A Review of Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief

So, Greek theology was the correct theology.  For the past, oh, 3,000 years or so, the human race has been guessing incorrectly.  Not only that, but the Gods of Greek Mythology have been frequently visiting Earth, breaking the laws of physics and leaving behind traces of their existence.  Considering their hands on approach, why has the human race been wrong?  How have they been hiding? Why hide their existence?  How do they react when they realize the world has forgotten about them?

The world of Percy Jackson …(I am not typing the rest of the title again) is an intriguing one to be sure.  To bad it never amounts to anything.  It settles on being a Harry Potter clone that treats the audience like a bunch of illiterates.

Percy Jackson is about a young man living in New York.  He lives with his mother (Catherine Keener) and her alcoholic boyfriend (Joe Pantoliano).  He has never met his father.  With good reason-his father is Poseidon (Kevin McKidd) who is not allowed to interact with his son.  Of course, Percy finds out about his destiny after Zeus (Sean Bean) accuses him of stealing his lightning bolt.  This leaves the world with thunder but no lightning-a scientific impossibility, but never mind.  Percy goes to a school of half gods (or rather, a summer camp run by people who have seen 300 far too many times) where his teacher is a centaur named Chiron (Pierce Brosnan).  He never actually teaches anything, but never mind.  In order to prove his innocence, Percy goes on a cross country spree with a daughter of Athena and a satyr.  He goes to the underworld, meets Hades (Steve Coogan).  Eventually he is involved in a battle with a son of Hermes and…

Well, I don’t know if I can continue to summarize properly.  If it seems I am describing a route on a trip rather than a coherent story, than you are right.  This film feels like that-it tries to introduce as much about Greek mythology as though there won’t be any time for them in a sequel.  It gets some of them wrong and it feels like it needs to explain every last one.  Yes, Mr Columbus, I know who the Lotus Eaters are.  I know that if you cut a Hydra’s head off, two will grow back.  You do not have to explain it all.

That is my biggest gripe with the film.  In a series like Harry Potter, such explanation was necessary.  This was a completely new world, one that had not really been perceived by humanity before.  Percy  Jackson tells us stories that have been around for the past few millennia, but still treats the subject matter in the same way.  Every last bit is explained to characters who should know better.  Why would a satyr need an explanation as to who certain Gods are?  Since when does Medusa look like a goddess?  The Medusa I know looks like a reptile, not Uma Thurman.  And why does Chris Columbus still believe this sort of style is acceptable?

This is essentially the same sort of thing Columbus did on the first two Harry Potter films.  At the risk of offending the masses, they were terrible.  They were not films as much as a visual representation of the books.  What I mean is that the film took no risks, delivered absolutely wooden performances that seemed focus on quoting dialogue from the books without actually putting any emotion behind it, and basically not caring whether or not a decent film is delivered. The only difference is that there is focus given to the last one.  The actors give far better performances than any of the Columbus directed Potter films.  The actors seem slightly (only slightly) into it.  There are times when I felt myself being immersed into the world of Percy, only to be yanked back into reality when I realized I knew more about the mythology than any of the characters.

How dangerous is it for a film when that is the case?  It is usually the kiss of death.  Yet…Percy Jackson is spared slightly.  Like I said, the performances are alright and some of the set pieces are cleverly incorporated. I did enjoy the Lotus Eater sequence set in Vegas-if those beings were to be incorporated into the modern world, that is certainly where they would end up.  Kids may like it.  Kids who do not know much about Greek mythology.  The rest of us will be frustrated by the film’s treatment of said mythology.  There are far more intelligent films out there.  Even the original Clash of the Titans was a better film.  Start looking, everybody.

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