Monday, March 15, 2010

Movie Review: Percy Jackson & The Olympians - The Lightning Thief

Directed by Chris Columbus
Screenplay by Craig Titley(film) & Rick Riordan (novel)
Duration: 119 Minutes
Rated PG

My Wonderfully Majestic Opinion
We live in an era where popular novels are making their way to the big screen, more notably young-adult and children’s novels.  Harry Potter, Where the Wild Things Are, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, these and many more have shown that literature now has the capacity of doing well at the Hollywood level.  Are we at all surprised that the first novel in Rick Riordan’s five book series has become a cinematic franchise?

The film is directed by Chris Columbus, which, after seeing The Lightning Thief isn’t surprising since it has a familiar taste to his work on the first two Harry Potter films.  As with most films that feature children or young adults as the heroes and saviors of the human race, the story is set up where the Percy Jackson is introduced to a whole new world where he, much to his surprise, is known by all.  The film takes us through the motions where Percy comes to new realizations about himself, learns his father is Poseidon, and has a moment to impress the daughter of Aphrodite.  The event that triggers the action is when Percy discovers his mother to be in the clutches of Hades and is determined to rescue her.  With the help of a few friends Percy goes on a quest to find Hades, which causes them to run into Uma Thurman as Medusa and a few other daunting tasks along the way.  Needless to say, the adventure ends with a kind of, maybe, sort of, almost twist at the end where Percy delivers the coup de grace and saves the day.

I try to remind myself that this story was designed for young adults and I shouldn’t allow myself to become annoyed with certain plot devices and the film making techniques.  Never-the-less, I find myself unable to move past many of the film’s aspects and second-rate innovations.

I have not read any of the Percy Jackson novels so I can’t speak to how well the novel transitions to the screen.  However, if the dialogue in the film is anything like that in the book, I might end up shooting myself in the face!  The majority of the script involves very dry conversations that don’t assist in developing the characters purpose in the story.  Sure we as an audience still learn about the characters and the film still pushes forward very well, but not because of the intelligent use of dialogue.  I’m sure most of the youth in the theater will find it “awesome” or “sweet” or “cool” seeing as how there are a lot of “awesomes” and “sweets” and “cools” verbalized throughout the duration of the film.  The script also falls into the literary trap of making the twists and turns of the story painfully obvious.  I knew who the real villain was before Percy ventured out to find Hades.  Thanks Craig Titley!

Now for you more educated film going adults, please don’t be surprised if you begin to question whether or not you’re in the right auditorium.  No, you are not about to see High School Musical, or any other film where the kids seem like they will break out into song at any given moment.  It does makes sense seeing every major character in the film as gorgeous or flawless since they are the children of the gods, but there is that hint of “perfection” as far as how attractive the actors and actresses are.  Don’t be surprised if your twelve year old boy thinks this is the best movie ever because “Annabeth (daughter of Aphrodite) is friggin hot!”

For the parents out there who are concerned that this film will be too violent for your children, fear not!  Yes the film contains battle scenes where Percy must fend off monsters, ghouls, demons and other mythological creatures of Greece, but the animation will make you laugh more than worry if your child’s eyes are covered during the “violent” scenes.  With the advancements in CGI technology and the popularity of the books among children today, you’d think Riordan would have received plenty of funds to deliver top quality CGI effects.  But in most cases you’ll be able to recognize the difference between the natural landscapes, and green screen technology.  But if you are still concerned with any inappropriate innuendos from the film, possibly sexual ones, please stay calm.  The furthest the film gets at suggestive sexual relations is after Grover, a satyr, returns from the hands of Persephone with a big smile on his face and horns on his head of which he is quite proud of.

The one scene that I cannot deny to be one of the greatest moments in film history is the encounter with Medusa, AKA Uma Thurman.  I used to hate this actress until she appeared in Kill Bill films, then I discovered a completely new and artsy side of the actress I had never seen before.  I’m disappointed in the fact that she was only given approximately a fifteen minute segment.  Without a doubt, she mopped the floor with the other performers and stole the show!

My Awe-Struck Conclusion
As much as I’m hating on the film, overall, the movie was entertaining.  Despite its animated flaws, casting choices, and poorly adapted screenplay, the film did keep my attention.  However, that could possibly be due to my personal bias towards the mythological and Sci/Fi genres.  If you are anything like me, you will hate and love this movie at the same time.  But truth be told, your kids will probably love it!

Rating: 6.5 out of 10 stars

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