Skip to main content

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-

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #70: Stand by Me

Another clear influence on Stranger Things, Rob Reiner’s Stand by Me (1986) portrays American kids from a lost era in which they could go on an adventure away from home. Nowadays if children go missing for more than an hour parents try to locate them using cell phone apps, but in the story written by Stephen King four boys in 1959 Oregon go walking in the woods during a long weekend to look for, of all things, a dead body. Their lives are sometimes at risk, they have no way of communicating with their parents, but they will definitely have a story to remember for the rest of their lives.
For many North Americans adults this movie fondly reminded them of a time in their childhood despite the inherent danger. Not so for me since, first of all, there was no time in my childhood when I could possibly go out of the house for more than three hours without my mom getting in her car to go look for me. The there is the fact that I spent a good chunk of my childhood living in Chile and Peru, an…

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #77: Spartacus

Spartacus (1960) is an interesting movie in Stanley Kubrick's filmography because it doesn’t really feel like a Stanley Kubrick movie. I don’t exactly know why, but his signature style doesn’t seem to be present unlike in classics such as The Shining, A Clockwork Orange, or Dr. Strangelove. It does however feel like one of those big sword-and-sandals epics in which you have British thespians acting as Roman politicians with the occasional big battle sequence. In that respect it is spectacular and features Kirk Douglas at his best as the titular hero.
The story of the rebel slave Spartacus has inspired a bloody and sexy TV series (so far unseen by me, but I hear it’s great) and the story behind how it was made is one of those cases of life imitating art. The Bryan Cranston film Trumbo tells how screenwriter Dalton Trumbo was blacklisted in Hollywood during the 1950s for his communist beliefs and had to rebel against the system by writing screenplays for cheap movies under a fake nam…

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #79: The Thin Red Line

I once saw an interview in which Christopher Plummer said that what Terrence Malick needs is a writer. He was referring to his experience shooting The New World, which saw his role considerably reduced. The same happened to a much greater extent with Malick’s war movie The Thin Red Line (1998), which saw the screen time of many movie stars reduced to mere minutes amid a 170-minute running time. However you have to hand it to the guy: he knows how to make anything look beautiful, including the carnage of war.
Malick’s movie came out the same year as Saving Private Ryan, so I think that year I had my fill of ultra violent war films and was no too interested in seeing it. Sixteen years later I finally caught up to it on Netflix, but in hindsight the big screen might have been a better option since this is a very visual story. The plot is pretty loose, following one American soldier and sometimes some of his brothers in arms as they make their way through World War II in the Pacific theat…