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Old 02-15-2010, 12:56 PM
Chris Columbus's Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief

Here's the link to the published version of the review in my column at The Richmond Examiner:


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

Here we have yet another film based off of a novel that is supposedly popular with teenagers, but that I had never heard of until the film (like "Harry Potter" or "Twilight"). "Percy Jackson" is like a combination of both Potter and "The Chronicles of Narnia," but it never quite reaches the level of those films because of a few overarching problems with the story.

It begins with a meeting atop the Empire State Building between Zeus (Sean Bean) and Poseidon (Kevin McKidd). Zeus's lightning bolt has been stolen and he demands it back by a certain deadline or else there will be war among the gods of Mount Olympus. Zeus believes that the bolt has been stolen by Poseidon's son, Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman), but Poseidon denies that he would have taken it.

It certainly doesn't seem like he could have for Percy doesn't even know that he is the son of a god. We meet Percy while he is at school with his best friend Grover (Brandon T. Jackson). Percy has been having trouble at school with what he thinks is dyslexia because every time he tries to read something, the letters turn into Greek (and vice-versa). While on a field trip with his teacher, Mr. Brunner (Pierce Brosnan), Percy is attacked by a creature known as a "Fury" who thinks he has Zeus's lightning bolt.

After the attack, Percy is finally told that he is the son of Poseidon. With everyone thinking he is the lighting thief, he must get somewhere safe, so his mother (Catherine Keener) and Grover, his protector, take him to a camp for demigods where he once again meets Mr. Brunner, who is actually a centaur named Chiron. It is at this camp that he must train to use his powers. After discovering that his mother (who was unable to enter the camp due to being a regular human) is in the underworld, he sets out with Grover and a friend he meets at the camp, Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario), to save her.

From that synopsis, it would seem like this would be an interesting story. Some of it actually is. It's interesting to see how the film plays with mythology, having certain characters being the sons/daughters of certain gods and what skills they have because of it, but it never makes it interesting enough for its bloated runtime of nearly two hours.

There are a few plotholes that were lingering while watching that movie that became quite annoying. In the very first scene, for some reason Zeus assumes that Poseidon's son has the lightning bolt. He just assumes this. Never offers an explanation why he thinks this, or how Percy could have possibly done it, especially since he doesn't even know he's the son of Poseidon. Poseidon never offers up any of this reasoning either.

Then there's a scene where Percy decides to go on a quest to save his mother from the underworld. Like a typical hero, he decides to try to go it alone without dealing with the possibility of war among the gods and without Chiron's help. Here is where the film takes a long detour from the established plot so far.

It becomes a road film as Percy, Grover, and Annabeth travel around the United States looking for pearls that will allow them to escape the underworld after they have rescued Percy's mother. This takes them to Nashville, Las Vegas, and into Medusa's (Uma Thurman) lair. While they are traveling to these different places it feels like the film is on pause until it finally gets back to the plot at hand.

Here's also where another plothole comes into the picture. While in Vegas, they must go into the "Lotus Hotel" to look for one of the pearls. Now supposedly Grover and Annabeth know a thing or two about mythology and the fact that the hotel has "Lotus" in the name didn't even strike a chord with either of them. So, of course, we get some scenes where they are trapped there by eating the lotus flowers that they are constantly served.

Overall, it's not a terrible idea for a film. The writer, Craig Titley, just needed to go through another draft or two to smooth out the wrinkles in the story. Perhaps it's not even his fault. Perhaps he was just bringing the faults over from the book. A film like this could be fun if it made enough sense to allow the audience to have that fun. 2.5/4 stars.
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