-Kaiju Review Roundup: Critics Praise Film's Stunning Sets and Clever Cinematography

Netflix's "The Sea Beast" launched today on the streaming platform, so we took a look at what critics are saying about this sea beast movie from Chris Williams (director of "Big Hero 6" and co-director of "Moana").

Sea Beast begins when young Maisie stows away on the ship of legendary sea monster hunter Jacob Holland, and the two share an epic journey into uncharted waters, their minds and the history of their kingdom changed by what they discover.

The film has a 93% on Rotten Tomatoes' Tomatoemeter and a 75 on Metacritic. Nevertheless, for a film as high-profile as "Kaiju," there are relatively few cached reviews so far. As the film is released and more critics comment, this score will likely change.

Critics have generally praised the film's stunning worldview, clever camera work, and frenetic action scenes set in the sea, but many have expressed disappointment with the characters and monster animation, which is less than ideal for a film titled "Kaiju." Those who saw the film in theaters praised Netflix's only a few theatrical screenings in major U.S. markets, which means that too few people will be able to experience the film in this way.

Our own Cole Delaney was one of the lucky few who saw the film's big screen premiere in Annecy and was able to talk with Williams on the podcast:

Here is a little of what critics are saying so far about "Kaiju".

David Ehrlich of Indiewire praised the film's overhead shots (and underwater cinematography) over similar shots in live-action films that sail the seas:

Williams balances cartoonish kinematics and semi-realistic physics with complex sea battle choreography, paying homage to the history of naval warfare while elevating it to thrilling new heights (the aerial and underwater wide shots are more impressive than any in "Pirates of the Caribbean"). He and co-writer Nell Benjamin introduce the crew of the Invectable in such detail that they feel like family, led by a one-legged officer voiced by "Secrets and Lies" star Marianne Jean-Baptiste. And while the lead characters are too tasteless and plasticky to stand up to such a vivid worldview, secondary characters like Captain Crowe are cleverly designed and brought to life with unexpected moral ambiguity.

Variety's Peter DeBruge, after praising the film as "an epic ocean adventure that most filmmakers know better than to attempt," emphasized that Williams was able to ignore some live-action conventions thanks to animation:

Williams had the distinct advantage of being an animator. This skilled animation director, who had developed his talents on "Bolt" and "Big Hero 6," first ventured into the big ocean with "Moana. The experienced film crew cautions, "Don't work with children or animals." Whenever possible, stay on dry land." When live-action filmmakers disobey this rule, their job becomes more difficult than one might imagine. (Rafael Motamayor of Slashfilm extends his enthusiasm for the film's action-packed set pieces to more mundane scenes: [The naval scenes feel realistic thanks to the realistic backgrounds and textures, and Peter Weir's masterpiece " A sense of scale and urgency reminiscent of Master and Commander: not only in the action scenes, but also in the downtime scenes where the crew alone on a huge ship sets sail and tightens an incredible amount of rope. masterpiece "Master and Commander: The Faraway World".

While applauding William's lush worldview and well-shot action scenes, Lindsay Barr of the Associated Press pointed out the unnatural aesthetic of the Kaiju in Kaiju:

The monster itself, despite being the size of Godzilla with the destructive power of Godzilla, is exaggeratedly cartoonish (comparisons to How to Train Your Dragon are inevitable). Given that it is a cartoon, this may seem silly, but it is an interesting choice when everything else is painstakingly rendered in realistic, palpable detail. This is not exactly a criticism. But the monsters will not soon become the stuff of nightmares for young viewers.

Lee Monson's review, contributed to the AV Club, best sums up the consensus of reviews published so far:

The film accomplishes a feat of brilliant animation, especially in the sword-wielding action scenes. Williams' camera swivels gracefully during the naval battles, and the ocean waves are gorgeously rendered. The physical ingenuity of the action set provides an absorbing spectacle that keeps the audience on the edge of their seats. In short, when "Kaiju" is in full action mode, it is a blast...

"Kaiju" is a Netflix original and was animated by Sony Pictures Imageworks. It is produced by Jed Schlanger and Chris Williams. Williams co-wrote the script with Nell Benjamin and will direct. The voice cast includes Karl Urban, Zaris-Angel Huttle, Jared Harris, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Dan Stevens, Kathy Burke, Doon McKichan, and Jim Carter.