Percy Jackson And The Lightning Thief

Percy Jackson And The Lightning Thief


Reviewed by: Martin Gray

Percy Jackson is an outsider, only feeling at home when he's in water. One day strange creatures begin hunting him down and he learns of a mystical, heroic legacy, and the only people on whom he can depend are his best buddy and plucky female friend, who's tougher than the lads. And will he ever meet the guy to whom he owes everything, Po...

... no, not Potter, Poseidon. Percy's dad is the god of the sea, and this film, based on the first of a series of novels, has absolutely nothing to do with anything written by JK Rowling. OK, so there's a Camp Half-Blood in there, where incredibly annoying high school-style demi-gods train, but Percy creator Rick Riordan's camp hit the bookshelves a month before Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince. Really, it's not as if Jo Rowling invented plucky kids with strange destinies on magical quests.

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And taken on its own terms, this is an entertaining family romp as water-controlling Percy, Grover the satyr and Annabeth, daughter of Athena, bid to recapture Zeus' stolen master lightning bolt before various beasties kill the framed Percy and war breaks out between the chief Olympians. There's also the minor matter of Percy's mother, Sally, being stuck in Hades.

The quest involves three magical pearls which will grant free passage from Hades, hidden at various points around the world. Well, if the whole of your world is North America. Sure, it's clever to relocate the myth of the Lotus Eaters to the strange twilight realm of Las Vegas gambling, but does the entrance to Hades have to be behind the Hollywood sign? Is there any reason gods would make the Empire State Building the extra-dimensional portal to Olympus? Do gods really hang out in Nashville when they might be sunning themselves in the Med?

But I suppose that's a criticism of the book, not the film. This is an entertaining time passer which should keep the kids happy. The players are archetypes rather than complex characters, but they serve the story. Besides, any time Percy (Logan Lerman) shows a flash of personality, it's unattractive - he's a whiny, pompous soul. Scowling Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario) is meant to be a terrific fighter and strategist, but outside of training scenarios, she's mostly useless. The most compelling character is Grover (Brandon T Jackson), the wisecracking teenager satyr, tasked with looking after Percy; hopefully some of his likability will rub off on his colleagues in any sequels.

On the adult side, Zeus (Sean Bean) and Poseidon (Kevin McKidd), seem to have left their charisma at home, hanging around New York in Gap clothing and being grumpy with one another, leaving Steve Coogan to shine as Hades, here presented as a literal rock god. The underworld he shares with Persephone (Rosario Dawson) brings us some of the best-realised moments of the film - the fiery pits of hell are creepy, while Hades attracts with his mercurial ways. The previously virginal Persephone becomes a surprising seductress, though you see where she's coming from.

Where Coogan is Best God in Film, Top Monster goes to Uma Thurman as Medusa, vamping it up in a turban before unleashing her petrifying serpents. She's only onscreen a few minutes but her Norma Desmond act gets Percy an extra star.

Also on hand is CSI: New York's magnificent Melina Kanakaredes, presumably because she has a Greek-sounding name, as Athena. I swear this ancient power greets her long-lost demi-god daughter with a cheery "Hi, Annabeth". File under 'wasted opportunity'.

Catherine Keener plays Percy's mother, Sally, and with the best will in the world, you can't imagine this anaemic woman capturing the affections of a god. Teen Hunk Jake Abel is Luke, communications expert godling, and he proves good value. And Pierce Brosnan plays a centaur in much the same way Pierce Brosnan plays anybody - solid, charming and unwilling to give Roger Moore his raised eyebrows back.

The gaping hole in this film is that we're never told just why everyone thinks Percy has stolen Zeus' lightning. Yes, we learn who did steal it, and why, but not why Percy is getting the blame.

That apart, if you're after a noisy, SFX-filled updating of classical myths, you could do worse than Percy Jackson And The Lightning Thief. And if you leave unsatisfied, try again come April when the Clash Of The Titans remake shows up. It has Perseus, Poseidon, Medusa... and it's not based on Harry Potter either.

Reviewed on: 23 Feb 2010
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Teenage gods and monsters - classical, but not a classic
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Director: Chris Columbus

Writer: Craig Titley, Rick Riordan

Starring: Logan Lerman, Alexandra Daddario, Brandon T Jackson, Jake Abel, Pierce Brosnan, Sean Bean, Kevin McKidd, Melina Kanakaredes. Steve Coogan, Rosario Dawson, Catherine Keener, Uma Thurman

Year: 2010

Runtime: 118 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: Canada, US


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