TL;DR – “How to train your dragon” for sea monsters.
Review (warning: spoilers)
Little Miss Maisie Brumble is an orphan. Her parents were monster hunters but perished out at sea, and she now lives with other orphans in a home funded by the king and queen of the land. She’s a plucky soul, tells tales of famous hunters at sea to the children and makes several attempts to escape the orphanage.
Her latest escape sees her stowaway the ship “Inevitable” run by Captain Crow who has been hunting his whole life for his “Moby Dick” (a giant sea monster they call the “Red Bluster”).
Maisie convinces the Captain to allow her to stay aboard and develops an unlikely bond with Jacob Holland, who has been anointed by Crow as the next Captain of the Inevitable once they capture or kill the Red Bluster. Crow wants the legacy of the Inevitable to live on, and he sees Jacob as the most suitable to take over once he retires since Jacob displays the leadership, courage and charisma to handle his crew.
When they finally encounter the Red Bluster, the battle is fierce, launching a number of harpoons to hook and reel it in. The Red Bluster, however, is smarter than it looks and swims in a circle causing a whirlpool that threatens to sink the ship.
Against Crow’s instructions, Maisie cuts the ropes that connect to the harpoons, thus freeing the Red Bluster, but also preventing the Inevitable from going under. The ship is released but Maisie and Jacob are thrown overboard.
This is when you realise the Red Bluster is like “Toothless” the dragon in How To Train Your Dragon. The Red Bluster saves Maisie and Jacob by holding them in its giant mouth and swimming to an island. Though Jacob initially denies that the Red Bluster might actually not be evil, he soon comes to realise that the creature has only been killing hunters because it is being hunted.
All the stories that Maisie read about sea monsters raiding coastlines and destroying villages are false. Myths written by the ruling king and queen’s ancestors to generate prestige and wealth through the destruction of sea monsters and the lives of past hunters to create safe trade routes across the ocean.
Though Jacob and Maisie attempt to convince the Inevitable crew that they’ve been wrong about sea monsters all along, Captain Crow refuses to believe them.
The eventual capture of the Red Bluster and the bravery of Maisie and Jacob to reveal the lies of the king and queen to the people of the kingdom in order to save the creature are straight forward story telling.
The strength of the film is in its gorgeous animation and distinct character designs. Every character is engaging and some of the funniest moments come from the Red Bluster itself with dour and deprecating expressions at Jacob’s shortcomings.
The animated battle scenes at sea are stunning, and the detail from the ocean waves to the sky and every little bit of the Inevitable is pure eye candy.
And while the story will engage younger audiences, adults will likely be left with a feeling of wanting more.
The climax fizzles because when it becomes obvious even to Captain Crow that the Red Bluster is not naturally bad, the Captain’s reaction is one of stupor and there’s no resolution for Crow’s character. His lifelong “Moby Dick” nemesis is nothing more than a giant red fish wanting to live out its existence undisturbed.
While Jacob and Maisie embrace their new lease on life, we never find out what happens to the Captain, who arguably is as much a main character as the other two.
Story with a simple moral that holding onto hate and anger is not a way to live, The Sea Beast will delight young audiences and is a marvel in beautiful animation.
7.5 out of 10