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Thursday, August 5, 2010

Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief

Title: Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief

Year of Release: 2010

Date Viewed: August 2nd, 2010

MPAA Rating: PG

Harry Potter meets Greek mythology meets National Treasure in this first installment of the Percy Jackson series; adapted from the popular young adult novels.

The title character (Logan Lerman) is a fairly average teenager who lives with his mother (Catherine Keener) and stepfather (Joe Pantoliano). The reason he is only fairly average is because of his abnormal fascination with water and his ability to hold his breath underwater for up to seven minutes at a time.

During a class trip to a museum, Percy is surprise attacked by a winged creature that demands him to return a special lightning bolt. A confused Percy watches his close friend Grover (Brandon T. Jackson) and his museum guide Mr. Brunner (Pierce Brosnan) fight off the creature and reveal themselves to be demigods; or gods that walk the Earth. Percy is a demigod as well; the son of Poseidon (Kevin McKidd). His father was given an ultimatum by Zeus (Sean Bean), whose lightning bolt had been stolen. The wrongly accused thief, Percy, must return the lightning bolt to Zeus or a war would be initiated that will put the Earth in jeopardy of suffering serious damages.

To heighten the stress factor, his mortal mother is kidnapped by Hades (Steve Coogan) who wants the bolt for himself in order to exact revenge against Zeus. To save the day, Percy must infiltrate Hades' underworld lair, free his mother and clear his name to prevent all Hell from breaking loose.

To prepare for this quest, Percy first spends some time at a training camp for demigods, which to the human perspective looks like a cosplayer's paradise. All sorts of mythological creatures including relatives of famous gods are here to fine tune their special abilities. It is here that Percy meets Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario), the attractive daughter of the god of wisdom: Athena. Together with Grover, she accompanies Percy on a mission to locate and retrieve three crystals with the power to transport them to Hades' underworld. The crystals are located in separate notable landmarks around the United States including Nashville and Las Vegas. Along the way, Percy and his crew encounter even more gods living among mortals including the Hydra and Medusa (Uma Thurman in a Poison Ivy-esque role).

Director Chris Columbus made somewhat of a bold move to cast teenagers in roles that were originally written with younger children in mind. His reasoning was that older kids were easier to work with on set. Fair enough, although Columbus runs the risk of dealing with appearance changes that could affect the casting for future installments.

I am not familiar with the original books, but from what I gather it seems that the basic story and characters were translated faithfully while some detail-oriented sub plots may have been altered or omitted. So purists will have to expect some drastic changes that differ from their vision of Rick Riordan's original novel.

The movie's presentation is pretty cheesy for the most part. You have the typical fantasy adventure cliches where the protagonist falls in love with someone at first sight. (To his credit though, Annabeth is very pretty.) And why was there some sort of rule that prevented Percy from bringing more than two companions along for his journey? There are clearly more demigods students available that are aware of his situation and can hold their own in a fight. So why not add some more security to the only person capable of saving the world?

If I was Percy, I would be freaking out on the verge of a nervous breakdown if I learned I was only half mortal and that half of everyone in my Greek mythology textbook was out to kill me. For the purpose of exposition, Percy is more concerned about his dyslexia than being a human target.

It took a while for me to get settled into the pattern of being introduced to a new character every ten minutes. Almost all of these characters seemed to have been created for different degrees of comic relief. I suppose they were trying to be a lighter alternative to the Harry Potter films. It's a bit chaotic but it works.

The highlight moments arrive every time Percy's team are about to acquire one of the teleportation crystals. Each crystal is guarded by a supernatural demon of sorts ready to battle anyone that dares to cross its path. These fight scenes remind me of modern boss battles in action videogames. Now that I think about it, the entire movie is crafted with would-be cut scenes followed by a battle or escape stage. The only thing missing is the loading screens.

At some point during the middle of the movie, I understood the mood the film was aiming for and then I started to have fun with it. It was entertaining to find out the destinations our heroic trio will embark on and who they will encounter next. Kingdom Hearts or Carmen Sandiego fans will probably appreciate it most.

So despite the cliches, I did enjoy the film enough to be entertained. Rent it if you can't get enough of the epic adventures that love to show off special effects. Pass on it if you're burned out from popcorn flicks and are looking for a deep plot to be immersed in.

Rating: 6

1 comment:

  1. Oh man! I wish I had known you were going to review this! I borrowed the book series and the movie (in that order) from a friend of mine and really do love this series.

    As someone who read the books before seeing the movie though, I have to say that I have gripes about the adapted storyline. The main characters were aged and some really fun characters were cut and some were added with no reason. The cuts and additions to the movie makes it impossible to have the other four books in the series come to the screen. However, since Riordan himself was able to say he was pleased with the movie, I can't complain too much, can I?

    Oh, and, Grover is my favorite character in that entire movie. He was high on my list in the books and his role in the movie only made it better. I almost wish he was high on the lotus flowers more. Best. Trippin'. Montage. Ever.

    Honestly, I put Lightning Thief in the same category as the Harry Potter movies from the third on: decent on their own, but awful book adaptations.

    ...and seriously, I would have brought the popcorn.