Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (2010)
Greek mythology - with its lusty tales of warring gods, goddesses and demi-gods, the visions of oracles and undertaking of fantastic quests - has fired mankind’s imagination for over 2,500 years.
Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief would single-handedly extinguish that fire.
Based upon a series of books for ‘tween readers by Rick Riordan and adapted to the big screen by writers Craig Titley and Joe Stillman, the movie plays like a mega-budget episode of Wizards of Waverly Place or, worse, one of those SyFy channel Asylum-produced flicks they run late on Saturday nights.
Logan Lerman is our hero, Percy Jackson, seemingly ordinary high school teen, except that he can hold his breath for, like, 10 minutes while sitting at bottom of the school pool (and he doesn’t find this the least bit odd?). Percy is in reality a demi-god, the son of the god Poseidon (which explains the Aquaman riff) and a human woman. Zeus’s lightning bolt has been stolen and for reasons the movie never really makes clear, he believes Poseidon’s son Perce took it. If it’s not returned, Zeus will get very angry. And you wouldn’t like the king of the Greek gods when he’s angry.
Percy undertakes his beyond boring cross country quest to save his moms from Hades in the Underworld and recover the lightning bolt with the aid of fellow demi-god Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario), whose absentee mother is the goddess Athena, and the movie’s Jar Jar Binks wannabe, Grover the Satyr (played by Tropic Thunder’s Brandon T. Jackson - that’s right Alpa Chino sports goat legs). Grover gets to utter such memorable, original and mythological lines as, “That’s what I’m talking about!”
Any movie featuring magic really needs to set some rules down, which Percy Jackson does not do. When Percy is in Camp Half-Blood, the training facility for demi-gods, he gets to play a game of Capture the Flag with real swords, the kind that can cut and slash. Being a normal American teen, Percy has never wielded a sword before except maybe in a Wii game, so when he gets into a clash of the teen titans with Annabeth, she hacks him up good. But, this being more a Canadian lake spa retreat than a more appropriate Greek hills setting, Percy stumbles over to a quaint little stream which not only heals his wounds BUT MAKES HIM INTO A MASTER SWORDSMAN. Come. the fuck. on. I can see water healing Percy, and I can even seem him “bending” (sorry Last Airbender fans) the agua, but the water magically making him LEARN swordsmanship? No fucking way. If just dipping a pinky into the water does all that for him, WHY does he need to go to camp to learn how to do anything? If it could impart that kind of knowledge and wisdom, then why not drink it, bath in it, gargle with it, learn who stole the lightning, and just magically make your mom appear, etc. (The filmmakers apparently didn’t read every page of their own script or they'd have pondered that question. )
Lerman is terrible, with a face that seems to be frozen from too many Botox shots. His mother is (as far as he knows) killed before his eyes while in the clutches of a minotaur (which as far as he know is a giant mythological creature)AND HE BARELY REGISTERS ANY EMOTION. Not surprise, nor anger, not wonder or fear. Nothing at all. Look out Sam Worthington, you’ve got some competition in the Bland Face Acting Department.
Daddario is just as bad, with giant wide blue eyes that rarely blink. She’s pretty, but there is no there there. Jackson is a horny goatboy; the less said about him the better. Uma Thurman resurrects her Poison Ivy routine from Batman and Robin for her turn as Medusa, she who needs some hair straightening product pronto (someone please call Chris Rock).
Sean Bean and Kevin McKidd, two British actors, play Mighty Zeus and Poseidon, respectively (Bean is just a little young to play the almighty god-father). In the original Clash of the Titans, Zeus was assayed by Sir Laurence Olivier, and in the recent remake, Liam Neeson put on the godly backlighting. Which begs the questions: why are Greek gods always played by British actors (Melina Kanakaredes from CSI: NY is Greek and plays Athena, but she even puts on a British accent)?
The books feature a 12 year old Percy Jackson and are aimed at that ‘tween audience, but something was seriously lost in the translation when they made the hero a 16 year old kid. The Harry Potter stories start with Harry as an 11 year old, but as he matures, so do the stories and the stakes. You can’t simply take a story with a 12 year old hero written for 12 year olds and make him 16 years old without updating the story, which they did not do here.
It’s a shame that director Chris Columbus is so ham-handed here. There is no trace of the grace, charm, and fun he brought to the first two Harry Potter films. Perhaps that is also an indication that J.K. Rowling told a much more interesting tale, but also that Potter screenwriter Steve Kloves did a masterful job adapting those stories compared to this movie's screenwriters. Food for thought, along with the lotus leaves and the olive oil.
Come for the review, stay for the snark: Bonus Star Trek Greek-themed fumetti! Pass the ouzo!
Star Trek is Copyright 2010 and a Registered Trademark of CBS Studios, Inc. No infringement of those rights is intended with this parody. Screencaps from Trekcore.com.