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Things Only Adults Notice In The Sea Beast

Netflix's "The Sea Beast" is one of the best and most well-reviewed movies of 2022, which has plenty to offer fans of all ages. It was directed by Chris Williams, co-director of "Moana" and an Oscar-winner for Disney's "Big Hero 6," and it tells a fantastical tale about a kingdom long ago that's caught in a constant battle with giant, deadly sea monsters. Though it might seem like just a knock-off of "How To Train Your Dragon" based on the trailer, "The Sea Beast" actually tells a deep and complicated story that teaches children about family and self-discovery and gives adults a good deal to think about as well.

"The Sea Beast" gives its main characters motivations with more depth than what's often seen in children's stories, and it delves into issues about history, power structures, and the legacy of war by the time it's finished. On top of all that, it delivers some of the most beautifully animated visuals and pulse-pounding action sequences you'll see in any movie, which is a welcome surprise from the often times manic and over-stimulating norm of kids' movies. All of this and more make this movie appeal to more mature audiences, so here are the things only adults notice in "The Sea Beast."

Warning: This article contains spoilers for "The Sea Beast."

The cast is delightfully diverse and gender-balanced

"The Sea Beast" is set in a 17th-century fictional kingdom, which is haunted by giant sea creatures that pluck unsuspecting people from the kingdom's many coasts and waterways. For hundreds of years, hunters have patrolled the (also fictional) Dregmore Sea and battled with these beasts to keep the population safe. 

As it's taking place in a version of 17th-century Europe, you might expect "The Sea Beast" to follow in the footsteps of other fantasy works like "Lord of the Rings" and "Game of Thrones" and populate its cast with mostly white men to match the expectations of European history. After all, these were the people most often allowed to hold power and who were written in history as the heroes, despite the existence of other kinds of people at the time.

"The Sea Beast" goes hard in the opposite direction by including a diverse mix of ethnicities among the crew of The Inevitable, and the movie is all the better for it. "Game of Thrones" defenders often say that the lack of diversity or the show's treatment of women at large are meant to reflect the Middle Ages on which it's based, but there weren't exactly dragons flying around back then in our world. "The Sea Beast" similarly posits the existence of massive, impossible sea beasts that we know have never existed. However, it sets them in a world populated by characters that reflect different types of viewers, which is perhaps a more accurate representation of the time, despite the presence of fantastic creatures.

Do The Inevitable crew members drink excessively?

While "The Sea Beast" admirably puts many mature themes into terms that young viewers can understand, it skirts the issue of alcohol use, even though it includes scenes that might make you wonder if the hunters on The Inevitable struggle with excessive drinking. When the crew returns from the hunt in the beginning of the movie, they're shown reveling at a local tavern, where goblets of beer flow rather freely. The hard-partying reputation of sailors returning to port seems as alive in this fictional kingdom as it was in our own world's olden days.

After Jacob puts Maisie on a carriage back home, "The Sea Beast" immediately cuts to him waking up on a carriage with Sarah passed out next to him, and he holds his head in pain. This implies that they either experienced a blackout or if not that, at least a night of drinking so heavily that they both needed to sleep it off. We certainly don't judge them, as a life of hunting monsters seems like one you'd need to unwind from in a big way, but hopefully, after the events of the movie upend the need for their profession, the hunters learn some other ways of doing so.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Captain Crow is clearly suffering from PTSD

Early on in "The Sea Beast," the notorious and legendary Captain Crow nearly drowns in the ocean, after he and his crew narrowly defeat a Brickleback. Shaken up by the close call, he does a fair amount of staring off into the distance afterwards, and brings Jacob into his cabin to have a long-awaited discussion about passing the captaincy of The Inevitable to him when he retires. While it's a touching moment, nobody addresses the obvious: Captain Crow is dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder, both from this last scare, as well as all of these years of being a hunter.

Captain Crow could easily be read as a villain with his "Moby Dick"-like obsession with the Red Bluster, but thanks to the empathy that "The Sea Beast" has for its characters, he's rendered more sensitively than that. Viewed through the lens of trauma, it's no wonder Captain Crow doubles down on his mission to capture and kill the beast that took his eye. After all, he's sitting on years of repressed fallout from violent clashes at sea, and with the royalty's new Naval warship, his entire way of life is threatened. One hopes that he has time to decompress and process after the movie is over, although "The Sea Beast" sadly doesn't reveal what his fate is after the climactic showdown with Red at the end.

Why isn't Sarah Sharpe next in line for Captain?

Part of what makes "The Sea Beast" great is how supporting characters beyond the main duo of Jacob and Maisie have entire arcs of their own. The Captain has to come to terms with the fact that his lifelong pursuit of Red is ultimately pointless, and his first mate Sarah Sharpe has to reconcile her sense of loyalty with her own burgeoning understanding of the larger truth about the sea beasts. Sarah is confident and independent, and she leaves an intimidating and indelible impression on all who encounter her. So, we're left with the glaring question of why she isn't the one succeeding Captain Crow instead of Jacob?

The crew of The Inevitable is nearly evenly split between male and female, but can women not be captains? Is that just not an ambition that Sarah has or is it a position she feels she isn't suited for? In such a well-rounded movie, the question of how Sarah feels about being skipped over seems like it should have merited at least a scene explaining her reaction, or the Captain's rationale for not considering her in the first place. It would have fit right in with her loyalty-related character arc to show her feeling conflicted about her duties in the face of a future without room for promotion.

It's not as simple as good and evil

Superficially, "The Sea Beast" resembles "How to Train Your Dragon" in the way that it builds to the revelation that the creatures the hunters assumed are malicious are actually intelligent and friendly. But it makes specific choices that deal with the moral implications of a centuries-long war in a much more complicated, mature way. By making both Maisie and Jacob orphans as a result of the fight with the sea creatures, it earns the moment when they both realize that the conflict that defines their entire existence is founded on a lie.

"The Sea Beast" also reckons with the legacy of their forebears' actions with the deceptively simple line, "you can be a hero, and still be wrong." In just a few simple words, the movie upends centuries of straightforward, good-versus-evil storytelling, and provides clues for viewers of all ages about how to find your own moral compass instead of letting it be dictated by the whims of royalty, nations, or society. In its more complex rendering of the question of good and evil, "The Sea Beast" provides several lessons at once on top of the always-welcome message of "you don't have to fear the unknown."

The Sea Beast might be the year's best action movie

As the MCU barrels headlong into Phase 6, amidst countless other movies full of explosions and gunshots that we've become desensitized to, many adults don't really feel the excitement of action movies these days. So, it's perhaps surprising that "The Sea Beast" — with its combination of incredible CGI animation and grounding of each action sequence in character motivation – might be the most gripping action movie to come along in years. From the beginning, it sets up stakes for Captain Crow, as he turns The Inevitable away from his long sought-after Red Bluster to help save another ship from a Brickleback. 

Later, when he finally tracks down and harpoons the Bluster, the giant creature swims and circles around, which causes the ship to pitch out of the water and crack. It's nail-biting, and becomes even more so when Maisie decides to ignore the Captain's orders and cut the ropes that tie the beast (with Jacob's blessing), which is one of the most thrilling action sequences of recent memory. 

It's both visually easy to follow and compelling, as both Jacob and Maisie defy not just the Captain, but also the very core of their identities to let the Bluster go, and save the crew of the ship. So many movies show the world about to end but aren't able to make the viewer feel a real sense of danger, so it's a welcome surprise for a Netflix kids' movie like "The Sea Beast" to put you on the edge of your seat.

The hunters' distaste for poison is rather arbitrary

When Captain Crow's obsession with the Red Bluster grows reckless, he turns to a mysterious woman named Gwen Batterbie and purchases a giant poisoned-tipped harpoon from her. His crew — for reasons that aren't entirely clear — all log adamant objections to his going to see Batterbie in the first place. Is there that big of a distinction between harpooning the giant sea creatures with or without poison? The crew seems to be holding onto a notion that they should fight "fair" with their foes, even though gunpowder and cannons seem to be just as unfair of an advantage as poison. Generations of hunters have died in this fight, so why not take every advantage they can get?

Gwen Batterbie and her reputation seem to be shrouded in superstitious beliefs, as the crew mutter about fearful consequences that always result from resorting to her methods. And she tells Captain Crow that the harpoon will cost him "everything," without clarifying exactly what that is — all of his money? His soul? In general, the use of the poisoned harpoon plays an important role in Red's near-death and capture, but one of the few balls that "The Sea Beast" drops is explaining exactly why this weapon is so distasteful to the crew of The Inevitable, and what it means that Captain Crow has arrived at a place emotionally to use it.

Victors write the history

Probably the biggest and most relevant takeaway from "The Sea Beast" is the idea that just because things have always been one way — and indeed are written up in the history books that way — doesn't mean you should trust or accept them. As they say, history is written by the victors. 

Such is the case in "The Sea Beast," as the ruling monarchs of the kingdom are deeply invested in continuing the war against the sea beasts to perpetuate their own power, so they finance expeditions to kill the beasts and print inspirational stories about the hunters' thrilling heroics. Just as the colorful stories about larger-than-life, swashbuckling pirates cover up a very grim history in reality, Jacob and Maisie learn that the heroic and epic stories they've been told about hunters is whitewashing the hunters' actual role as the aggressors in a needless conflict.

The way we frame our own history in stories and textbooks is a significant concern, as it has been largely told by the nation states that have conquered and colonized the world. The history that many have learned is one without much nuance, acknowledgment of moral ambiguity, or understanding of other perspectives, so "The Sea Beast" offers an important first step for children and adults, who haven't yet questioned the history of our world, or perhaps want to, but aren't sure where to begin.

But we can shape the future

Not content to stop at just exposing the majority of their recorded history as a lie, "The Sea Beast" takes the message even further by having young Maisie take an active role in reshaping the future of her kingdom. It's a rousing, powerful moment when she tells Jacob "I'm not done" after saving Red's life, and makes a speech to the gathered populace that will end the war once and for all. She stops Red and Captain Crow with a stern look, and then undoes an entire military industrial complex with some choice words.

Maisie knows that changing the present is only half the battle, and recognizes the importance of our stories and the way they shape the future. She tells Jacob that the books of adventure will outlive both of them, and in a palpable way are what actually happened, even though they both now know them to be a lie. With just a few simple lines from the mouth of its child protagonist, "The Sea Beast" hints at the deep forces that bend progress (or the lack thereof) in our countries and populations, and the big task we have in reshaping a story while it's still being written.

It's disappointing they never explore beyond the Dregmore Sea

One mild bummer in the happy ending of "The Sea Beast" is when Maisie tells us that ships no longer explore patrol the Dregmore Sea or the parts beyond. But why not? It seems like instead of just ceding the ocean to the beasts and the land to the humans, there's a unique opportunity for both to live in harmony. It would be endlessly exciting to explore beyond the Dregmore Sea and see what other fantastic and exotic life awaits, and hopefully, mankind could do so in a way that doesn't involve wantonly killing wildlife or being eaten themselves.

"The Sea Beast" is suffused with a spirit of adventure that goes beyond imperialism, so it's disappointing not to see Maisie and Jacob turn their adventurous spirits as former hunters into a new journey of seeking the unknown. One can't begrudge the two orphans a life of peace, of course, but the vast beauty of the ocean depicted in the movie also triggers a sense of wanderlust. While it's nice that Maisie and Jacob are now a family, it also seems like they're both married to the sea, so it's surprising that they don't want to keep exploring it with their newfound understanding of the world.

The Sea Beast has revolutionary themes

After Maisie's fantastic, show-stopping speech near the end of "The Sea Beast," you almost expect the next scene to show the hapless King and Queen on their way to the guillotine. After all, the public has turned against them and they've been openly defied by their own military. As the scope of the royalty's centuries-long deceit becomes clear, it's impossible to really believe they'll remain in power. Maisie yells "your kingdom was paid for with their blood!" right to their faces, which is a pretty powerful indictment of their entire regime.

Ultimately, "The Sea Beast" doesn't have the ability to show a violent revolution while remaining family-friendly, but it's still full of moments that emphasize working class solidarity over the powers that be. The credo of the hunters — "for all those who come before and those who come after" — has a strong guild-like vibe, while the monarchy displays its true colors early on by objecting to The Inevitable diverting course to save fellow hunters in peril. When you take all of this into consideration, it becomes clear that "The Sea Beast" is a movie about revolution, as the collective wisdom and will of the people win the day in the end.