Basically: An epic adventure on uncharted seas that breaks through the tall tales to find the truth (and has a great time doing it).
Welcome to a world of untamed seas, where pirates are the heroes! What? No, not One Piece. Although, if you know that, you’re ready. The Sea Beast is a high fantasy adventure, set on the oceans of a fictional Europe during the era when pirates ruled. Imagine late 17th or early 18th century vibes, but here the marauders are called Monster Hunters and they protect the shores of civilization from giant sea creatures. All in the name of the King and Queen.
The Monster Hunters are the heroes of the storybooks and the source of the country’s wealth (war is big business if our world hasn’t taught you). There is even a motto to impel them into action:
“Live a great life. Die a great death.”
Our square-jawed leading man, JACOB HOLLAND (Karl Urban) lives by those words, and the cute brown-eyed, curly-haired heroine, MAISIE BRUMBLE (Zaris-Angel Hator), is inspired by them. That is what throws them together. Jacob is the captain-in-waiting on the “second greatest hunting ship [t]hat ever sailed”—The Inevitable—and young Maisie runs away to become a stowaway on the very same decks. Both of them under the command of CAPTAIN CROW (Jared Harris) and first mate SARAH SHARPE (Marianne Jean-Baptiste).
Similar to Captain Ahab, Crow is obsessed with hunting the greatest of all sea beasts. The Red Bluster. So, if you’re comparing this story to Moby Dick, that’s a small part of the mix. It also has the wit and the revolutionary leanings of One Piece, and I was reminded of Scott Lynch’s fantasy novel Red Seas Under Red Skies. The Inevitable even sports trademark red sails, while this adventure has wonderfully rendered multicultural characters (in the writing and the designs) like those last two comparables I mentioned.
However, The Sea Beast has its own tale to tell. It is a wild ride, made for families, that asks and answers the questions that all good stories must: Why this time? Why this particular place? And why this hero? Academy Award-winning writer-director, Chris Williams answers those first two questions with his lifelong love of maps and telling stories that take us off them. Meanwhile, Zaris-Angel Hator’s Maisie is a worthy hero with a sharp wit, a curious mind, and a mouth that only knows how to tell the truth. Her sidekick, Urban’s Jacob, ain’t too shabby either.
You already know this is a pretty movie from the trailers. The animation is gorgeous in its detail and realism. The characters have faces you’d expect to find on any trip to any place. Real skin tones and hair textures. And the water. Oh my gosh, it is unbelievable. The movie’s VFX Supervisor, R. Stirling Duguid spent two and a half years living on a ship as a child. We can see both his knowledge and his fascination with the sea in nearly every frame.
Knowing all of that, I still wasn’t prepared for The Sea Beast. No one warned me this would be more than the typical streaming animation for the family. This is epic storytelling with an astute understanding of humankind and how history is shaped—somehow diving into the political tactics of othering and propaganda while celebrating found family. It is an adventure you’ll want to take over and over. If you want proof. I’ve watched it thrice. Yes, thrice.
In the End: Cue this one up as soon as it drops on Netflix and enjoy this fantastical ride on faraway seas!