Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief

Posted on June 22, 2010 at 8:45 am

A teenager feels like he doesn’t fit in anywhere. It all comes together when he finds out that he has inherited some special powers from the father he last saw when he was seven months old. And he soon finds himself in a special school with other kids like him, where they can learn to make the most of their powers.Sound familiar? It does have something in common with Harry Potter, including a successful series of books now made into a movie. They even share a director; Chris Columbus did the first two Harry Potter films, and so he is an old hand at translating a beloved series of novels about kids with special powers on screen. Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman) loves his mom (Catherine Keener) but his step-father is obnoxious and abusive. He has a loyal friend named Grover, but he is dyslexic and has ADHD so school is difficult. He is most happy and comfortable in the pool. On a field trip, the gray-haired substitute teacher turns out to be a fury. As in a shrieking flying monster. And the teacher in the wheelchair (Pierce Brosnan)? He turns out to be a centaur, half man, half horse. Grover (Brandon T. Jackson), who walks with crutches, is a satyr (goat-legs) assigned to protect him. And Percy is the son of Poseidon, the God of the Sea. He is to water like Popeye is to spinach, and then some. Water gives him strength and healing powers and he can also control it. Someone has stolen the lightning bolt from Zeus (Sean Bean). And he suspects his two brothers, the gods of the sea and the underworld. He thinks Percy is hiding the bolt — and so do a number of other creatures. Percy has to find the bolt and return it to Zeus before the summer solstice. He gets a bit of training at demigod boot camp and is soon off on his quest with a shield from the son of Hermes, and a pen from the centaur, accompanied by Grover and Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario), the swashbuckling daughter of Athena. Writer Rick Riordan is not in J.K. Rowling’s league when it comes to inventiveness, intricacy, imagination, or heart. But he has a good sense of the way a young teenager sees the world. I like the way that the things that bother Percy most in his old life turn out to be strengths in his new life. He is dyslexic with English because his brain is hard-wired to read classic Greek. He is ADHD because he has the reflexes of a warrior. And his mother stuck with the odious step-father because, well, I’ll just say because it was the best way to keep Percy hidden. I like the overlay of Greek mythology. But the attempts to bring a modern sensibility to the adventures sometimes feel forced and awkward. Lerman is a bit bland, leaving Grover to capture much of our attention and interest.But the main thing this movie seems to be missing is classically trained British actors. Brosnan is nicely majestic in a brief role and Steve Coogan brightens things up considerably as Hades. But we realize how much the Harry Potter movies benefited from top performers like Maggie Smith and Michael Gambon. Uma Thurman re-creates her all-time weakest performance by making Medusa into a snake-headed version of Poison Ivy and the usually-terrific Rosario Dawson seems lost as Persephone. We need a bit more “Clash of the Titans” and a bit less of “Circus of the Stars.” (more…)

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Action/Adventure Based on a book Fantasy Series/Sequel