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

percy-jackson-quad

Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (2010)
Director: Chris Columbus
Stars: Logan Lerman; Alexandra Daddario; Brandon T. Jackson.
Plot: Percy Jackson, son of Poseidon, finds out he’s a demigod when he’s accused of helping his father steal Zeus’ lightning bolt. He and his friends, Annabeth Chase, daughter of Athena, and Grover Underwood, satyr, go on a quest across the country to clear his name and find something precious to Percy.

Very quickly I’d like to note that I’m reviewing this movie detached from the book. The two stories are so drastically different that you can either decide to be a literature purist and basically hate the movie (which was my original reaction the first time I saw the film), or you can see them as separate and try to enjoy them as individual creations.

Right out of the gate the film catches your attention. You aren’t introduced to the main characters right away but the story is set up nicely. In one short conversation, the Greek gods Zeus and Poseidon discuss the conflict that the characters will face – returning the lightning bolt – and the consequences if they fail. The scene is set for the events to come in a succinct way that allows information to flow smoothly without feeling rushed.

Unfortunately, the steady pace of the first scene is not kept for long. Over the course of the next half hour, the screenwriters try to familiarize the audience with Greek mythology as quickly as possible and, considering how extensive the mythology is, it’s nearly impossible to do this in a way that flows. The writing is all over the place; there is very little organization in regard to information. This means that some scenes may need to be rewatched in order to understand what’s going on because of their complexity. On the flip side, other scenes feel slow and dumbed down – simplified for a “simple” audience. It can actually be slightly upsetting how the writers treat some elements of the story this way; it’s almost like they’re underestimating their audience.

This is not to say the writing is bad, though. It’s extremely hard to translate so much background information on screen when you can’t verbalize all of the main character’s (Percy’s) thoughts. In fact, there was one scene that was exceptionally well done. Here, the campers at Camp Half Blood play Capture the Flag with an Ancient Grecian twist. Sword play is allowed and encouraged, battle armor is worn, and campers are out for blood, not just the flag. It gives insight into how the demigods train and it emphasizes how important combat was in Ancient Greek culture.

Despite the changes of pace and information, the actors did the best they could when trying to share their knowledge of this fictional world in the most natural way possible. Logan Lerman, who played Percy Jackson, reacted naturally and believably to the new environment he was thrust into. He played his character a bit younger than may be expected but it works to his advantage because Percy is actually supposed to be fifteen. Percy’s, Annabeth’s and Grover’s ages don’t translate all that well because of the “Hollywoodization” of the characters – the actors are all older and prettier than the actual story characters are expected to be (in either the book or film). This is unavoidable, however, and when it comes down to it, it neither adds nor subtracts from the actual storyline and progression of events.

I could take or leave Alexandra Daddario as Annabeth. She wasn’t outstanding but she also wasn’t horrible. Overall she had no impact on me or my feelings towards the film, which, in itself, is very unique. Brandon T. Jackson as Grover on the other hand was a breath of fresh air – he was the funny sidekick that a good film always needs. Sometimes this character archetype can be tiring but Jackson’s acting along with the satyr twist keeps things interesting.

Honestly, I didn’t like this film the first time I saw it. I was offended by how far off from the book it was. Watching it a second time, though – watching the movie as a piece independent from the book – I was able to enjoy it much more. Honestly, I would recommend it. I would recommend it first to the people who were unfamiliar with the novels just because they wouldn’t have conflicts with any changes made to the script (trust me, there are a lot of changes), and I would also recommend it to readers of the series, but I would caution that it’s different and that you have to keep an open mind in order to enjoy it. Yes, it may be confusing or, on the flip side, over-simplified at times but if you’re looking for a way to pass the time and entertain your imagination, this film is for you. It’s because of all this that the film ranks…

13/24