Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief
A Promising Beginning

The filmmakers behind Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief can talk all they want about keeping Percy unique from its predecessor Harry Potter, but the similarities are too prominent to be ignored.  Adding to the comparison is the fact that Lightning Thief is directed by Chris Columbus, the same man who directed the first two Potter films.  Still, with the Harry Potter series about to wrap and the vast world of Greek Mythology to explore, Percy Jackson might just be poised to take over the reins from Hollywood’s most beloved series.

Based on the first novel in the young adult book series by Rick Riordan, The Lightning Thief introduces film audiences to the titular hero, a teenager unaware that he is the son of Poseidon, god of the seas.  For reasons never really explained, Percy becomes the prime suspect when the legendary lightning bolt of Zeus is stolen.  If the bolt is not returned before the summer solstice, a war between the gods will break out.  The idea of war appeals to Hades, the god of the underworld, who kidnaps Percy’s mother and holds her for ransom.

Logan Lerman as the title character in Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lighting ThiefDetermined to save his mother from Hades, Percy sets out with his best friend Grover and love interest Annabeth on a mission to reach the underworld.  Getting to the underworld may be the easy part, but escaping has its difficulties.  In order to ensure their escape, the trio must travel across the country to find three magical pearls that could get them back home.  Unfortunately, these pearls are guarded by some of the deadliest creatures of Greek mythology.

As characters of Greek mythology are usually only associated with ancient Greece, it was a bit of a shock to see Poseidon first rise out of the water on the eastern shores of North America before meeting Zeus atop the Empire State Building.  That feeling of awkwardness is fleeting, however, as it soon becomes very interesting to see how these mythological figures have been adapted to their new environment.  For example, where better than a Las Vegas casino for the Lotus-eaters to capture their prey?  The special effects used to create Hydras, Minotaurs and a certain snake-haired villain are all adequate, but fail to really impress.  Often the effects felt like just that, effects.

The three leads are played by relative unknowns, while their superiors are played by such established actors as Pierce Brosnan, Catherine Keener, Sean Bean, and Uma Thurman.  Known more for his work in comedies, Steve Coogan also joins the cast in a bit of stunt casting as the evil Hades.  Logan Lerman does a decent job with the role of Percy, but like his two main co-stars Brandon T. Jackson and Alexandra Daddario, he does little to really impress.  Perhaps the cast needs a couple more installments to effectively flesh out their characters.

The film’s plotline is rather light, and although I have yet to read the book, it was clear just from the dust cover that a lot of the novel’s plotline has been left on the cutting room floor.

There is no denying that Percy Jackson is basically Harry Potter with Greek mythology replacing witchcraft and wizardry.  Both involve a chosen teenage hero and his two friends who defy their superiors, perform mystical feats and save the world from certain ruin.  Percy has his own version of Hogwarts and if you think Quiddich is violent, wait until you see the games they play at Camp Half-Blood.  In a world where unoriginality is the norm, however, the blending of modern times with Greek mythology is a step above the rest in terms of creativity.  Besides, even Avatar was basically Dances with Wolves on a distant planet and I heard very few complaints about its unoriginality.

In terms of quality, The Lightning Thief doesn’t even compare with the last couple of Harry Potter films, but the good news is that it is comparable to the first two, meaning the future may be a bright one for Percy Jackson.

Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief is rated PG for “action violence and peril, some scary images and suggestive material, and mild language.”  Just like the books upon which it is based, this movie is aimed toward young adults, and although there are a lot of scary monsters and violence, there is little that is very graphic.

Courtesy of a local publicist, Jeff attended a promotional screening of Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief.