Maisie Brumble (Zaris-Angel Hator), who fervently reads about the monster hunters in her books and dreams about being one of them. 

Crow has taught Jacob every thing he knows about killing sea beasts. Working under orders from the King (Jim Carter) and Queen (Doon Mackichan), it’s the job of the monster hunters to protect the thriving port town of Three Bridges, spurred by ancient stories of when the sea monsters used to come to shore and eat people off land. After a trip to shore, the crew of the Inevitable set out to hunt the legendary female sea monster known as the Red Bluster, but soon realize that Maisie has snuck aboard their ship, jeopardizing the mission.

The film does feel long at nearly two hours (including about ten minutes of end credits), and there are a few too many story strands. The material is somewhat derivative of better movies (think How to Train Your Dragon), and the more cutesy elements such as a blue jelly blob sidekick, can feel shoehorned in to offset the darker stuff. But Williams, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Nell Benjamin, has crafted a decent adventure movie that has enough of its own lore to keep audiences mostly engaged.

Despite some more predictable elements (we just know that Maisie is going to challenge Jacob’s world view and help teach him life lessons), the core story is a good one, with some interesting, more mature themes about history and what stories get told. There is some solid, PG-level swashbuckling action, including an early sequence that finds the ship’s crew chopping tentacles off a sea monster as they wrap around them and the ship, as well as a well-timed comic moment involving two characters attached by the same rope. It’s all brought to the screen with polished animation, and a very nice, nautical-inspired score by Mark Mencina.

The Sea Beast is now available to stream exclusively on Netflix.

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