Percy Jackson and the Olympians – The Lightning Thief

I was looking forward to seeing this but unfortunately was disappointed.

A little behind-the-scenes first, which I think is ultimately the problem with it. This film is rumored to be the beginning of a replacement franchise for the Harry Potter series. Not sure if that’s happening now since the film failed to wow critics or fans alike and didn’t recoup it’s 95 mil dollar budget at the box office. I’m guessing this is the only installment in the book series that will make it to the big screen.

So what’s wrong with it? First, it lacks the charm and endearing characters that helped to make JK Rowlings universe so compelling. The characters here just seem kind of manufactured more out of necessity than with any real care or attention to detail. There’s not much depth to them, they’re just kind of how you might expect them to be without any real surprises. Not to say there aren’t character arcs in here, but the only one that seems to be of concern is the main character, the support not so much. Percy Jackson is a teenager who has daddy issues, finds out that he’s not who he thinks he is, and comes to terms with seeing himself more as a leader than follower. Been there, done that, many, many, many times now. With Harry Potter, you had numerous characters on an arc, all with distinct personalities, all fun to watch and grow. The characters in this film didn’t suck you in the same way, especially the lead. Logan Lerman is ok but comes off like a generic teenage type A personality while inhabiting the body of a Justin Bieber clone.

The story ultimately revolves around the gods bickering over god stuff with our hero getting stuck in the middle as he’s accused of stealing the weapon of Zeus. Speaking of which, I find it hard to believe that the king of gods would just leave this thing laying around, that premise was definitely pretty lame. Hades kidnaps Percy’s mom as bait to get the weapon and steal Zeus’ thunder (ahem, cough, cough, pun, pun). Percy then embarks on a journey into the underworld (the entrance to which resides in the Hollywood sign naturally, kind of makes sense after seeing this film) in an effort to restore his innocence, rescue his mom and make the world safe from a war of the gods.

The plotline isn’t too bad but it’s not great. The way it’s pieced together feels more like a patchwork of things that happen then an organic storyline that flows from one moment to the next. It feels rushed when they could’ve had a lot more fun with it. The “training camp” is a good example. The camp is supposed to be a place for demi-gods (someone who’s born with a mortal parent and a parent who is a god), but it comes off as a bunch of people swinging swords around. Where’s the lightning? The fire? The cool, god-like stuff? Aside from Percy, most everyone else comes off as regular people, pretty uninteresting. The only other indication of this camp being special is in some of the decor and the fact that centaurs run the joint, oh and Percy has a satyr side kick. That’s about it though.

There’s some serious talent in here: Sean Bean, Pierce Brosnan, Uma Thurman, Steve Coogan, Rosario Dawson, Catherine Keener and Joe Pantoliano. Great lineup but they come off kind of forced at times (Zeus) and cartoony at others (Hades). It’s like Chris Columbus (who ironically directed the first 2 Harry Potter films) wasn’t sure where to go with the tone and the actors just kind of fumbled their way through it. Awkward directing and a confused tone overall.

The effects look great mostly but come off very CG at times (the hellhounds being one example, the river Styx looking like an amusement park ride being another). They probably should’ve directed some of the budget back towards the story development and less on the bells and whistles.

I wouldn’t go out of my way to see this, check out Clash of the Titans instead.

reviewed by Sean McKnight