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Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief

Here is a movie that felt somewhat uneven. Is it trying to take itself seriously when it is revealed early on that the main character, Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman) is the son of Poseidon, Greek god of the sea, that his mother (Katherine Keener) has been living with a drunk (Joe Pantoliano) all these years just to hide him from demons with the smell of his booze? Maybe not, when we meet Hades and see that he is being played by Steve Coogan.

That is actually one of the most entertaining things about this movie: seeing which grown-up actor is playing which Greek god, goddess, demon, or anything in between. We have Pierce Brosnan playing a centaur that is charged with protecting Percy and any other spawns of Greek gods at a training camp called, I kid you not, Camp Half-Blood (It says so on a big sign written in Greek). There is Sean Bean as Zeus, Kevin McKidd as Poseidon, Rosario Dawson as Persephone, and in a slithery performance, Uma Thurman as Medusa. If you have wondered what The Bride would look like with killer sun glasses and snakes for hair, this is your movie.

These characters all meet and interact once teenager Percy realises that his English teacher is a horrendous creature called a fury (I can relate) and that his best friend Grover (Brandon T. Jackson) is not handicapped but is in fact a satyr, a creature with goat’s leg. This is played for laughs many times throughout and Jackson does have a few good lines throughout. Percy is then told that he is accused of having stolen Zeus’ lightning bolt, which would lead to war between the gods. (Why doesn’t Zeus just keep a spare?) Once at Camp Half-Blood, the plan is to train to be a warrior, hone your heroic abilities, and fall in love at first sight with Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario) daughter of Athena (Melina Kanakaredes, whom I believe is the only actress of Greek descent in the entire cast). Instead of staying still and simply go tell Zeus that he is not a thief, Percy and his new friends decide to go on a quest to rescue his mother who has been kidnapped by Hades in exchange for the stolen lightning bolt.

This is all well and fun except for a few details. For starters, how do these kids manage to travel from New England to Las Vegas and then to Hollywood without ever once being pulled over by state trooper? I only mention it because Pantoliano accuses Percy on national television of having kidnapped his own mother and a maid at a motel sees Grover holding a severed human head. Wouldn’t this lead to a massive manhunt or at the very least an Amber alert?

Then there are the special effects which, in this age of Avatar and feel a little bit underwhelming. I am sorry, but if the CG stands out and that hydra looks cartoonish then you could up the ante a little bit. Still kudos, on the use of locations: the Empire State Building as the gateway to Mount Olympus, a Las Vegas casino as a place where travelers are perpetually imprisoned thanks to the hors-d’oeuvres, and Hollywood as the gates of hell. Where else could it have been? From what I’ve been hearing, maybe in Detroit.

B-

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