Netflix animation film “The Sea Beast” sometimes takes its time as paying some attention to its rich details and backgrounds, and I like that. While it is rather familiar in terms of story and characters, the film entertains us via a number of solid visual moments besides several obligatory action sequences, and it is a bit shame that we can enjoy the film only via streaming service instead of watching it at big theater.
The story is set in a fantasy world where humans and those big sea monsters have clashed with each other for many centuries, and the opening scene succinctly establishes the story promise via its plucky little orphan heroine. Having read a lot of books about monster hunters, Maisie Brumble (voiced by Zaris-Angel Hator) have been quite eager to join the crew of one legendary monster-hunting ship someday, and we soon see her sneaking away from her orphanage and then leaving for a big port city which has been the center of the monster-hunting business.
That famous monster-hunting ship and its crew led by Captain Crow (voiced by Jared Harris) has just arrived there in time, but the captain is not so pleased although he and his crew hunted enough during their latest voyage. Many years ago, he lost one of his eyes due to one particular sea monster which has evaded him and many other monster hunters for quite a long time, and, just like that obsessive captain hero of Herman Melville’s great American novel “Moby Dick”, he has been quite determined to catch that beast someday. He actually had one golden opportunity during the latest voyage, but, alas, he had to give it up for doing the right thing as advised by his right-hand guy Jacob Holland (voiced by Karl Urban), who has been his surrogate son since he was rescued when he was just a young small boy.
Meanwhile, the king and the queen, who has lived at the center of the port city, come to consider using soldiers instead of hiring Captain Crow and many other monster hunters out there, so Captain Crow and his crew must prove their worth again. Boldly promising to the king and the queen that he and his crew will capture that elusive sea monster as soon as possible, the captain and his crew soon depart from the port city, and then, what do you know, they belatedly find that Maisie sneaked into their ship in advance.
When Captain Crow gladly allows Maisie to join the crew just because he sees from her what he once saw from young Holland, Holland, who incidentally came across Maisie before, is not so pleased, but then the situation becomes quite serious as they and everyone else on the ship later come across their main target again. As Captain Crow is ready to sacrifice everything for attaining his ultimate goal this time, the ship and its crew are thrown into a very serious peril, and that is when both Maisie and Holland come to make a decision against Captain Crow, who is naturally furious about what they boldly did for the ship and its crew.
And then Maisie and Holland are taken away from the spot by the beast. After spending some time inside the beast, they arrive at one remote island inhabited by the beast and many other sea beasts, and the mood becomes a bit leisurely as Maisie and Holland come to stay in the island during next several days. At one point, Maisie comes to befriend a little adorable creature, and she and Holland also come to learn that sea monsters can actually be much less aggressive than they look on the surface.
I wish the film could spend more time on presenting the ecological details of the island, but it still provides enough awe and wonder. While that little creature adopted by Maisie quickly wins our heart via its hyper-cuteness, we are also introduced to a few other beast characters in the island, and the film subsequently serves us a fun and exciting action sequence between the two clashing beast characters.
In addition, the screenplay by director/co-producer Chris Williams, who previously co-directed “Bolt” (2008) and “Big Hero 6” (2014), and Nell Benjamin also diligently builds up the drama among its main characters. While Holland and Maisie’s rocky relationship development functions as the center of the story, the film also brings extra personality to the beast, which comes to look as likable as that dragon character in “How to Train Your Drago” (2010). In case of Captain Crow’s ongoing quest for vengeance on the other side of the story, it is depicted with some human complexity, and his trusted crew members come to have serious doubt and reservation when he tries something rather questionable later in the story.
Everything in the story eventually culminates to the climactic part unfolded with lots of action, but the film thankfully does not lose its focus on story and character. In addition, it makes some good points on how to accept and recognize the past while moving forward to the future, and that will be surely appreciated by both young and adult audiences.
In conclusion, “The Sea Beast” did not surprise me much, but it did a bit better job than I expected from its trailer, and I also enjoyed the good voice performances from its main cast members including Karl Urban, Zaris-Angel Hator, Jared Harris, Dan Stevens, Kathy Burke, Jim Carter, and Marianne Jean-Baptiste. It could do more, but the result has at least more style and personality than, say, “Minions” (2016), and I am fine with that.