Percy (Logan Lerman) is a normal modern teen – or so he thinks. What he does not know, and is about to quickly find out, is that he is anything but normal. His mother Sally (Catherine Keener) had a thing, shall we say, with Olympian god Poseidon (Kevin McKidd) and Percy was the result. The youngster is about to learn what it is to be a demigod in “Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief”
The original story, by Rick Riordan, is a coming-of-age yarn that mixes mythology with modern day adventure and brings about a bevy of mythological creatures and figures from the Minotaur, Medusa and the Hydra to the gods and goddesses of Mt. Olympus. Director Chris Columbus and scribe Craig Titley faithfully adapt The Lightning Thief but, as expected from Columbus, we get a bloated, stodgy action adventure that spends too much time waiting for something to happen.
The filmmakers derive from a big bundle of other films. “Harry Potter and the…” is, of course, the main influence – no surprise since Columbus began that franchise and adds nothing to his palette of big budget sameness. Then there are “The Clash of the Titans,” “The Wizard of Oz” and “It’s a Wonderful Life” that are poke you in the eye obvious. Craig Titley’s script (and the source material) does a fair job of teaching the fundamentals of Greek myths and the wondrous creatures, heroes and warriors they spawned. I would have preferred to see the helm in the hands of someone with more story telling imagination than Columbus does. The story telegraphs certain key outcomes, but that could be a problem with the original novel.
The young cast is well assembled. Logan Lehman is likable, in a cocksure Hollywood way, as the title character. Brandon T. Jackson is funny as the loyal junior protector, a satyr named Grover, whose task is to watch over and keep Percy safe, if he wants to earn his horns. The strong, young heroine demigod Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario) is the Hermione Granger of “The Lightening Thief” and gives a good role model for girls. The veteran actors who flesh out the gods and goddesses appear to have fun with Sean Bean as a powerful and vengeful Zeus, McKidd as the paternal Poseidon and Steve Coogan as the distrustful god of the underworld, Hades, gives a funny perf as the lord of darkness. Rosario Dawson is wickedly amusing as Hades’ scheming consort Persephone. It is myth-lite all the way.
Techs are as expected with high quality mixing of live action and computer animation. When the special effects hit the screen, it is with eye-popping action. A murderous Minotaur attack and battle and the fire-breathing multi-headed Hydra are a couple of the spectacles, but my favorite is Medusa. The mix of Uma Thurman’s droll, witty and deadly performance and the terrific intricacy of her snake-covered head challenges Ray Harryhausen’s great stop motion Medusa in the original “Clash of the Titans.” The CGI of Pierce Brosnan as half-man half-horse is amusing, yet not as good as the rest.
“Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief” is an attempt to replicate the phenomenon that is “Harry Potter.” The studio expects to tap into that gold mine but I do not think it has an original enough story to get to where the execs think. I give it a C+.
Laura also gives "Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief" a C+.
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