The Sea Monster tells a familiar story with an anti-colonial twist, in which people live in constant fear of the huge beasts that move beneath the waves and threaten an ever-expanding kingdom. For generations, its inhabitants have learned to hunt these beasts during perilous ship voyages across the turbulent seas, the most famous ship of all being the Inevitable, crewed by the legendary Captain Crow and his loyal crew.
There is no doubt that animated The Sea Monster have come a long way since Toy Story took its first steps in the digital world, and Chris Williams' latest contribution to the genre attests to this. From the first scene to the last, The Beast from the Sea is full of what a few years ago could be considered an animator's worst nightmare. Oceans of water, complex hairstyles and a cast made up almost entirely of human characters.
But with more than twenty years of experience in the industry and blockbusters like Big Hero 6, Frozen: Red Carpet The Ice Kingdom and Moana under his belt, Chris Williams confidently navigates the dangerous waters of the middle and takes this adventure sailing to port. with a lot of hidden treasures under the helmet worthy of admiration. Gorgeous animation, a compelling story, and a rich cast of characters permeate this ambitious story that is as much about the joy of discovery as it is about empathy and understanding of what is unknown to us.
Little adventurer Maisie Brumble has dreamed all her life of joining the crew of the Inevitable and avenging her parents, who were killed during a hunt years ago. She doggedly tries to convince Jacob Holland, a man Captain Crow regards as her own son, to take her on board. Something he obviously refuses to do, but she Maisie is determined to become one of Crow's crew and she sneaks aboard in a barrel as a stowaway.
Her presence is only The Sea Monster discovered when the ship is far out at sea and, much to Jacob's annoyance, Crow decides to allow her to stay. But Maisie soon realizes the horrors at sea, and through a series of unfortunate circumstances, both she and Jacob are eaten in one piece and captured by the very sea monster the ship was sent to kill. However, very soon the two realize that these large creatures are not evil at all, quite the opposite.
If there is something that the vast majority of original Netflix productions have in common (except of course, those directed by a real author) it is that it seems that they are all made with an algorithm.
These are movies or series made to please the widest possible audience, in innocuous stories that do not provoke any debate. Titles manufactured to attract subscribers as the first and only objective.
That is why The Sea Beast (EU, 2022), the fourth feature film by filmmaker, actor and screenwriter Chris Williams, is so surprising. Trained at the Disney house in films like Big Hero 6 (2014), Moana (2016) and Bolt (2008), Williams migrates to the Netflix animation studios to write, produce and direct (for the first time alone) this story about heroes marine and oceanic beasts.
Set in the seas of Europe (in something that resembles the 16th century) a powerful kingdom has developed thanks to the conquest of the sea, but for this it has had to resort to experienced sailors, wild hunters who are in charge of killing the enormous sea monsters (kaijus, Guillermo del Toro would say) that whip anyone who dares to sail.
Of all the hunters, the most famous is Captain Crook (voice of Ed Harris) who, as a good emulator of Captain Ahab (from Herman Melville's Moby Dick), is obsessed with hunting a gigantic red beast Red Burst that Not only is he the most feared monster on the high seas, but he's the one Crook lost his eye for.
To fulfill his mission, Captain Crook has a whole brave and loyal crew, including Jacob (voice of Karl Urban), the captain's protégé (he rescued him from a shipwreck when he was a child) and his future successor.
Everyone, The Sea Monster both the captain and his crew, as well as the inhabitants of the kingdom, are convinced of the danger posed by monsters. The history books confirm it:These giant beasts have caused the destruction of entire villages and the death of hundreds of brave sailors. Killing them is an act of justice.
The disruptive part of this story, which seems full of testosterone, is the presence of Maisie (voice of Zaris-Angel Hator), The Sea Monster a little girl who escapes from the orphanage to "live a great life and die a great death" as a cop from "The Inevitable ”, the ship of Captain Crook who goes out once again in search of the Red Burst.
All the elements of the film make us think that we are facing a maritime version of How to Train Your Dragon The Sea Monster (Deblois & Sanders, 2019), but we soon realize that the script has other ambitions. And it is that Maise's character inserts variables that from the outset make this far from being an algorithmic film, but in any case it is a film with an extremely pertinent ecological message that even (towards the final rdisruptive), it becomes a subversive message that invites the questioning of authority and the official history that emanates from it.
At the beginning I noted that the story takes place in something similar to the 16th century, and that is that the female presence (and in command positions) is present throughout the film: women as officers and commanders on the ship, rude at the time of combat , or even the queen herself, who is the loudest talker in that kingdom.
I'm not an The Sea Monster expert on the subject, but as far as I know there were no female pirates. In any case, these historical licenses do not bother at all. We are not facing a scolding or instructive film, nor with what they call “forced inclusion”.
It is a fantasy story to which everyone is invited, both boys and girls, where justice is done to the latter by seeing themselves in positions of power and not as submissive characters in the story.
To all this, we must add the very well done action scenes, as well as the extraordinary and detailed animation (especially in the textures and elements, such as water) and the very careful voice work.
So, not everything is lost on Netflix, proof of this is this little animation gem where monsters stop being monsters and women become a factor of change.It was time.
Chris Williams worked with Disney for more than 25 years, writing stories like The Emperor's New Groove, Land of Bears, and directing stories like Big Hero 6 and Bolt. However, his most recent film and one of his most ambitious projects: The Sea Beast, which tells the story of Jacob Holland, a monster hunter who teams up with a young woman and meets the most dangerous monster in the world, ended up on Netflix.
The film was first announced in 2018, just after Williams was praised for his work as a writer on Moana. The decision to bring the film to the streaming service was a big surprise, and that is why the director now explained in an interview why he decided to leave Disney to bring his story to Netflix.
In an interview for Collider, the director confessed that he started working for Disney at a young age and decided to leave one of the most important animation companies to take risks and learn more about the market.
Williams stated The Sea Beast that he felt like he was about to stay at Disney forever, which while not bad, it really wasn't going to be his decision and he wasn't sure he wanted to go down that specific path.
With recent Oscar-nominated films like 2020's Over The Moon and The Mitchells vs. 2021's The Machines, Netflix has shown that it has what it takes to compete with the rest of the studio giants. Mainly, by giving more creative freedom to its artists. And in this regard, Williams opined that the executives of the streaming service were more open to the idea of him.
And the reason for this was because “Disney is this company that has been there forever, and when you arrive you are the bearer of a legacy” so he felt that his story simply would not fit within the mouse company.
In the middle of the winter holidays, Netflix brings a new animated film from the same creators of Moana and Big Hero Six, as an ideal scenario to spend the afternoons. This is "The Sea Beast", a marine adventure in which a captain determined to fight monsters, discovers another way of seeing the world thanks to an unexpected, and small, companion.
The new production of the streaming platform comes under the auspices of the successful Disney director, Chris Williams, who explained that he decided to write this film to recover "the adventure and action stories" that he enjoyed as a child.
This new film imagines a world that is threatened by unknown creatures, where the sailors who cross the oceans to fight them are treated as heroes.
In this context, The Sea Monster a young Maisie grows up listening to stories of travels and conquests until, against everyone's opinion, she makes the decision to embark on an adventure with Jacob, one of the most admired sailors and about whom she is known. Millions of stories have been written.
However, as she progresses through the story and they both find themselves alone in the face of danger, it will be her innocent way of approaching her nature that will end up teaching Jacob more lessons.
"I like that people who have already seen the film draw different conclusions, that's why I shot it," says Chris Williams.
The The Sea Monster reactions to the clip are being varied; while some see an allegory to climate change, in which the youngest try to remedy the problems caused by adults, others see a story of generational change or a moral focused on changing the course of things.
For me the central idea was the cycles of violence that people create; and it comes to perpetuate until something unexpected breaks them”, confesses Williams.
The Sea Beast takes place in the midst of a great war between monsters and men. The latter, financed by a King (Jim Carter) and a Queen (Doon Mackichan).
The other hero of this story is Jacob Holland (Karl Urban), who grew up on a hunting ship called the Inevitable, led by the ruthless Captain Crow (Jared Harris), the Ahab of this story, representative of the old-school hunter, someone that he has been doing this for so long and that he lives obsessed with hunting down the creature that took his eye no matter what the cost.
When Maisie (Zaris-Angel Hator) hides out on her boat while they hunt the sea beast, a red giant known as Bluster, everything changes.
"You can be a hero and still be wrong." It's not exactly a new topic in adventure fiction, but it feels like a more important one for today's world.
Animated films that have been sustained in history rely on children to follow complex plots and themes, and this work is definitely one of them. It is the perfect example of how attention to detail contributes to telling something very complex that appears to be simple.
The greatest strength of The Sea Beast is in the script: it intertwines obvious references to Melville and his famous Moby Dick captain, Ahab. But it also grants him what Herman did not allow him at the time: to redeem himself, to change. The film takes narrative risks in the sense that it is a monster-hunting film that is ultimately against violence.
And not only that, The Sea Monster but it calls into question those historical texts that have been taken as absolute truths for many generations. It is the diversity of topics that he touches on in a script that cares about the nuances, about the characters in his story.
The creatures themselves are a marvel of design: cartoonish enough for readable expressions and imposing enough to momentarily scare the smallest members of the audience.
His animation work is also reflected in his ocean which displays animated water with great skill. On the surface, as hunting boats prowl the sea in search of fearsome creatures, the water shimmers and ripples. Beneath, when the sailors are occasionally swept away by the monsters, the darkness creates an understated, ethereal beauty.
The film, with an apparently simple execution, builds complex themes, invites us to consider how society treats people it sees as different. It offers good lessons on learning from our own mistakes, evaluating people's trustworthiness, and of course, the merits of kindness. It even offers these positive themes without feeling preachy or irritating.
The trap is to think that it will be another animated film within the Netflix catalog; imagine that there will be no greater depth, in that ocean of entertainment; that his characters, driven by clichés, will not undergo a major transformation. The trap is to believe that and not dare to see The Sea Beast, losing the luck of finding it to liven up a couple of hours of life.
It should be clarified: The sea monster does not offer something different in relation to several of the most famous animated films; independent cinema or even more author animations may be superior (they sure are). But this Netflix movie can satisfy several of the key points of a production aimed at children. In that context, it works in a good way.
His drawing is pleasing to the eye, he has characters that adults and children can identify with and, most importantly, the transformation they undergo. Even in sections where it is predictable, this series of factors means that they can be omitted in favor of the story that it is telling: how tradition and stories can be manipulated according to the point of view from which they are narrated.
How many of the stories we know are true? The common place (and no less valid for that) tends to emphasize that the story is told by the victorious, those who in many cases are the only ones left standing or have the financial resources to be able to tell. That is the idea that The Sea Monster wants to put forward, suggesting that, in essence, the main threat against humanity is not another species, but its own.
That idea is planted in the story by an orphaned Afro-descendant girl named Maisie Brumble, played by Zaris-Angel Hator. More than a detail of inclusion, representativeness, it is a declaration of principles: she represents so many generations abandoned at sea, marginalized and discriminated against, by those who have built (written) that story made book with which she grew up and with which he was fascinated Her journey, in moments, is the one that adults go through through the years: discovering how much myth there is in the ideas presented as truths.
Her counterweight, a white, traditional man, clinging to that tradition that fascinates her, serves to polarize the story. But without them confronting each other. They are not adversaries. On the contrary, they serve themselves as mirrors to recognize themselves and try to break with the tradition to which they belong. In the case of the man, Jacob Holland, played by Karl Urban (Thor: Ragnarok), it is about his way of life, one that the girl contradicts.
Movies about sea monsters always have that nose-what that draws us in, but the new Netflix movie goes beyond the mysteries that lie beneath the ocean to tell a story that challenges conceptions of heroes and families, among other things.
On the surface, The Sea Beast is a fairly simple story: a group of sailors try to hunt down the biggest and most fearsome monster in the ocean, but in this adventure things go awry when Maisie (Zaris–Angel Hathor) and Jacob (Karl Urban ) know the beast they are looking for.
The appeal of The Sea Beast lies not only in its superb animation, but in its "heroes can be wrong" conception. In this case, “the heroes” are Jacob and the hunters who came before him, but in a bigger picture, a hero can be a father, an uncle, a sister, a singer, an actress, or an athlete. Idols are not pristine and each story has various points of view.
On the other hand, the heart of the film is the sweet relationship between Jacob and Maisie. A man who thought he had already found his purpose in life and a girl who was looking for one. They will both learn that destiny is sometimes very different from what we have in mind.
Undoubtedly The Sea Monster the quality of the animation of The Sea Monster and especially of the water scenes is of a very high level, so it is clear that they have had a high budget. The story, however, may not be for the little ones in the house, but it is still very enjoyable, but it is also true that there are some moments of pause in the middle that slow down too much and become very long, but luckily the ending is frenetic.
Comparisons with Moby Dick are inevitable, as they are obsessed with a particular beast. In addition, there are moments that are very reminiscent of How to Train Your Dragon, since the relationship with the great red being is similar, and they have even copied some gestures from Toothless, apart from the fact that we have changed the fight from Vikings against dragons, for sailors against sea monsters. While the aesthetic is taken directly from Pirates of the Caribbean, it could even be an animated spin-off, since great beasts like the Kraken also existed in that saga.