The Way of the Word

5. February 2010

Review: Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief

USA 2010. Directed by Chris Columbus. Starring Logan Lerman, Alexandra Daddario, Brandon T. Jackson, Jake Abel. Based on the novel by Rick Riordan. Runtime: 119 minutes

You take one part Harry Potter and one part Hercules – the Legendary Journeys. You shake, rattle and roll. You let it stew for a while.

Then you get Percy Jackson.

In The Lightning Thief, the first Percy Jackson adventure, we get to meet Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman). A less than ordinary teenager. He is dyslexic and has ADD. His best friend, Grover, walks on crutches. His mother is married to one bastard of a stepfather. Stepfather? Yup. Percy has never even met his real father. Then his life is suddenly turned upside down, when monsters out of Greek mythology come to kill him. The reason is that someone has stolen Zeus’s (Sean Bean) lightning bolt, and for some unexplained reason everyone is convinced that Percy is the thief. Percy’s mother (Catherine Keener)  and Grover (Brandon Jackson) take him to Camp Half-Blood. This is where the children of gods and mortals are trained. This is where Percy finds out that he is the son of Poseidon (Kevin McKidd). When it turns out that Hades (Steve Coogan) has taken Percy’s mother hostage and is willing to trade her for the lightning bolt (which, remember, Percy doesn’t have), Percy goes off on a quest to rescue her. Grover, who is really a satyr charged to protect Percy, and Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario), the daughter of Athene, join him. The quest takes Percy across the US, forces him to fight various monsters from Greek mythology, takes him to Hades, and finally leads to a confrontation with the real lightning thief.

The basics seem familiar: a young man with a deeper history than he thinks is taken to a special school for children with his abilities. He goes on a quest with his best friends, one a boy, the other a girl, and fights impossible supernatural odds. So far, it sounds like Harry Potter. It is, however, a classic YA template. Percy Jackson goes one step further than Harry Potter, because he has to save the world right away: If Zeus doesn’t get his lightning back, there will be war between the gods, and the result would be the destruction of the world. The story has a suitably epic feel to it. The cast is solid, talented and engaged. Liam Neeson will have a problem in matching Sean Bean as Zeus. Steve Coogan’s Hades and Rosario Dawson’s Persephone have so much fun and chemistry that you forget there’s anyone else in the movie in the scenes they are in. Logan Lerman, despite his age not exactly a newcomer, is terrific as Percy Jackson. Alexandra Daddario shines as Anabeth. The only thing is that Grover is not as funny as he is clearly supposed to be, but that isn’t the fault of Brandon T. Jackson.

The sets work incredibly well. The Hades that our three heroes visit comes across as a truly creepy and sad place. Olympus is impressive.

I haven’t read the novel this is based on, so I have to rely on hearsay in regards to how much the movie deviates from the novel. As someone who came to this series without preconceptions, it worked incredibly well for me. It was fun and epic feel, it had a sense of drama and hight adventure.  The movie knows its Greek myths and legends, but approaches them playfully, similar to the way Hercules – The Legendary Journeys did.

There are five Percy Jackson novels, and if this movie does well, the others will also be filmed. After seeing The Lightning Thief, I hope it does well, because I want to see this team film the other novels as well.

If you like Harry Potter and/or Hercules – The Legendary Journeys and/or Disney’s Hercules, then this movie is for you.

Verdict: very recommended.

PS: Wait for a minute or so after the movie ends for the epilogue. It’s worth it, and they are smart enough to not make the audience sit through 10 minutes of end credits for a 30 second epilog.

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