Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (2010)
The next adaption of a young adult novel to reach the big screen under the hand of Christopher Columbus (Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets) takes a surprisingly fun retelling of Greek mythology.
The film focuses, as you may have guessed, on the eponymous Percy Jackson, (Logan Lerman) a teenage boy with ADHD and dyslexia, who coasts through school, instead choosing to spend the majority of his time in the water – where he can, for some unknown reason – hold his breath for seven minutes. It is not long before the reasons why are revealed – after being attacked by his supply teacher, it is revealed to Percy that he is a half blood, a demigod, the son of Poseidon – and that his best friend, Grover (Brandon T Jackson), is a satyr, and his protector. It’s also revealed that Zeus, leader of the Olympian gods, has had his lightning bolt stolen, and unless it is returned before a two week deadline, there will be war between Hades, Poseidon, and Zeus – war that will envelop the Earth. The prime suspect for the thief? Percy Jackson…
What follows is a somewhat by-the-numbers heroes tale, as the nobody realises his potential, and becomes the hero. Percy’s ADHD is just his reflexes, and his dyslexia is a result of his brain being hardwired to read Ancient Greek. Following the attack by his teacher, and then a minotaur, where his mother is captured by Hades, Percy finds refuge at Camp Halfblood, under the tutelage of the centaur, Chiron (Pierce Brosnan.) Percy trains, and befriends Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario,) the daughter of Athena, and the three set out on a quest accross America to gain three pearls which will allow them access to Hades, where they intend to rescue Percy’s mother.
Where the film fails is in the rather by the numbers format, the hero tale which we’ve seen before, from Star Wars to Harry Potter. The film is lumbered by a rushed beginning, as the set up unfolds rapidly, and although it sets up the rapid pace of the rest of the film, it still seemed slightly hasty. Another problem I had was the obvious identity of the real lightning thief, which is telegraphed very early on, and should be easily predicted by anyone under the age of ten. The very opening scene bothered me as well, as a enormous Poseidon walks out of the sea, to meet with Zeus, past a pier with a fisherman on it who doesn’t bat an eyelid. He then proceeds to walk through half a city before shrinking to normal size – surely someone would have noticed this huge figure walking amongst them!
That said, what the story loses in its lack of original format, it makes up for in its interesting interpretation of the Greek mythology. I really liked the modern takes on the Greek myths, from Medusa owning a Garden Centre – where all the stone statues fit in perfectly – and the Parthenon and its Hydra guards, but the best take is the The Lotus. A take on the Lotus-Eaters from the Odyssey, who feed visitors to their shores the lotus flower; and once consumed, they will never leave. Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief updates this myth with a modern retelling, The Lotus casino, in fabulous Las Vegas. The casino sucks the characters in, bringing the audience with them, the juxtaposition of flashing neon, the rides and games, music and girls – the audience wants to stay there, you can’t blame the characters for staying.
The main cast are good, each of the three young leads putting in good performances, Lerman does well playing a troubled youth way out of his depth, who takes on the responsibility required of him. Jackson is equally good as the womanising, fun loving satyr Groover, and Daddario is excellent as the hard as nails warrior come love interest. That said, it’s the supporting cast that really steal the screen, in particular Steve Coogan’s Hades, stuck in his own personal hell underneath Hollywood. Coogan is one of the highlights of the film, his small role standing out, along with the other cameo roles by bigger name actors.
Despite a rushed intro and by the numbers formula, Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief is still an entertaining family adventure, with a fun, well acted take on Greek mythology. 6/10