Nautical movies are some of the hardest films to make. You do not only need a great set in the shape of a great ship. But you also need to take care of so many small details that sell the effect that the people on that ship are true sailors and not just actors playing dress-up. Selling that atmosphere and those characters are a hard thing to do, not taking into account that filming on the water is also one hell of a challenge.
Besides the Pirates of the Caribbean series of films, there haven’t been many films taking on the challenge of bringing the genre to the screen, and with good reason. It is sad, that perhaps the last great nautical epic film we got was Master & Commander: The Far Side of the World, a masterpiece in its own right, but that film should have given us more of it, not less. However, Netflix is here with a surprise move, and it might have taken on the challenge of delivering what we need it, another great epic at the sea.
The Sea Beast is an animated film produced by Netflix Animation and is directed by Chris Williams, who also worked as a director in films such as Bolt, and Big Hero 6. The movie star Karl Urban, Zaris-Angel Hator, Jared Harris, Marianne Jean-Baptise, and Dan Stevens. The film tells the story of Maisie, a young orphan, who dreams of going into the sea and becoming a monster hunter. When she meets Jacob, a legendary monster hunter, she gets herself into his ship and the two go on a very unexpected adventure.
For many decades, Disney and Pixar have been the most important animation studios in the world, delivering countless movies with amazing mass appeal. There are many animation studios out there, but most of them aim their output at a very precise audience. Disney, and Pixar, on the other hand, know that they have the formula to attract people of all cultures and ages to the cinema to see their latest films. No one dared to do exactly what they do in any way shape or form. Until now.
The Sea Beast not only has Disney pedigree behind the scenes, with Williams being the director, but it also has master-class animation. And the best of all, a great set of characters and stunning action sequences, of the kind we rarely see in the Disney/Pixar catalog. The Sea Beast is Netflix’s move, saying that they can do what Disney does, if not better. And that is the thing, The Sea Beast is a great film. One that doesn’t need to rely on a message to work, but on its characters, and world-building to entertain and move the audience.
Many other animated projects that have tried to match the production values of the Disney Animated films, often fall short, but The Sea Beast goes all the way. The ocean feels vast and unknowable, the creatures massive and dangerous, and the ships that the hunters sail on feel just like real places where these characters spend 24/7 once they are at sea. The Sea Beast easily matches Disney’s production values, and it has nothing to envy those films.
Where the films surpass the vast majority of Disney/Pixar films of the last decade, is in delivering a great set of characters to follow. For example, Maisie begins like any other annoying girl. Quickly transforms into a very compelling character, showing that her mind is just as sharp as her tongue, and she plays perfectly the role of one half of the protagonist duo.
Karl Urban brings all his charisma to a role that is more than just a voice. You can really feel that this person is inhabiting this animated character. In this case, the one named Jacob, a legendary sailor and a monster hunter who discovers that not all the things he thought were true about himself are actually real. His character arc is quite powerful. Both Maisie and Jacob are amazing characters, and it is great to see them get to know each other along the way.
Jared Harris, plays the role of Captain Crow, another great character surrounded by a great supporting cast, and excellent world-building that keeps on giving from beginning to end. Yes, the premise of the movie quickly evolves into a story that takes many influences from Moby-Dick. And even more from How To Raise Your Dragon, and yet, The Sea Beast stands on its own thanks to its setting and its characters.
The film also takes a lot of influence visually and in terms of how the action sequence play, to the Capcom video game series, Monster Hunter. It is hard not to watch the film and not see that the premise could work in the form of a video game. Maybe, the movie can influence the video game for a change and inspire them to create hunts in the sea. It seems like a very logical step forward for the series.
Netflix has been in trouble lately, as it is losing subscribers for the first time in their history. A lot of the blame has been put on the fact that a lot of their content is subpar in terms of quality. But just when that happens, they start showing that they can really compete both in the TV and movie space. Let’s hope people realize that this movie is one of the best-animated films of the year and a sign that Netflix can really do better.