Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (2010)
Release Date: February 12th, 2010 MPAA Rating: PG
Director: Chris Columbus Actors: Logan Lerman, Brandon T. Jackson, Alexandra Daddario, Sean Bean, Pierce Brosnan
he concept of merging Greek mythology with anguished teen life is an interesting one. But for every creative aspect found within “Percy Jackson and the Olympians,” there is a contrived and rather nonsensical counter that unfortunately tips the scales more towards derivative than innovative. Classic staples like Medusa and the Hydra make an appearance, which conflicts with the world being introduced, since it assumes all Greek mythology is factual. These monstrosities would have been vanquished long ago. It’s also established early on that the young hero’s powers come from water, and apparently so do his combat skills – a simple dip in the pond and Percy can match swords with the best of them. So then why does everyone insist on training in the Renaissance-style demigod camp? Maybe it’s just to sport ancient Greek armor while playing violent practice games.
Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman) attempts to survive high school as a typical teen troubled by a lack of focus in the classroom, a less-than-desirable home life, and a few mysterious ailments. He quickly discovers he’s anything but ordinary when he’s attacked by a Harpy during a class field trip and accused of stealing Zeus’ lightning bolt. His history professor Mr. Brunner (Pierce Brosnan) and his best friend Grover (Brandon T. Jackson) reveal to him that he is the son of the great Greek god Poseidon and he’s soon whisked away to a secret training camp reserved for such destined heroes. There he meets Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario), the beautiful daughter of Athena, and learns of his carefully guarded heritage. Now, it’s up to Percy, Annabeth, and Grover to find the stolen weapon and stop an encroaching war that could destroy both of their worlds.
Fusing Greek mythology with pop culture and teen interests is a decent way to spark curiosity for the target audience. But beyond the setting of gods and monsters, everything in “Percy Jackson” is recycled. It’s “Clash of the Titans” for kids. Mythology is fascinating, and although such legendary creatures as centaurs, satyrs, minotaurs, and more find their way into the adventure, Percy and his band of young rebels are just one more unspectacular group of inexperienced warriors learning too quickly to cope with the supernatural. Comparisons to countless other family-friendly fantasy films will be impossible to avoid, most of which have more creativity and more captivating lead characters.
“This is a lot to process,” claims Jackson when he learns of his powerful half-blood origins. Too many things are unexplained in this Renaissance Fair recreation, and if it was too much for Percy, it’s definitely too much for the audience. The most nonsensical and unexplained element is whether or not Percy is the “real” Perseus, as he duplicates the hero’s adventures throughout the collection of books by author Rick Riordan, on which this film is based, and simultaneously tries to lead a normal child’s life. And after that, the number of contrivances and unexpected coincidences skyrocket, including such mysteries as how Brunner and Grover are able to hide their true forms from regular humans. Perhaps the novels bother with such colossal questions.
The plot isn’t grounded enough in reality at the start to make the quick transfer into fantasy believable. As an introductory first entry into a series, Percy is already teaching the gods a lesson and journeying on an epic quest to quell an end-of-the-world fight between heaven (Mount Olympus) and hell (the Underworld). Since there isn’t enough time to get to know the characters or define the world of a secret, co-existing, mythological, magical universe, it’s difficult to care about any of the earth-shattering events, the mighty protagonists, or their legendary destinies.
– The Massie Twins