• Nate Adams

'The Sea Beast' review: Gorgeous animated epic offers swashbuckling action


Courtesy of Netflix

 

An original, massively budgeted animated epic that must have been greenlit and made long before Netflix axed its cartoon division, Chris Williams’ “The Sea Beast” finds strength in the familiar life lessons of overcoming adversity and finding compassion amid tough circumstances. Williams, who directed the wonderful “Big Hero 6” which featured the lovable, oversized, and inflated Baymax, knows a thing or two about helping children connect with fictional creations. There’s plenty of gigantic and stunning monsters for them to feast upon in “The Sea Beast,” but also a heartwarming underdog story about a young British girl of color, Maisie Brumble (voiced by Zaris-Angel Hator) who stowaways on a ship in the hopes of finding swashbuckling escapades.


Colorful and vibrant as it is endearing, “The Sea Beast” makes a compelling case for Netflix to reconsider producing animated ventures. Co-written by Williams and Neil Benjamin, “The Sea Beast” feels cut from the same cloth as a Robert Louis Stevenson novel with silly, wholesome creatures to help balance the more serious undertones and anti-hunting messaging baked into the screenplay. It’s also about leaving behind a legacy that counteracts what’s left in the history books. Maisie, who is obsessed with books about monster hunters, has dealt with the knowledge her parents died fighting for the Monarch and decides running away from an orphanage to join Captain Crow (Jared Harris) and his crew aboard the Inevitable is her way of giving back.


Crow’s squad, including his first mate Jacob (Karl Urban) are on a mission, sanctioned by the British government, to track down and execute the Red Bluster, a bright red monster that looks cross-pollinated with Clifford the Big Red Dog and Toothless from “How to Train Your Dragon.” With eyes as wide and encapsulating as the Bluster, it’s a wonder why anyone would want to hurt such a defenseless animal, but those history books have a way of altering the truth. Nevertheless, when Jacob and Maisie get lost at sea, the Bluster takes them in, making the mission even more complicated.


Adults and kiddos will likely see where “The Sea Beast” is headed long before it makes port, but the sea-shanty musical stingers and catalogue of larger-than-life crustaceans (a purple crab and Bluster throwdown is certainly a highlight) complement the textured animated presentation. “The Sea Beast” might not have the capital Pixar films are accustomed to, but it stands on its own with an array of gorgeous scenery, layered characters, and excellent voice work. 


Grade: B+


THE SEA BEAST debuts on Netflix Friday, July 8th.