A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief

July 21, 2010

Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief

I’ve not read the book this movie is based on, so I’ll have to simply review the movie on its own merits, which is a pleasant change for me. Usually when I’m doing these reviews I wonder how they must appear to people who haven’t been exposed to the source material. Now I’m the one who hasn’t read the book and I can give my unbiased review.

And my unbiased opinion is that, well, it’s an okay movie. I can see how it might have been better, and I can see how it might have been so much worse. The movie does have its problems. Chief among them being that the writing lacks subtlety. Okay, yes, I admit that expecting subtlety from a film about an impending war between Olympian gods and the hapless son of Poseidon who has to try and stop it might be a little foolish, but there were points in the movie where it was laid on a little bit thick even for the subject matter. For example there’s the line – which was even in the preview – “I have strong feelings for you, I just don’t know if they’re positive or negative.” Maybe it’s a line from the book, and maybe it read well on the page, but in a movie it causes blunt force trauma. At the start of the film Percy straight out tells his mother he has ADHD and dyslexia. It’s like the script writers aren’t even trying. Again, I can see what is intended, it’s just not well done. I like the notion of a kid with problems discovering that he’s actually somebody important. If done well it could be a great and inspirational story. But as it is presented in the movie there’s no real evidence that Percy has any problems – we just have to take his word for it.

Then again, once the whole adventure begins that notion of discovering some hidden potential in yourself is entirely lost, and it becomes a fairly standard quest and adventure film. At least I can take comfort in the fact that once it decides that rather than having anything meaningful to say it’s just going to be a bunch of Greek mythology inspired action scenes the movie is at least fun to watch.

The story of the movie goes like this: Percy Jackson doesn’t much like his life. His father-in-law is a boorish stinky clod. He doesn’t do too well in school (apparently.) Actually, the truth of it is that we don’t actually get to see much about his life that’s in any way objectionable… even his interactions with his father-in-law don’t make him out in any way to be a victim. He has no trouble whatsoever standing up for himself and his mother, and treats Gabe more like an unwelcome interloper than a threat. (Until it was revealed that they actually lived with Gabe, I thought that he was a fairly recent unwanted boyfriend of Percy’s mother.)

Anyhow, Percy’s best friend is the crutch-bound but ever-so-hip Grover, and his one true claim to fame is that he can hold his breath for a long time. Clearly he’s related to Guybrush Threepwood: Mighty Pirate… but no. In reality – as is revealed pretty quickly for anybody who hadn’t already figured it out from the extremely heavy-handed opening and subsequent hints – Percy Jackson is the son of Poseidon. Very soon his mother is abducted to Hades and he finds himself hunted by every mythological beast in America because Zeus thinks that Percy stole his lightning bolt.

As I said before, the movie quickly gives up any pretense of being a film about an awkward kid who doesn’t fit in the modern world and becomes a kind of mythological road movie. Percy, Grover and Annabeth (daughter of Athena) set out to rescue Percy’s mother and to stop the impending war between Zeus and Poseidon. They visit Medusa, encounter a hydra, and do eventually go to Hades. (I was disappointed that Sisyphus and Tantalus didn’t seem to be there. Hades here is more a Christian Hell full of lakes of fire than a pale and depressing afterlife.)

Unsurprisingly the entire take of Greek mythology is fairly modernized. It’s more of an inspiration and jumping off point than an actual attempt to do a “what if the Greek gods were real” sort of thing. As nice as it is to see Sean Bean as Zeus he is no swarthy Greek man obsessed with his own machismo. (Why couldn’t they get Toblarone? Though I suppose he was Italian.)

The movie is fun though. The special effects are extremely well done (particularly they satyr Grover and the centaur Chiron.) Sure we’ve seen the same stuff done before – most recently in the Chronicles of Narnia movies – but Mr. Tumnus seemed to lack mobility when compared to Grover’s leaping about. As an adventure film full of big action scenes I’d say that it was pretty good. There wasn’t any time when I was particularly wowed, but neither was there any time when the movie stopped being fun to watch. I’d say it was safe and middle of the road.

I’m actually curious now to read the books and see just how different they are.

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July 21, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , ,

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