Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief

Cast:
Logan Lerman as Percy Jackson
Brandon T. Jackson as Grover
Alexandra Daddario as Annabeth
Jake Abel as Luke
Sean Bean as Zeus
Pierce Brosnan as Mr. Brunner / Chiron
Steve Coogan as Hades
Rosario Dawson as Persephone
Melina Kanakaredes as Athena
Catherine Keener as Sally Jackson
Kevin McKidd as Poseidon
Joe Pantoliano as Gabe Ugliano
Uma Thurman as Medusa
Julian Richings as Ferryman
Bonita Friedericy as Hysterical Woman

Summary:
“Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief” actually exceeded expectations and was an enjoyable film. The inclusion of Greek mythology into modern settings made it fun and exciting. Cool visual effects for Medusa, the Hydra, and Hades will enthrall moviegoers both young and not-so-young.

Story:
This film is based on the book by Rick Riordan.

The gods of Greek mythology are alive and well and roaming the earth today. Under the guise of normal mortals, they walk the streets of New York City. And like they did in ancient Greece, they fall in love with humans and have children who are demigods – half human, half god. But when the lightning of Zeus is stolen from Mount Olympus, he immediately suspects one of these demi-gods is responsible. Specifically, he blames the son of Poseidon, god of the sea.

Unfortunately for Percy Jackson, he has no idea he’s the son of Poseidon and that he’s suspected of the theft. This normal, awkward teen quickly finds himself thrust in the middle of a battle between the gods for the lightning. He must find out how to use his developing power and rely on his newfound demi-god friends in order recover the lightning and stop the world from being devastated by an immortal war.

“Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief” is rated PG for action violence and peril, some scary images and suggestive material, and mild language.

What Worked:
I have to say that I wasn’t expecting much from “Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief.” I had never read the books, so I didn’t know what I was in store for. And the fact that the trailers were unremarkable and this was a February release seemed to indicate this could be a stinker. The final bad sign was that Fox decided to screen this for critics the night before it was due to hit theaters. This is usually a sign that even the studio thinks they have turkey and they don’t want critics to have time to write reviews before the movie opens. So imagine my surprise when 15 minutes of the film went by and I was still entertained. Then 30 minutes went by and I was still waiting for it to suck. An hour went by and I thought surely the grand finale would fail miserably. Next thing I knew 2 hours went by and the film concluded by not only not sucking, but being pretty good. In fact I was ready to see a sequel and/or go pick up the books. Maybe my expectations were so lowered that it could only be better than I expected, but I actually enjoyed it a lot.

A large part of why I enjoyed it is because I’m a fan of Greek mythology. I fell in love with it as a kid when I saw “Clash of the Titans” and I read all the books I could on the subject after that. This movie takes all those characters from mythology and catches up with them today. It’s fun seeing them all in a modern setting. You see Zeus and Poseidon chatting on the Empire Statue Building. You see demi-god children training with swords and shields one moment and playing video games the next. You see Medusa in sunglasses, a head wrap, and a leather trench coat. You see the Lotus Eaters in Las Vegas. You get the idea. This story also follows Joseph Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey” perfectly. Campbell should be considered a co-writer since it follows the steps he laid out exactly. Like Hercules or Perseus or Luke Skywalker, we see him rise from humble beginnings, battle the supernatural, and save the day. Anyone that loves Greek mythology is going to get a kick out of this movie. (Though I do have to wonder if this will take some of the wind out of the sails for the new “Clash of the Titans” remake coming soon.)

The effects in the film are quite good. This is summer blockbuster quality in February. The Minotaur, Hydra, Hades, Fury, and Medusa all look fantastic. My kids were with me and jumped more than once as Percy had to do battle with them all. I particularly loved the snakes for Uma Thurman’s Medusa hair. They’ll set audiences on edge. And when hell is revealed, it is quite impressive as well.

The cast is pretty good. Logan Lerman does a fine job as Percy Jackson. He walks a fine line between being cocky and confused, incompetent and competent, and arrogant and geeky. He somehow manages to dance back and forth across all those lines with the character and emerge on the other end as likable. Alexandra Daddario is a good find as Annabeth. She’s convincingly tough and manages to convey the strife between the gods pretty well in this new generation. Sean Bean is also cool as Zeus while Rosario Dawson is hot as Persephone. It’s also fun seeing Catherine Keener and Joe Pantoliano, but there’s a guilty pleasure in seeing Uma Thurman as Medusa. Yeah, it’s over the top but it is fun.

A lot of people are going to compare this movie to “Harry Potter” because of the three teens, the school/camp, the supernatural aspects, and the fact that Chris Columbus directed it. And I’d have to agree it’s a good comparison. But you could also compare this to “X-Men” since you have these young characters with extraordinary powers doing battle in modern settings. I suppose Greek mythology created the original comic book heroes, so it’s only natural.

I took my two older kids to this movie. They enjoyed it and I enjoyed it. This also sparked their interest in reading more about mythology, so that was a cool thing for me to see, too. If you have kids that want to see a movie, this would make a good family outing.

What Didn’t Work:
I think casting recognizable faces was good in some respects but bad in other respects. For example, Uma Thurman as Medusa was fun. Same with Joe Pantoliano as the evil step-father. But as much as I like Pierce Brosnan, seeing him as a centaur was a bit odd. Don’t get me wrong, the effects for those scenes looked great. But every once in a while you’d see him in full half-horse mode and it would strike you as a little silly. Same with the scenes of Steve Coogan as Hades, but I do have to give them points for making him look like a rocker.

Brandon T. Jackson as Grover was also a mixed bag. He brought a lot of much needed comic relief to the film, but sometimes he took it over the top. The jokes about Obama being a demi-god and the street slang were a little much. He turned into the stereotypical funny, black sidekick. He just happened to have goat legs.

This film is rated PG, but I don’t think it’s a good idea to take children under 7. There’s some pretty scary stuff in here from Medusa to the Hydra to the Fury.

The Bottom Line:
“Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief” was an unexpected pleasant surprise. If you are into Greek mythology it is required viewing. If you like “Harry Potter,” I think you’ll enjoy this, too. I can’t say how it compared to the book, but I think fans of the series will be pleased.

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