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The Sea Beast Review by Netflix – A familiar but captivating adventure story

It’s easy to write off an all-too-familiar film as just another derivative work of art. While this initial assessment wouldn’t be entirely wrong, it would negate the film’s ability to inform, delight, and otherwise entertain an audience. That’s certainly the case with Netflix’s The Sea Beast, a beautifully animated film with a great cast and solid storytelling.

Directed by Chris Williams (Moana), The Sea Beast follows the story of Jacob Holland (Karl Urban) and Maisie Brumble (Zaris-Angel Hator). As a famous hunter – pirate equivalents committed to hunting giant sea creatures – Jacob is selfless. Only ever go against Captain Crow’s (Jared Harris) orders when a crew member is in danger. And even then, it’s the gentlest of nudges; he owes everything to the man who raised him. That finally changes after Jacob has a chance meeting with Maisie Brumble, a curious little girl who has always dreamed of becoming a Slayer and is hiding on his ship.

Zaris-Angel Hator's Maisie is absolutely adorable.
Zaris-Angel Hator’s Maisie is absolutely adorable.

The early story beats present the makings of a wild monster-hunting adventure, a concept that works largely thanks to well-crafted open-water action scenes. Watching the hunters fight large creatures while trying to keep their ships intact is a treat. However, the risks and rewards of such a life are just the tip of the iceberg. Delve deeper and you’ll see that The Sea Beast is a film about how family ties and the historical relevance of past actions can shape one’s future. However, this notion can often morph into something else.

What was once a means to hold those closest to us could become what pushes them away. Or worse, be the cause of her untimely death. This is evident in the relationship between Captain Crow and Jacob. Crow’s desire to pass on his legacy is overshadowed by his desire for revenge. He is constantly chasing his “White Whale” and doesn’t notice the damage he’s inflicting on Jacob or the precarious situations he’s putting his crew in.

This approach to potentially damaging family ties is not entirely new. What sets it apart is the way that message is delivered. The film doesn’t overly rely on humor to engage and presents each dilemma on a mature foundation. There isn’t much metaphorical expression; everything important is either shown directly or delivered through a passionate performance by the cast. This storytelling tactic is a smart choice considering that a large portion of the film’s audience will likely be children. Still, some of the violence shown can be a bit too much for the youngest among us. However, the emphasis on not pulling punches helps frame the more tribulantous portions of the journey. Ultimately, parts of The Sea Beast might be a little too graphic for some younger viewers, but with the themes at play, the film manages to tell a story in a way that is accessible to most viewers who are ideally off Families watching together.

None of this would work without a solid cast. Karl Urban’s Jacob entertains as a reluctant hero. He’s a likable character for sure, and his comedic timing (when there’s humor) is spot on. Jared Harris is great as Captain Crow. His shifts in perspective, while not always pointing in the right direction, are captivating if not downright understandable. Marianne Jean-Baptiste is underutilized as Crow’s number 2, Sarah Sharpe, but not because she isn’t given enough screen time. It has more to do with how her actions, subtle or not, convince the audience that there is more to her story. The same goes for Zaris-Angel Hator’s Maisie Brumble. She also has an interesting backstory. But because of things happening in the present, we have just enough storytelling to overlook their lack of lore. And thanks to a strong performance and well-written dialogue, Maisie steals every scene she’s in.

The film also features some excellent computer animation. There are some formulaic elements when it comes to character and creature design – all monsters evoke a “how to train your dragon” vibe. However, the colorful aesthetic and strong attention to detail undercuts most criticisms. This applies in particular to the water, which at times appears almost photo-realistic.

The Sea Beast is a great animated film, but it’s not without its flaws. The main reason is that the film is somewhat cliche, with elements borrowed from older properties; Anyone familiar with Pixar or Dreamworks will no doubt recognize those influences here. However, that fact alone doesn’t negate what the film does well. And it still tells a compelling adventure story with fully realized characters – made clear thanks to strong voice work and an excellent script – and wonderful animation. Overall, The Sea Beast is a welcome addition to Netflix’s animated catalogue.

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