In Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (a mouthful of a title if I've ever heard one), a young man (Logan Lerman) finds out that he is the son of the god Poseidon (Kevin McKidd). The children of a human and a deity are called demi-gods, and there are a ton of them out there. Hey, the gods are pretty randy. One of these more-than-human children has stolen the lightning bolt of Zeus (Sean Bean), and the ruler of the gods believes it's Percy. Percy, who could never quite figure out why he can hold his breath underwater for seven minutes, is thrust into a world he never knew about. With his satyr protector Grover (Brandon T. Jackson) and the lovely and kick ass daughter of Athena, Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario), Percy must find out which one of the demi-gods really stole the lightning, and get it to Zeus before the gods go to war. (Based on a series of young adult books by Rick Riordan.)
I'm a huge mythology buff. I'll take anything based on the gods that I can get. So it was with great anticipation that I hit the screening the other day. Full disclosure here: I've never read the books. And I'm on my way to my local Barnes & Noble the second I finish typing. But I left the theater a little bit disappointed, though not completely, not enough that I would recommend you absolutely don't see the film. My problems with it are the same as with most screen adaptations of young adult novels. First, they spend so much time struggling to explain the world they're creating that they forget which parts of the story people want to see. Second, they figure that people (kids) will be so happy to see their beloved book on screen that they can throw it all up without thinking. And third, they cast adult actors who look like they're going to crack up any second.
Throwing it all up there without thinking...what I mean here is the inconsistencies. I hate to be this harsh, but this is lazy filmmaking. In one scene, Annabeth is fighting Medusa (Uma Thurman). She turns the woman holding Annabeth's wrist into stone. The poor girl can't free herself, no matter how she fake struggles. When the statue's hand is lobbed off at the wrist, she just tosses the remaining hand off. Um, I believe the problem was the fingers gripping her...sigh. Whatever. Later on, she seems to have a giant, deep wound from the event. Lazy. So easy to fix. If I were a kid, and a fan of the book, I would have been insulted by this. In another scene...Grover uses crutches to hide the fact that he's got the legs of a goat. And when he's walking with the goat legs, his stride is very...specific. In the scene where they fight a hydra, his crutches are off to the side. He walks like a man, fights like a man, and then, still alone with his friends, he starts running with the crutches again. The giant flaming god Hades (Steve Coogan) doesn't seem to set the trees on fire, and the smell of a man Percy lives with fools the gods into not noticing him. What? Does this guy rub his clothes on Percy before he leaves the house? The smell is still there when he's at school? Honestly! And the score is ridiculously literal. Someone says, 'Highway to hell'. Wanna guess what they play? They're in a casino in Vegas. Lady Gaga, anyone?
And the actors. There is a certain charm in those moments when you can see an actor close to breaking into laughter...when you're watching Saturday Night Live. Pierce Brosnan could barely hold it together during his turn as the centaur Chiron. Uma Thurman seemed to have no idea where she was supposed to be looking while playing Medusa. Sean Bean and Kevin McKidd tried to take it seriously (and honestly, I would watch anything those two were in), but ended up looking almost silly during their argument, as though they were fighting the tone of the rest of the film. Rosario Dawson, who plays Persephone, the unhappy wife of the god of the dead looked like she couldn't believe she signed on to hit on a half goat/half man. The only ones who seemed to take it seriously were the kids.
When we finally got to the scenes in the camp for demi-gods, the action picked up and the film did for me what I hope it will do for everyone else. It made me want to read the books. The world that Riordan created is totally appealing. And I'm hoping it gets kids interested in mythology. The kids brought their A game and made me enjoy the second half of the film in spite of myself. The mythological references (the lotus eaters was one of note) excited me. The Hollywood sign as a portal to hell made me laugh out loud. I just don't think the film makers took this as seriously as book fans would. I loved what Chris Colombus did with Harry Potter series. Not sure who's fault this is. But it didn't do what it should have. Just...someone has to get how much books like this mean to kids. Take them seriously. Please.Related Stories: Young Adult Books Battle Superheroes for Movie Supremacy