Movie Review: Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief

Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief

Movie Review

Let me start by stating that I have not read the book. I kept thinking that maybe I should have while watching this movie, so I felt I should clarify that beforehand. Since I assume most people haven't read it, you could say this review is for most people. Make of that whatever you wish.

I am also European and a viking, so that may have affected my view of this film, since it's Greek myth, set in the US. ;)

Now I didn't know all that much about this film going into it, except it was about Percy Jackson, someone has stolen lightning, and it was based off a book.

Plot:
Someone has stolen Zeus's lightning bolt, and for some reason everyone immediately suspects Percy Jackson, who's the son of Poseidon. It was never really explained why everyone jumped to that conclusion, but it's brought up several times during the movie without any further explanation. Percy himself has no knowledge of his father, but this whole other world is suddenly revealed to him, and he handles it fairly well, about as well as can be expected, I suppose.

He is quickly sent on the run with his mother and his best friend Grover, who turns out to be a Satyr. They arrive at a camp full of other demi-gods, where Percy meets Annabeth, third main character, token girl and love interest. Just as they reach the camp, Percy's mother gets kidnapped, since you have to be a creature of myth or at least part god to enter. The rest of movie consists mainly of Percy, Grover and Annabeth trying to get his mother back, rather than trying to track down the Lightning Thief, despite the threat of war on the horizon.
End plot summary

I'll note that even though this is Greek mythology, everything and everyone seem to be located in the US. This is never fully explained either, but I will grant that if you accept that the Greek gods are the gods and mythos, it's reasonable to expect them to be accessible all over the world.

You do get to see some of the classic monsters, and the encounters are mostly pretty entertaining. Some of the noteworthy ones are a Fury, some Hellhounds (though sadly not Cerberus himself), a Hydra, Medusa and a Minotaur, though not necessarily in that order.

And it should be noted; This film feels pretty rushed, which is fairly standard for book adaptations. The plot seems to jump from point to point, characters come and go frequently, character development sometimes makes some fairly significant jumps of its own. Pretty much what you'd expect.

The main characters:

Percy: A fairly typical hero, whom the world revolves around, naturally. He sometimes seems clever and calm, but then turns around and does something phenomenally stupid, or doesn't think ahead as far as he really should have done.

Grover: Loyal friend and comic relief. At times he hints at greater depth than either of the other two, but the movie never really explores it. While he has his moments, he usually just tags along, since it's the other two who are the demi-gods.

Annabeth: A fairly typical bad-ass action girl, with a buried sweeter side, naturally. She starts out trying to kill Percy, but quickly becomes another loyal friend. She probably has the most brains out of the three, but it doesn't seem to help the group that much, since most of her advice and hints seem to come just a bit too late to be of use.

The big-name actors are all given fairly minor roles, when it comes to screen-time. There's Sean Bean as Zeus, Pierce Brosnan as Keiron Chiron the centaur, and Uma Thurman as Medusa (and as always she does the creepy lady role pretty well) to name a few.

The movie makes lots of references to Greek myth, but seems to assume that most people will know very little of it, meaning that those of us that have some familiarity with it will see things coming for miles away while the movie patiently explains it to the rest of the audience.

To the film's credit, I felt it handled the whole romance thing pretty well, never letting it steal the show, and keeping it relatively contained.

There were some plot points that bothered me though, so here come spoilers:

There were probably more, but those are all that come to mind at the moment.

I got the feeling while watching this film that it wanted to become the next Harry Potter, but I felt it never really reached there. The plot was not especially intelligent, and it was also rather cliche-driven. The characters weren't likable enough. They were okay, but not much more than that. It felt a little too focused and lacking in scale. This could be improved in future movies, I suppose.

Final verdict:
As it is, it's a decent enough fantasy action movie. A good popcorn flick, as they say. Not particularly intelligent, but some cool monsters, a few good action scenes, and nice special effects. It felt like it wanted to be more, but it was let down by a bit too much American ego, an acute case of "the world revolves around the main character" and said main character sometimes being downright dumb.

Recommendation:
It's a decent movie to rent a night if you want to turn off your brain and just watch something entertaining. In my mind not worth a purchase, but I leave that up to you. If you're looking for something engaging and intelligent, get District 9 or Lord of the Rings (can't think of a more recent fantasy movie that fits the bill), or just more interesting, get Harry Potter or Serenity.

End note:
I quite liked the character of Persephone. She was probably my favourite in the entire movie.

~Wulf

My main beef with the movie: Hades is not christian hell dammit! Stop depicting it as a lake of fire with Hades as the devil in the middle of it! Argh!

Varewulf:

yeah, the book was better. in the book, she explains what the coins are when they set out, and i believe she uses them all before they reach Hades.

secondly, in the book he truly believes his mother is dead, and never intends to get his mother back. after going the Hades, Hades basically says "why the fuck are you coming to me? because i run hell? I'm gonna get everyone eventually, i have forever your stupid this won't do me any good, get the fuck out." then to fuck with Percy, he gives him the option to take his mom instead of one of his friends. he takes the three of them, leaving his mom and has an epic fight with ares. WHY DID THEY TAKE HIM OUT OF THE MOVIE!? seriously, there was an awesome battle and everything!

finally, that's the director being stupid. the book explains it as after world war II, they realized that demigods had waged the war. so, the three strongest, Zeus Poseidon and Hades swore to have no more children, fearing what it might cause, Percy had broken that truce.

Mathak:
My main beef with the movie: Hades is not christian hell dammit! Stop depicting it as a lake of fire with Hades as the devil in the middle of it! Argh!

yeah what was with that? i always imagined Hades as this massive black and onyx cavern of green fire and skeleton smoke, mostly from the Hercules movie, but why did they make it look like hell?

Just one note. It's Chiron. Chiron was the immortal Centaur that taught Hercules. Eventually, he gets slaughtered by Hercules (in the myths), tells Herc's wife Deianeira to take his blood as it was a super-strength love potion that might prevent Herc from straying. When she did end up using it, it was actually a fiery poison that was killing him, but it only burned away the human parts of him, and he eventually became a minor God.

Oh, and the reason why the Gods live in NYC now is also explained in the books- they go where the most powerful civilization of the age is, and that happens to be America. And, as NYC is the greatest city in America, Olympus is located in NYC.

Hm, thanks for the comments, I might just pick up the book at some point to see for myself. It does sound like it made a lot more sense than the movie did.

LadyRhian:
Just one note. It's Chiron. Chiron was the immortal Centaur that taught Hercules.

Aha, fixed. I was looking at the subtitles for the names, especially when I failed to catch it being pronounced. So apparently the Norwegian name for Chiron is Keiron.

LadyRhian:

Oh, and the reason why the Gods live in NYC now is also explained in the books- they go where the most powerful civilization of the age is, and that happens to be America. And, as NYC is the greatest city in America, Olympus is located in NYC.

I suppose this makes sense, even if it still smacks of American ego to me. It is hard to argue in terms of raw power however.

Mathak:
My main beef with the movie: Hades is not christian hell dammit! Stop depicting it as a lake of fire with Hades as the devil in the middle of it! Argh!

And this, yes. I guess it was director's choice, but still...

All in all, you're making it sounds like the movie would might have been better if it had followed the book more closely. Certainly not the first time that's been an issue for book adaptations.

~Wulf

You didn't listen to Pierce Brosnan's character did you?

In the ancient times, the three big Gods (Poseidon, Zeus, and hades) banded together in order to take down their tyranical father Kronos. Since then, they have fought from time to time for domination of the Gods (historically and Mythologically flawed sadly, as Poseidon was actually rather kind to his brother Zeus). Poseidon, Zeus, and Hades have always searched for something to give them the upperhand in this fight (I dont' understand this, as Zeus' lightning bolt is said to be the world's most powerful weapon... That doesn't even the odds?)

At the beginning of the movie, Poseidon mentions "We have a truce, we cannot use our powers on one another/attack one another." to which zeus replies "We cannot, but our children can" Later on at the camp, Percy is told that being the child of one of the Major Gods was EXTREMELY rare.

Celtic_Kerr:
You didn't listen to Pierce Brosnan's character did you?

In the ancient times, the three big Gods (Poseidon, Zeus, and hades) banded together in order to take down their tyranical father Kronos. Since then, they have fought from time to time for domination of the Gods (historically and Mythologically flawed sadly, as Poseidon was actually rather kind to his brother Zeus). Poseidon, Zeus, and Hades have always searched for something to give them the upperhand in this fight (I dont' understand this, as Zeus' lightning bolt is said to be the world's most powerful weapon... That doesn't even the odds?)

At the beginning of the movie, Poseidon mentions "We have a truce, we cannot use our powers on one another/attack one another." to which zeus replies "We cannot, but our children can" Later on at the camp, Percy is told that being the child of one of the Major Gods was EXTREMELY rare.

That seemed like a pretty weak explanation to me. I suppose it worked for other people. Though the Greek gods, or any of the old pantheons really, were nothing if not eager to believe the "guilty until proven innocent" way of thinking. So that Zeus would think so, I can buy. That everyone else and their dog also fell for the same, that was what stretched it too thin for me. Not one of them entertained the notion that someone else might have done it? Someone with actual knowledge of the other world, maybe?

Varewulf:

Celtic_Kerr:
You didn't listen to Pierce Brosnan's character did you?

In the ancient times, the three big Gods (Poseidon, Zeus, and hades) banded together in order to take down their tyranical father Kronos. Since then, they have fought from time to time for domination of the Gods (historically and Mythologically flawed sadly, as Poseidon was actually rather kind to his brother Zeus). Poseidon, Zeus, and Hades have always searched for something to give them the upperhand in this fight (I dont' understand this, as Zeus' lightning bolt is said to be the world's most powerful weapon... That doesn't even the odds?)

At the beginning of the movie, Poseidon mentions "We have a truce, we cannot use our powers on one another/attack one another." to which zeus replies "We cannot, but our children can" Later on at the camp, Percy is told that being the child of one of the Major Gods was EXTREMELY rare.

That seemed like a pretty weak explanation to me. I suppose it worked for other people. Though the Greek gods, or any of the old pantheons really, were nothing if not eager to believe the "guilty until proven innocent" way of thinking. So that Zeus would think so, I can buy. That everyone else and their dog also fell for the same, that was what stretched it too thin for me. Not one of them entertained the notion that someone else might have done it? Someone with actual knowledge of the other world, maybe?

I wanted to avoid spoilers as much as possible. As far as I can remember, not one actually accuses him or being the lightning Thief except for Zeus and Hades. all the others pretty say "You you're the 'lightning thief' " Or "You're the person rumored to be the lightning thief." hades accuses him by telling him to bring the lightning in exchange for his mother, and Zeus threatens war.

It seemed like all the others just figure "So this is who people are saying supposedly stole the lightning".

 

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