Written and directed by Chris Williams, The Sea Beast is an adventure with heart, grit, and monsters that are epic in scale. The film’s voice cast includes Karl Urban, Zaris-Angel Hator, Dan Stevens, Jared Harris, and Marianne Jean-Baptiste.
Known as the Dark Times, terrifying beasts roamed the seas, getting close to shore and decimating towns. To keep people safe, monster hunters became celebrated heroes. Generations have passed and none are more beloved or respected than Captain Crow (Jared Harris), his shop the Inevitable, and his crew including the great Jacob Holland (Karl Urban). Found in the wreckage of a monster attack, Jacob has grown into a hero and a crucial part of Captain Crow’s crew and his life.
A boatful of surly sailors who have become each other’s family get thrown for a loop when young Maisie Brumble (Zaris-Angel Hator) stows away on the Inevitable. Inspired by Jacob and moved by her place in monster hunting history, Maisie is tenacious, curious, and focused on joining the crew. Latched on to Jacon, his annoyance turns into a connection with this unexpected ally. Together they embark on an epic journey into uncharted waters and make history.
While the animation scene at Netflix has ended up with an unsure future given the number of cancelations and layoffs at the company, the streaming platform’s latest original film, The Sea Beast showcases the caliber of talent and storytelling that can rival Disney when it’s funded.
First off, The Sea Beast is gorgeous. Visually breathtaking the intricacies of costume, texture, and landscape converge in amazing action moments and tender ones all the same. While the film was produced by Netflix Animation, it was the team at Sony Pictures Imageworks that brought this adventure to life. Their attention to detail and focus on small elements like hair and facial expressions as much as the designs of the giant sea monsters allow the film to have a balance.
It is a sweeping story but it still keeps Jacob, Maisie, and the realities of their world in focus. Additionally, the team at Sony has expertly used contrasting colors to keep the beasts whimsical and intimidating against the world we know. Reds, greens, and blues vibrantly leap off the screen and work with the soft backgrounds.
The epic size of the monsters is always key to how they interact with their surroundings. Their size brings scene composition in beautiful ways while the way the large interacts with the small adds a communication dynamic to the narrative that is shown and not told. In fact, the sprawling history that the film’s characters find themselves in creates a world that feels larger than what we see in just two hours.
While we see a lot of exploration and exposition provided through tales of heroism retold, there are nuggets of beauty that I wanted to see more of. The pink sand beach, the Dark Times, and more beasts of every size. This note is a testament to how wonderful and broad the world of the film feels. You can fall into it and become immersed, waiting for more, and this makes the long runtime worth every minute.
The only flaw that The Sea Beast has is its rushed third act. The majority of the film builds on each subsequent moment in a consistent way. Each beat leads directly to the next and the moments of comedy or adventure feel earned and cohesive. However, in the film’s last 30 minutes, the story kicks into high gear and doesn’t let up with revelation after revelation and conflict that feels a little too rushed. But even with the rushed pacing, the voice acting for every character, especially our leads Karl Urban and Zaris-Angel Hator, keep you invested and engaged. Regardless of any rushed moments, the finale offers some emotional weight that is fitting for this kid-focused film.
The Sea Beast ultimately sets a high bar for animation with beautiful and adorable creature designs that embrace the epic scale that the beasts hold for the humans they interact with. Each character feels complete throughout, even those who just exist in the background. The ship carries an elegance and a power. I could go on of on about each element from the water to the sand has its own beauty but instead, I’ll say that all of this pulls together to create a film that, despite its two-hour runtime leaves you wanting more in the best way.
The Sea Beast releases exclusively on Netflix July 1, 2022.
The Sea Beast
The Sea Beast sets a high bar for animation with beautiful and adorable creature designs that embrace the epic scale that the beasts hold for the humans they interact. Each character feels completely throughout, even those who just exist in the background. The ship carries an elegance and a power. And all of this pulls together to create a film that, despite its two-hour runtime leaves you wanting more in the best way.
Kate Sánchez is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of But Why Tho? A Geek Community. There, she coordinates film, television, anime, and manga coverage. Kate is also a freelance journalist writing features on video games, anime, and film. Her focus as a critic is championing animation and international films and television series for inclusion in awards cycles.