In Netflix’s new animated film The Sea Beast, we’re taken on a heartwarming quest full of life, empathy, and learning. The film was written and directed by Chris Williams (Moana, Bolt, Big Hero Six) and is currently streaming on Netflix.
In this adventurous tale, we meet sea monster hunter Jacob (Karl Urban), and young orphan Maisie (Zaris-Angel Hator). Both have seen painful losses due to the horrifying beasts that they believe terrorize the land. But there is a lot more to the story and the “war” than that, as the pair find out as they meet some unexpected friends, and find family in each other, along the way.
[Warning: Some spoilers for The Sea Beast are discussed below]
A refreshing take on a rivalry as old as time
There are countless stories in different forms of media about pirates hunting enormous monsters, but The Sea Beasts’ charming characters, beautiful lighting, and funny dialogue make this ocean-exploring journey very worthwhile. It might be aimed at young children, but there is plenty of charisma in the film for adults to enjoy as well.
Karl Urban’s Jacob is a very skillful, young monster hunter who is very fond of his way of life. However, this character is a far cry from his “Supe” hunting Billy Butcher of The Boys. A simple routine that includes taking down animals the size of ships, pursuing the rank of captain, and wrapping it all up by drinking at a bar after a long day. It isn’t until he meets Maisie, a child with enough courage and energy to take down an army, that he begins to question what he does for a living.
While the way Jacob’s relationship develops with Maisie and other characters in this story is probably predictable, it is still highly enjoyable to watch these two characters together. Hator’s Maisie is delightful, as she brings some wonderful elements – intelligence, a wide-eyed sense of adventure, and empathy – to the story. A simple message is brought to the story by Maisie, which gives something for even adults watching to consider. It is the idea that someone can be a “hero” and still be wrong.
While much of the story might be based on a very old story trope, this movie plays it out by focusing on the chemistry of its characters and the visual spectacle of playing with the scale of the creatures themselves, the water that surrounds them, and the pirate ships that take them into battle. It’s as if the film knows you’ve seen very similar stories before, so it compensates with style, humor, and heart to become vastly enjoyable.
The Sea Beast: funnier than your average kraken
The deadpan humor is effective throughout most of the runtime. The Sea Beasts’ jokes made me laugh out loud by having the characters speak with a stereotypical pirate accent while being calm, only to react like modern, non-sailing people when confronted with danger. There are some fun physical comedy moments as well, mostly involving Karl Urban’s Jacob, who has his hands full both the sea beasts he encounters and with little Maisie herself.
When the movie makes you laugh, it is easier to care about the characters during serious moments. That, along with interesting backstories for Jacob, Maisie, and the very aggressive Captain Crow (Jared Harris), put more spice into this friendly voyage.
Said backstories, like Maisie being an orphan after her parents died hunting monsters, give more depth to the crew of the Inevitable and give the chance to be more complex to a story that would only be silly fun for toddlers otherwise. Another statement to how Bolt director Chris Williams tried to make something different while having fun.
Beautiful shots to sail away
While creating interesting shots when it comes to the open sea can be difficult due to the excess of blue coming from the water and the sky, Netflix Animation’s team display plenty of variety to set the mood for the film using sunlight, smoke, and above all, scale. When combining these three elements, there are a couple of shots gorgeous enough to be awe-inspiring.
The Sea Beast is visually captivating thanks to its use of color and light. Added to that, there is plenty of effort invested in how the movie sounds. Plenty of care was focused on creating scale with sound, for both big moments like a monster tearing through a wooden pirate ship, to smaller conflicts such as a sword fight.
Coming back to the narrative, the world-building displayed in this movie is lovely. It didn’t try to expand on unnecessary lore, it didn’t try to be too complex for its own good. But at the same time, it was quite interesting and it was evident that the people who created it were very invested in it.
Final thoughts on The Sea Beast
Overall, this was a fun and lovely adventure with plenty of heart. The characters are written strongly and there are some very impressive shots where the emotional weight of the story can be felt without a single line of dialogue. This is a perfect movie to watch with the whole family on a Sunday afternoon.
The story is engaging and the movie has a nice pace that allows it to breathe and truly take in the beautiful world around these characters, while at the same time continuing the journey without too many detours. It was very comfortable watching a film that is in no rush to be over while not overstaying its welcome.
Monsters, pirates, and the ocean are a recipe for a good time in this case. And with a good dose of emotions, laughter, and action, this animated fantasy will hopefully delight people of all ages. If The Sea Beast is an indication of the standard Netflix Animation keeps setting for itself, then we can expect bright things to arrive on shore.
My rating for this film:
★★★½ / ♥♥♥♥
The Sea Beast is currently streaming on Netflix.
[Editor’s Note: This article was written by Diego Peralta.]