Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (2010)

16 Apr

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Smith’s Verdict: ***1/2

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

I’ve read the entire “Percy Jackson & the Olympians” book series by Rick Riordan, which has gained a huge fan base. I am among those fans. Why? Because this book series gives an interesting modern look at Greek mythology, a series of thrilling adventures set in modern times and places, and most importantly, a strong, likable hero we can identify with and root for. Percy Jackson is a confused kid whose life is changed; throughout the book series, he grows into his strange surroundings and ultimately does battle with what he knows, only for the safety of his friends and family.

But I’m reviewing the books when I should be reviewing the film adaptation of the first in the series—“Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief.” The filmmakers have made some changes and omitting a few parts from the book for the movie version, but I didn’t mind so much because the same mood of the original story remains the same. And I must say after I saw the movie, I was actually relieved that the filmmakers didn’t use everything. The book had a lot—and I mean a LOT—of situations that definitely work well in a book, but by omitting some of the situations and working their own way around them (but like I said, a lot of parts remain the same as in the book) makes “The Lightning Thief” work as a movie by making the situations that follow in the film simple enough to follow along and piece together. “Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief” is fun and thrilling with a likeable cast and nicely done action sequences.

Oh yeah and I think I should also tell you exactly who Percy Jackson is. Well, he’s the son of the Greek god Poseidon (god of the seas) and mortal Sally Jackson. You see, as the story of “Percy Jackson” makes itself abundantly clear, the Greek gods are real, and every once in a while, they have kids with mortals. These kids are called demigods and they live among us. Percy Jackson is a demigod but doesn’t realize it until it’s almost too late.

Played by Logan Lerman, Percy is a teenager (he was twelve in the book but 17 in the movie) leading a dull life and not doing well in school because he is dyslexic and has ADHD. His best friend is Grover (Brandon T. Jackson) and his teacher is wheelchair-bound Mr. Brunner (Pierce Brosnan). His mother Sally (Catherine Keener) is a kind woman who has to put up with her husband Gabe (Joe Pantoliano), who is both a slob and a jerk. Percy has absolutely no idea that he’s a demigod nor does he even know his real father (Poseidon)…until the plot gets underway.

Percy is accused of stealing Zeus’ lightning bolt and is chased by monsters (including the Minotaur). It is then that Percy is taken to Mr. Brunner’s training camp for demigods. Mr. Brunner, you see, is actually Chiron, a centaur (he has the bottom half of a horse). Oh, and Grover is a satyr (half-man, half-goat). Anyway, Percy did not steal the lightning bolt. (To explain why he’s accused is too much to explain.) But if it isn’t returned in matter of days, there will be a war among the gods, which could bring disaster to the world.

Percy, Grover, and Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario)—the daughter of Athena—go on a cross-country quest to piece everything together as the movie turns its fun scale up a few notches with a series of thrilling adventures for the kids to go through. My most favorite is when the kids wind up in Medusa’s lair—a gnome emporium; that idea itself is fun. Medusa is played with seductiveness and with a head of snakes by Uma Thurman. She has fun with this role.

OK, I’ve said too much of the plot for you to go and have the fun the movie wants you to have. Director Chris Columbus also directed the first two Harry Potter movies and I guess it’s because of his presence and the story of a hero in a world-threatening situation that many critics are already reviewing the film as a “Harry Potter knockoff.” I sincerely don’t think it’s fair to make that comparison because “Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief,” while not having that same sense of wonder that the first Harry Potter film had, is something rarely seen in other movies considered to be “Harry Potter knockoffs”—pure magical fun with good acting, well-done special effects, and a great sense of adventure. Logan Lerman is well-suited and charismatic as Percy, Brandon T. Jackson and Alexandra Daddario are likeable as his friends, and the supporting cast is wonderful—Catherine Keener as Percy’s mother; Pierce Brosnan as the centaur; Uma Thurman as Medusa; Sean Bean as Zeus; Kevin McKidd as Poseidon; Steve Coogan in Mick Jagger getup as Hades (he shows how scary he can look when he’s not dressed that way); Rosario Dawson as Hades’ abused wife Persephone; and Jake Abel as Luke, the helpful son of Hermes. Oh, and of course, nobody plays a selfish slob better than Joe Pantoliano.

The movie also does well at tapping into the emotional side of the kids. Since one of their parents is a Greek god and therefore never gets to see them, then why did they bother meeting their mortal parent in the first place? And do the gods even care about them? Actually, if you think about it, those are very good questions.

One other thing—I can’t tell you how pleased I was when this movie, while the sequels to the “Lightning Thief” book are also expected to made into films if this first one does well at the box office, did not end with a cliffhanger. I’ve seen many book-to-film adaptations (two, for example, are “The Golden Compass” and “Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant”) that end as if saying to us, “See you next time!” “Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief” didn’t have to.

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