I truly do not know where to begin with this one. First of all, this is not a movie recommendation, it’s a movie rant. And just to be perfectly clear this isn’t one of those so bad it’s good movies although it’s close enough. I would call it so commercial it’s so bad it’s good or something like that. So, let us start our journey and the first thing we need to talk about is that godawful title. It’s far too long and confusing. Just shorten it to Percy, The Lighting Thief, or something like that. So, Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief is a fantasy movie about a young guy who turns out to be a demigod.
It sets up the universe for further sequels although I hope there won’t be any. You can already tell what they were trying to do, make an American version of Harry Potter with a Greek mythology twist. And to appeal to younger audiences just plop everything in modern times and you got yourself a hit. I know I’m judging too hard something that’s supposed to be a movie for kids but I simply can’t help myself. After all, Harry Potter and Narnia are exactly those types of movies but still excellently crafted, engaging, and feature a high replay value.
What makes things even stranger is that this movie is actually based on a novel. Yes, Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief is based on the 2005 novel The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. This is why I find it so strange that the both plot and the characters are not only confusing but also paper-thin. And to top off this series of strange events, the director is none other than Chris Columbus, the guy behind the first two Harry Potter movies! He was given a hefty $100 million budget to craft a cool and slick fantasy movie for teenagers and he succeeded. At least judging by the box office success as the movie made more than $230 million.
If I despise something, it’s the Americanization of every possible concept on the planet Earth and beyond. Like when the aliens decide to land in New York or something like that. So, the movie opens with Greek gods fighting in the freaking Empire State Building. And our homeboy Percy, despite being a demigod is actually attending Yancy Academy, a high school in the US. Percy is going to Yancy, what’s up with these names? What kind of name is Percy anyway? The only Percy I remember is the one from the hilarious British television show Black Adder.
Although my man Percy is actually 12 years old in the novels, in the movie Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief he’s 16. Ahhh, the perfect time for that cumming-of-age story. And would you believe it, he’s having issues at home with his alcoholic deadbeat stepfather. I know, it came as a shock to me as well. It’s like they were going for the record of most stereotypes used in a single movie. However, we should be careful about that as there are a couple of surprises in store for us if we just keep watching. For example, there’s a reason why Percy’s mother hooked up with such a wretched man.
Man, Catherine Keener should’ve channeled some of her An American Crime vibes here. Well, I guess now’s as good a time as any to talk about the cast of this movie. So, Pierce Bronson is a horse, Boromir and Vorenus are gods, Rosario Dawson is Persephone and our homeboy Cypher now spends his days drinking and sleeping ’till noon. I guess that Agent Smith kept his end of the bargain. Logan Lerman was serviceable as Percy but I think Alexandra Daddario stole the show here as his love interest Annabeth. Well, at least she stole the show for me if you know what I mean.
Just to get back to the story for a brief moment, the plot in this movie is nothing like the plot in the novel. It does not revolve around Percy’s mom and there are several important characters who never make an appearance. I guess they’re saving them for all the subsequent sequels. No wonder the author of the novels Rick Riordan vehemently hated the script. As soon as the movie premiered, and he cashed his check, he started to advocate for a different type of adaptation.
I have to say that the production values along with special effects are quite good. The CGI is nice and believable and it’s used sporadically, not to overwhelm the viewer. If you’re able to look past or make fun of all the crazy stuff, Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief can be entertaining. You have pens that turn into swords and magical flying Converse sneakers, I mean if you can’t crack a joke or two about those things, then I don’t know what to tell you.
Director: Chris Columbus
Writers: Craig Titley, Rick Riordan
Cast: Logan Lerman, Brandon T. Jackson, Alexandra Daddario, Sean Bean, Pierce Brosnan, Rosario Dawson, Uma Thurman, Kevin McKidd
Fun Stuff: If you take a look at a classical interpretation of Greek mythology, Athena is Zeus’s daughter. This would make the relationship between Percy and Annabeth only slightly incestuous as they’re first cousins once removed. Percy, however, disregards these claims saying that Gods do not have DNA. I have to admit that homeboy has a point, especially since this is Alexandra Daddario we’re talking about.