Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief (2010)

Untitled-1I’m sorry. I know Percy Jackson & The Lightning Thief isn’t targeted at scholars with a Phd in Greek mythology, but come on, at least give it some meat for the youngsters to chew on. Teenagers aren’t stupid these days. They know sloppy storytelling when they see it. Or maybe they don’t, if they love awesome visual effects that upstage the story. Whatever. All I know is that the target audience of this movie is a lot older than that of, say, Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone, and yet Sorcerer’s Stone is better.

I don’t even know where to begin. Well, at the start, I suppose. The great Greek gods of Zeus (Sean Bean) and Poseidon (Kevin McKidd) descend upon New York City — everyone’s favourite city for mass destruction — and argue over the Lightning Thief, a demigod delinquent accused of stealing Zeus’ Lightning Bolt, his most treasured weapon. Am I the only one who thinks it’s a letdown that Zeus never shows us the full power of his Bolt? Never mind. Zeus accuses Poseidon’s son of the crime and gives him 14 days to return the weapon. Zeus and Poseidon, in case you are unaware, are brothers and, together with their third brother Hades, are delinquents themselves. If I remember my Greek mythology correctly, they team up to overthrow their Titan father Kronos in order to rule Olympus. What nasty little buggers.

And then we meet Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman), an average school kid with what he thinks is dyslexia and an overgrown Justin Bieber haircut. He likes to sink to the bottom of swimming pools and contemplate life. Why? Because he thinks better underwater. So he’s certainly not Hades’ or Zeus’ offspring. He has a friend, Grover (Brandon T. Jackson), who later reveals that his two human legs have been replaced by goat’s legs, and that he is in fact a satyr. Or a faun. Whichever one you grew up with. Grover announces that he’s always been Percy’s protector, and now that the gods plan to start a war if Percy doesn’t return the Bolt, he brings Percy to Camp Half-Blood (Prince?), a demigod training ground that is, as far as I can tell, just off the main road. Its open field is located in a clearing in the forest along the bank of a river. Fly a helicopter in there and — voila! — media cameras will be knocking on its front door all year long.

At the camp Percy falls instantly in love with the dangerously sexy, more experienced demigod Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario), who claims she’s the daughter of Athena and some random dude — “I have strong feelings for you Percy. I just don’t know if they’re positive or negative”. Well, leave it to the grand adventure you’re about to embark upon together to help you decide. Here’s the plot: Percy’s human mother has been kidnapped by Hades (Steve Coogan, yes, Steve Coogan) because Hades wants the Lightning Bolt. He is, as you recall, the god of the underworld. His mischief comes with the territory. So against the orders of his trainer, Chiron (Pierce Brosnan), Percy sneaks out of the camp in order to reclaim his mother.

There are some wonderful sequences in this movie, most of which involve classical Greek monsters. There’s a perilous encounter with Medusa, played by Uma Thurman as a toned down Poison Ivy. And there’s a stunning, albeit preposterous, battle against the Hydra (formed out of robotic janitors) in the Parthenon, Nashville, Tennessee. But a movie has to rise above its visual effects, no matter how good they may be, and Percy Jackson doesn’t. Its story is bogged down by a puerile premise and young characters who shouldn’t be allowed to survive the very first car crash. And is it just me or is the idea of Greek gods being lousy fathers pure gibberish? “Looks like we all have daddy issues”, a demigod says at one point. I’d love to see Dr. Phil try to handle them.

Best Moment | Joe Pantoliano’s beer-guzzling, foul-mouthed, aggressive stepdad character. Little screen time, but he steals the show.

Worst Moment | The story. And maybe those flying Converse shoes.

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