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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Review: PERCY JACKSON & THE OLYMPIANS: THE LIGHTNING THEIF


Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief plays as if the Harry Potter films had mated with The Mummy Trilogy and conceived a retarded child. As you might expect, the baby is not great by any means. But it is rather fun.


The film opens with Poseidon (Kevin McKidd) and Zeus (Sean Bean) having an argument; it seems some one has stole Zeus’ lighting bolt. Greek gods being Greek gods generally just point fingers and blame a family member. In this case Zeus is blaming Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman). But who is Percy Jackson? You ask. Well, if you are familiar with any Greek myths you might remember that the gods were rather horny and had a particular affinity for mortal women; sometimes after their encounters they would “accidentally” leave a bun in the oven. The little bastards would be endowed with superpowers and become the heroes (and some villains) of the Greek epics. Well it seems that after 2000 years of not being worshiped by anyone, the gods have refused to abandon this scornful practice. Percy Jackson is a little bastard demi-god, the son of Poseidon. Problem is that not only did Percy not steal the lighting bolt but he also has no idea that he is a demi-god. He finds out when a harpy attacks him during a school fieldtrip. Lucky it just so happens that his professor and his best friend were in reality a centaur and a satyr sent to protect him. And thus Percy Jackson is taken to Camp Half-Blood, where he learns the ways of the demi-gods and meets the beautiful Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario) daughter of Athena, goddess of wisdom and battle, and Luke (Jake Abel) son of Hermes.
Anyway what follows is a sequence recycled directly from Harry Potter, in which Percy learns about the world and is forced to embark on a quest. The quest plays like something more appropriate for a videogame in which Percy and friends must find three pearls so they can cross into the underworld, rescue Percy’s mother and get back in time to Olympus to restore the lighting bolt to its rightful owner. In the way they will face several obstacles including Uma Thurman as the Medusa and a very tempting stay at a Vegas Casino.
You would expect that all of this would be really, really, really fun. But unfortunately the film misses several opportunities that would make it not just fun but also smart. And it would not have taken too much effort to make it so. The first of such missed opportunities lies in the fact that everything happens in the United States. Yes, the films main audience is American. But even the most ignorant of Americans like seeing a film set in a far exotic land; in my opinion you have to be crazy not to enjoy a Greek island setting. However if you really have to set the film in New York, why not take a farcical approach and have a character ask ‘why is Camp Half-Blood in upstate New York?’ The film already has several good farcical moments. Speaking of farcical moments, that is the second missed opportunity in the film. It could poke fun at a gigantic number of paradoxes in Greek mythology. At times it try to make jokes but trying to make a joke is not the same as making a joke. Nevertheless the Vegas sequence is rather funny and smart. It is just sad that that inspiration was not found while making the rest of the film.
Another important miss lies in the characters. The characters in this film are entirely one dimensional, and prone to change personality, as the plot requires. Take for example Annabeth: it is established that she is the daughter of the goddess of wisdom and battle, as expected she is introduced as a strong female lead who can kick any guy’s ass, yet for the sake of a “love story” she happens to suck at capture the flag (big time); later in the film it gets worse when the character is diminished to a damsel in distress who knows less about Greek mythology than the “new guy” who also happens to become better and sword fighting than her. In my opinion, the daughter of the goddess of wisdom and battle should have, at the very least, some capture the flag skills. Otherwise, why make her the daughter of the goddess of wisdom and battle. If you need a damsel in distress just make her the daughter of Aphrodite that way she is guaranteed to be sexy and in need of constant rescue. Maybe the film does have a sense of irony after all.
When it comes down to it Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief is a lame attempt to cash in Chris Columbus’ credit as ‘the director of Harry Potter I & II’; the result is an uninspired, cookie-cutter film, with the same comic relief Chris Columbus has been using since Home Alone (in my opinion still the unbeaten high point of his career).
But, if you were looking to waste some time, I’d recommend to download the film (not buy nor rent) and waste away.
2 stars

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