Six Takes on The Sea Beast

Reviews of Netflix's The Sea Beast

Written collectively by the Teen Editorial Staff and guest edited by TeenTix alumni Lily Williamson and Tova Gaster

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The Teen Editorial Staff teamed up to bring to light some different perspectives about the recently released The Sea Beast (2022). Read on to see how anyone can gather enjoyment from this new Netflix film. Warning: spoilers ahead!

AAMINA

The Sea Beast follows Maisie Brumble (Zaris-Angel Hator) and Jacob Holland (Karl Urban) on a voyage through reconciliation with their history in a timely examination of patriotism, pride, and peace, debuted this June. The film opens with a beautifully animated scene of a storm, complete with the dazzling blues and greens of the sea, accompanied by the glowing oranges and reds of a ship on fire. In a world where humans are constantly at war with sea monsters, monster hunters are regarded as among the most noble members of society. When one of the leading ships, The Inevitable, steered by a revenge-driven Captain Crow (Jared Harris), fails to bring the Red Bluster, an infamous sea monster, to the Crown, they are given an ultimatum to either succeed the next time or to hand the reins over to the military, ending the era of monster hunters. Maisie, the daughter of two monster hunters who passed away in a shipwreck, decides to stow away on the ship. Maisie meets Jacob, and is immediately starstruck. Jacob, to whom The Inevitable is the closest thing he had to a family, is the hallmark of a stereotypical hero from his loyalty to his arrogance. Eventually, Maisie and Jacob get separated from The Inevitable.

From his rousing speeches to Jacob’s respect for the honor code of monster hunters, the film paints monster hunting with timelessness and even an inevitability (see: The Inevitable). The elusiveness of and reverence for the practice is reminiscent of the idolization of the United States’ military practices. As the film goes on, Maisie and Jacob befriend the Red Bluster and learn that the history they were told about the “Dark Times” before monster hunters may have been embellished. Eventually, they conclude that the Crown has been using the sea monsters as villains in order to expand their own power. The idea of history being used as a tool to control a populus is not new, but it is important. I very much admire a movie that, though targeted towards kids, doesn't shy away from such ideas or dumb them down. In a time where we are forced to examine our history for all that it is, good and bad, and figure out our responsibilities in telling all of history, Maisie's proclamation that, “Maybe you can be a hero and still be wrong”, is more important than ever. The film attempts to explain that though there are institutions that elicit a sort of hero-worship, the reality of them is much more complex. The Sea Beast expertly balances the charming father-daughter relationship of Maisie and Jacob with important socio-political themes, and does so with style.

AUDREY

Tales of pirates have encapsulated the spirit of adventure in stories for centuries now— especially among children, who have long been captivated by the unique sort of excitement and peril found in stories at sea. Netflix’s The Sea Beast is an ambitious, 2-hour endeavor that aims to carry on this tradition of swashbuckling pirate films for the childhood imagination, appealing to a youthful sense of adventure and intrigue through its vivid animation. It serves as an entertaining reminder of why classic pirate and monster movies are so rooted in our pop culture consciousness—the film’s action does not disappoint the thrills that have become associated with both genres, containing references to classic imagery. With its predictable plot developments, The Sea Beast never strays too far from the confines of cliched adventure movie subject matter, but it surpasses mediocrity by adapting common tropes of the genre with its own heart, creating well-developed characters and settings that add richness to a film for kids.

The Sea Beast follows Maisie (Zaris-Angel Hator), an intrepid little girl who dreams of becoming a hunter of sea beasts, fantastical whale-like monsters hunted by pirates on the open seas. After stowing away on the ship of one of these hunters, she starts to discover new truths about the sea monsters as the ship hunts the biggest and most destructive one of all. One of the most excellent aspects of the film was the beautiful animation and character design, as well as the effort and attention to detail that the filmmakers designed the world with. The film is a bright and exciting ode to the power of thoughtful character animation—every character in the movie has a unique look and feel to their design that serves the audience’s overall understanding of their character. This made them immediately more riveting than the copy-paste faces with minor aesthetic changes that have unfortunately become standard fare in animation lately. The settings were also beautifully designed; each new location was distinctive and interesting, with a unique tone heightened by the attention to detail shown in the animation. The film made thoughtful use of color and music to create its moody and exuberant atmospheres, all tinged with a thrilling sense of childhood adventure and mystery.

Despite The Sea Beast’s successful individuality in its characters, animation, and style, it sometimes lacked depth when it came to plot. Although the overall story was tightly-written and ultimately served a thoughtful theme of respect for nature with an anti-imperialist subtext, it was disappointingly predictable. As soon as it becomes clear that the titular sea beast isn’t as destructive and vengeful as it originally seemed, the story takes a strong turn into routine plot points and familiar tropes. In addition to this, the second half of the film fails to capture the heart-pounding excitement and intrigue of the first half, instead opting for a conclusion that was narratively satisfying but also lackluster for an adventure movie. The filmmakers drew a deft conclusion on the film’s main message, a heavy topic well-packaged for a juvenile audience, but in doing so, required the viewer to make a few leaps of logic and failed to deliver on the build-up to an exciting climax. The overall effect was somewhat underwhelming, considering the film’s earlier potential. However, in spite of these narrative shortcomings, the mediocrity of the ending and overall plot is mostly overshadowed by the charm of the film’s fluid and vibrant style. The Sea Beast does an excellent job at telling a layered, beautiful, and absorbing story that has value for both kids and older audiences, with characters and settings so well-crafted that lapses in originality can be forgiven.

sea beast still
Jacob and Maisie in The Sea Beast (2022). Photo courtesy of IMDb © 1990-2022 by IMDb.com, Inc.

DISHA

In another addition to Netflix’s library of animation, The Sea Beast adequately presents complex themes, though the film ultimately undercuts its potential to be one of the greats in animation.

The story follows a young Maisie Brumble (Zaris-Angel Hator) as she stows away on a monster-hunting ship, much to the dismay of Jacob (Karl Urban), captain of the ship. In typical adventure movie fashion, the hunt turns awry when the monster transports them to an island that ultimately challenges their internalized beliefs about monsters.

The film light-heartedly presents this external conflict with low-stakes and little tension. The constrictions of the family rating does not excuse the inadequate tension of major action scenes, or the lack of consequences the characters face after the fact. The resolution of the film is haphazardly tied together by a flimsy monologue that does not address the cultural and societal rebuilding that should take place in order to achieve the film’s peaceful ending. Family rated cinema of the past such as How to Train your Dragon or Avatar the Last Airbender, have been able to fully comment on mature themes without feeling as “easy” as in The Sea Beast. By minimally developing its drastic themes, The Sea Beast undervalues the depth that children have always been able to perceive in film, resulting in an inattentively executed narrative.

Despite the film’s tonal shortcomings, the holistic approach of The Sea Beast is enjoyable enough. It’s an original script with original characters, one that charmingly utilizes Urban’s underrated and diverse acting range. The film made me forget about the monotony of my life through its escapist world-building, leaving me decently entertained throughout its two hour run time. The occasional joke is moderately funny, accentuated by a Disney-esque animation style that highlights the expressiveness of the characters.

In a sea of imaginative and profound animated films, The Sea Beast doesn’t particularly stand out as innovative or unparalleled. The internal messaging lacks the soulful dynamics of its predecessors in the family genre, and its visual styling barely transforms the gritty nature of its story. Nonetheless, The Sea Beast is a new addition to the animated lexicon, portraying an original enough story which is, honestly, all I can ask for these days.

ESHA: Sea Monster or Sea Beast?: It Depends on Who Tells You the Story

Stranded on a beach alongside nothing but clear blue waters, a giant red sea monster, and a legendary sea monster hunter, a young orphan named Maisie (Zaris-Angel Hator) finds herself shifting the fabric of her society with the help of her newfound companions. This is the plot of Netflix’s latest original film, The Sea Beast, which is a fresh, visually stunning animated feature that fans of Witcher, Hilda, and Pirates of the Caribbean will love. The movie carefully weaves its unique setting and world-building into its powerful message, which is to question who gets to write history.

While it’s often difficult to invest myself in a high-fantasy world, The Sea Beast succeeds in bringing it to life. It takes place in a kingdom that resembles an amalgamation of the 1700s French and British empires, where people are ruled by their fear of sea monsters. The unique setting immediately draws viewers in. Then, intricate world-building makes the society’s value system clear: sea monsters are a plague on humanity. Books tell of ancient rivalries between humans and sea monsters, sea monster hunters are the celebrities of the society, and children are taught to fear the ocean from a young age.

This meticulous world-building is what makes the film’s message so powerful. As she befriends the giant red sea monster, which she aptly names “Red”, Maisie begins to question why fear permeates her society so deeply, even reevaluating her own deep-seated beliefs.

When she realizes that the King and Queen are responsible for implanting anti-sea beast propaganda into the kingdom’s literature and mythology, she takes action, accompanying Red to the heart of the kingdom. There, they confront the King and Queen publicly, expressing dissent and encouraging their monster-hunting friends to do the same, alongside hundreds of guards and citizens. Such a large display of civil disobedience, which is portrayed as its climax, delivers the gravity of the film’s message to its viewers.

Viewers are compelled to connect it to their own lives. I personally thought about the disconnect between the history that I learn in school textbooks and the history I learn from my family through oral storytelling. Alongside myself, I am certain more than a few people walked away from the movie with critical thoughts.

The Sea Beast is simultaneously thought-provoking and entertaining, which I consider a challenge to achieve in children’s media. Its important message encourages the audience, which is majority children, to criticize their prejudices. It’s particularly relevant right now, when political polarization is rife and fake news is continuously on the rise.

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Creatures in the water in The Sea Beast (2022). Photo courtesy of IMDb © 1990-2022 by IMDb.com, Inc.

KYLE: The Sea Beast is No Beauty

Director/animator/screenwriter Chris Williams has mastered the art of the family film. Well, that is what I thought before I saw The Sea Beast, Netflix’s eighth original animated film. Despite Williams’ past successes co-directing Disney’s Moana and Big Hero 6, The Sea Beast barely makes a splash.

The film follows a young girl and a hunter as they search for a sea monster, the infamous Red Bluster. On the surface, it is a conventional family adventure exploring the relationship between hunters and the fantastical creatures they pursue. However, it does not take much digging to understand its commentary on how society chooses to remember history inaccurately in the interest of maintaining the unjust status quo.

Despite the relevance of the script’s critique of propaganda, it feels like the plot is driven by its message rather than its characters, weakening the narrative. At the end of the movie, protagonist Maisie Brumble (Zaris-Angel Hator) delivers a monologue intended to empower viewers, but the speech falls flat since her character is no more than a vehicle to get the writers’ ideas across.

Visually, the film shifts between realism and cartoony schlock to represent the protagonists’ relationship with the creatures they encounter, but the animation in The Sea Beast lacks the sense of whimsy that thrives in the animated medium.

Likewise, the screenwriters maintain a serious tone more frequently found in mainstream action movies than family films. I appreciate their bold departure from formula and understand their intention to protect the story’s legitimacy, since jokes in family films frequently fall flat. However, the lack of humor heightens the ridiculousness of the plot, detaching viewers from the characters and the stakes of their objectives.

The Sea Beast could have been insightful if its ideas had more depth and imagination, but the film is far from the thrilling and poignant adventure it desperately wants to be.

YOON: The Sea Beast Is a Beautiful, Well-Written Seafaring Adventure

It's been a while since we've had a decent "kid and their pet" fictional duo enter the public consciousness and a "kids" movie that doesn't pander to its audience. Netflix’s new original movie, The Sea Beast, is a refreshing addition to both canons with excellent animation and intelligent, mature writing.

The Sea Beast follows Maisie (Zaris-Angel Hator), a young orphan who stows away on the legendary hunting ship The Inevitable, searching for the Red Bluster — an infamous sea monster. She and the captain-to-be, Jacob (Karl Urban), fall overboard during a battle with the beast and befriend it, discovering that a lie from the monarchy has perpetuated a multi-generational war on the misunderstood sea monsters.

It handles the subject material maturely and feels like an all-ages swashbuckling action film rather than a kids' movie. The movie maintains the high-stakes tone established in the opening fight while injecting levity and slapstick, including the tongue-in-cheek banter between Jacob and Maisie.

The Sea Beast is the latest in the line of animated movies that have proven that 3D animation can finally distance itself from photorealism, following in the footsteps of The Bad Guys, The Mitchells vs. the Machines, and the trendsetting Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse. Each beast is uniquely lovely to look at, and the embattled history of The Inevitable is evident in each nook and cranny. The first fight scene with a sea beast established the risk of death without explicitly showing it, and still took moments of peace to build tension.

The only noticeable dip in quality comes at the end when Maisie reveals the monarchy's lies to the gathered public, and the movie wraps up barely one minute later. We're told that the beasts now live freely and Maisie and Jacob live together as a found family, but I would have appreciated another minute to show the aftermath.

I also was not convinced that the public would turn against the monarchy at the drop of hat, since before that point, the public seemed perfectly complacent with the status quo. It would have been more believable if the movie had established civil unrest earlier, and that the monarchy had been using this fake external threat to distract a dissatisfied population from revolt. This would also play into the message of the rich and powerful using a fake enemy to maintain their status.

Overall, this Netflix release was a good time. It's not comparable to the top of Pixar, Disney, or Ghibli's repertoire, but it doesn't need to be, and it is frankly unfair to compare them since The Sea Beast is a separate, well, beast. It is worth a try if only to see the beautifully-crafted world, lovely characters, morals, and writing. If you have two hours to spare, give The Sea Beast a shot.

Lead photo credit: The Sea Beast (2022). Photo courtesy of IMDb © 1990-2022 by IMDb.com, Inc.


The TeenTix Newsroom is a group of teen writers led by the Teen Editorial Staff. For each review, Newsroom writers work individually with a teen editor to polish their writing for publication. The Teen Editorial Staff is made up of 6 teens who curate the review portion of the TeenTix blog. More information about the Teen Editorial Staff can be found HERE.

The TeenTix Press Corps promotes critical thinking, communication, and information literacy through criticism and journalism practice for teens. For more information about the Press Corps program see HERE.

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