Feb 22, 2010

[Movies] Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief (2010)

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief (2010)The post Harry Potter media world continues to do its best to find the next great book series that will cross generations in terms of appeal just like what J.K. Rowling achieved with her landmark book franchise. While there have been some notable successes, nothing ha been quite as big as the big HP series.

It's funny how some books seem like total Harry Potter clones and yet because of the change of setting or circumstances, a little tweak here or there, you end up with a book that is independent enough to stand on its own and survive on its own merits. If you manage to get that far, well, then you know that Hollywood is going to be knocking on your door pretty soon.

I hate it when a book feels like it was written for its Hollywood movie potential. I pay good money to read books, not screenplays in beta testing! And so we get this movie, of which I never read the original book so this is strictly an opinion based on what appeared on the screen. Oh well.

NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 04:  Actors Brandon T. Jac...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief (also known as Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief), is potentially the first movie in a new film franchise based on the series of young adult fantasy books written by Rick Riordan. It's all about the life of one Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman), who one day discovers that he's actually the son of Poseidon (Kevin McKidd) and has been accused on stealing the Lightning Bolt of Zeus (Sean Bean). Given this charge, pretty much all those mythical creatures of Greek lore are now out to get him in order to bring him to justice or at least acquire the lightning bolt for themselves.

In order to protect him and give him the right training for his legacy, Percy is brought by his mother and his best friend Grover (Brandon T. Jackson), who turns to be a satyr charged to be his protector, to a secret training camp for demigods like himself. There is trained by one of his teachers from the real world Mr. Brunner (Pierce Brosnan), who turns out to be the centaur Chiron. He also gets to meet Luke Castellan (Jake Abel), a son of Hermes and Annabeth Chase (Alexandra Daddario), daughter of Athena. From there you know the story is going to eventually involve trying to regain the lightning bolt involving this main characters and thus the normal progression of such stories continues.

The comparisons between this story and that of Harry Potter are hard to ignore. You have the reluctant lead who discovers this whole other side to his heritage that had been kept secret from him in order to keep him safe, you have the comedic best friend supporting character who can get more annoying than entertaining and you have the smart, boyish female friend on the side. It's not a perfect translation, but the design of the template involved in this story is clearly there - well that and the classic archetype of the Hero's Journey of course.

The characterization and ultimately the acting in the movie was a bit wanting in many ways. Lerman is clearly being groomed as a possible Zac Efron type of young male lead character while Daddario did her best to be a lot more manly than Hermione Granger ever was. However in her effort to become a stronger character physically, she ended up ignoring the whole "I'm descended from the goddess of wisdom and battle tactics side". Grover was just plain annoying for me and for a young man in high school, he certainly had some pretty strong inappropriate leanings in terms of the intensity of his feelings towards the opposite sex. His humor did not fit his portrayal well and ended up making him feel like a parody of Phil from the Disney Hercules cartoon.

Chris Columbus could have done a lot better in terms of how he set the direction and tone for this movie, I think. A lot of times the characters seemed uncomfortable with what they were doing or just generally seemed ill-suited for their roles since they didn't know what to do. The individual battle sequences were fun and all but the whole story just didn't flow right and was battling between being something set in more classical period settings (like the camp and Olympus itself) and being an updated version of the myths more suited to modern audiences (such as Uma Thurman's Medusa or the Lotus Eaters' Casino). This inconsistency of tone and focus just totally made things weird and awkward here and there.

Special effects were nicely seamless for the most part, I have to admit. Medusa was wonderful in her modern leather outfit and the hydra was rather impressive once things all came together. Even the minotaur was pretty awesome - the strength of the special effects team was clearly within the realms of ground-base action.

Overall, it was a decent movie and not quite as bad as some of the other Harry Potter wannabes out there. I'm fairly certainly it'll survive for at least another movie and the film does make me want to read the books if only to see what the differences between the two are.

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief gets 3 pairs of flying sneakers out of a possible 5.

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2 comments:

Adam said...

Excellent points. My analytical mind agrees with you entirely (with one exception, Satyrs are supposed to be obsessed with sex- and a teenage male Satyr even more so). Yet, I found this movie quite enjoyable in a cheesy sort of way.

I was fascinated by the representations of classic Greek myths and kept interested in what they would pull out next. I've been told the movie is a pale comparison to the book, which is evidently a bit more complex and has a different villain. Certainly this movie felt like there were missing things unlike the early Harry Potter films.

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