Movie review: Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, starring Logan Lerman, Pierce Brosnan and Uma Thurman


Don't be alarmed if (like me) you haven’t read the books that Percy Jackson has headlined since 2005; the world of The Lightning Thief will still be a familiar one. Young Mr. Jackson lives in New York City, and the kid is at home avoiding marauding taxi cabs and not fitting in with his peers. But like Luke Skywalker, Thomas Anderson and Frodo Baggins before him, Percy Jackson is about to take “the hero’s journey,” one of the most popular archetypes in modern fiction. Luckily there is an interesting twist that keeps the familiar fresh.

The Lightning Thief quickly draws back its curtain to reveal that ancient Greek mythology (Zeus, Poseidon, et al.) is a true story. The aforementioned God of the Seas opens the picture in spectacular fashion, and offers a clear sign that some phenomenal effects work is going to be on display. A quick mythology lesson tells us that Zeus, Poseidon and Hades are the “big three” Gods and each has their own fantastical powers — as well as estranged, half-God, half-mortal children running around on Earth. Unfortunately Zeus’ amazing lightning bolt has been stolen and all signs point to Poseidon’s secret, hidden son. Did you guess Percy Jackson? You win!

Almost instantly, the amazing and bewildering world of Greek mythology opens up for both the young protagonist and the viewer alike. Explanations of Percy’s secret past, his relationship to the Gods and his subsequent training explode on screen without much time for questioning. We’re introduced to menagerie of outrageous characters, such as Pierce Bronson’s Chiron the Centaur, Percy’s best friend and satyr Grover, and Athena’s daughter and likely love-interest Annabeth. A good hero needs companions to take with him on his destined trek and once Percy is aligned with his “Obi-Wan,” “Samwise” and “Trinity,” he’s off to clear his name and rescue his captive mother.

And what a fantastical journey it is. Once everything is semi-clearly established, Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief turns into a road trip movie to the max. Each city our heroes stop in offers the same basic scenario: look for mystical item, be attacked by some form of Greek monster being played by a famous actor, move on. It’s a spectacle, and the effects and battles are highly enjoyable. Trouble is, this formula becomes repetitive, and there’s not much down-time or exposition between the character's map stops and near death experiences. I found it akin to listening to a band's greatest hits album — sure, they're hitting a lot of high points, but without the album tracks ever tying together.

Percy Jackson is an enjoyable enough romp across an America shaken with a side of Greek lore, but the movie concludes in fairly anti-climatic fashion. Adapting a film from the pages of a novel is no easy task, and obviously director Chris Columbus was seeking an easily digestible narrative flow. This adaptation should leave fans of the books pleased while allowing newcomers to get a firm grasp on the world unfolding around them. The acting throughout is fairly competent, with memorable cameos from some big Hollywood names such as Uma Thurman, Rosario Dawson, Sean Bean and Steve Coogan.

Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief’s only noticeable faults lie within its dialog, the breakneck pace of its plot, and the fact that it’s just not as deep as a Harry Potter flick. But Percy Jackson still packs enough punch for me to recommend it, as this movie is sure to be enjoyed by child and parent alike.

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What you've heard is no myth!

Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief is a mouthful of a title, but the movie it adorns is actually a slick, entertaining fantasy for young and old viewers alike. “Based on the popular series of books” is a common tag-line these days — movie studios snatch up anything that resembles a bestseller — but the fantasy genre is littered with stories that failed to make the jump to the big screen. Put another way: For every Harry Potter there's abut five of The Golden Compass. Sure, Potter director Chris Columbus is at the helm, but does Percy Jackson have what it takes to rival the mega-grossing  young wizard?


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