Lightning Thief Strikes Little Interest

22 02 2010

With a fire-breathing hydra, angry furies on his heels, and the anger of the gods upon him “Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief “ has the potential for some great thrills and for the most part delivers.

In this coming of age tale Percy (Logan Lerman) has all the makings of a hero – problems in high school thanks to dyslexia and ADHD; a lousy stepfather; and the fate of the world on his shoulders now that Zeus’ lightning bold is missing and Percy is the prime suspect. With the help of his teacher Mr. Brunner (Pierce Brosnan), his satyr guardian Grover (Brandon T. Jackson), and Athena’s daughter Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario) Percy comes to terms with his new found identity as the son of Poseidon while trying to bring his mother back from the Underworld and save the world before it’s too late.

Based on the novel by Rick Riordan, director Chris Columbus takes a stab at bringing Percy’s Greek mythological world to life and does so flawlessly. From the heights of Mount Olympus (New York City), Medusa’s layer (New Jersey), to the den of the Lotus-eaters (Las Vegas), and into the depths of the Underworld (Hollywood) Columbus makes sure that the aspects of Greek mythology fit well enough into a 21st century life-style. But because he is known for the first two Harry Potter films, Columbus may not receive as much recognition for this recent project due to the fact that the plot was so predictable.

For example when Percy awakes to learn that the loss of his mother his guardian doesn’t skip a beat before giving him a tour around his new home, “Camp Half Blood,” where the demigods – you guessed it – train. As a predictable plot Percy stays at this camp base for what appears to be one night and then skips out to try his hand at finding the Underworld to save his mom, something no other demigod with years of training might attempt on their first day. (Harry Potter had more training for crying out loud!) But clearly his instincts are enough to get him through a battle with Medusa (Uma Thurman) and a Hydra – after all it’s a hero’s luck that gets him through his dilemmas. When his instincts or luck aren’t enough his estranged father, Poseidon, gets him out of danger by means of telepathy – of course (wouldn’t want to leave anything to chance now would we).

There was much need for further character development for many of the characters. When it comes to Mr. Brunner we know little to nothing about his background or the story behind Percy’s mother and father’s relationship other than they met and had him. What’s up with Luke and his relationship with his dad Hermes? And Annabeth what’s her deal?

We were also left hanging as several plot points weren’t so neatly tied together such as: What evidence does Zeus have to accuse Percy as being the thief? This matter-of-fact style of storytelling may work for some films but in this case it may frustrate some viewers. Another annoying aspect of this picture was the fact that our main hero had no sense of urgency to save the world – sure there are signs and news footage about natural disasters going on (the gods preparing for war) but Percy is so caught up about his mom (of course who wouldn’t be) that this hero places the fate of the world aside for a moment in an attempt to save her.

While there is room for much needed improvement in this film, there are some positive points that can be touched on. Although Percy’s character (the most developed I might add) has ADHD and dyslexia that pose to be a problem, they later serve to be his greater strengths. The ADHD helps his instincts, which serves him well for getting him out of tight spots, and his dyslexia helps him read Greek. To students with learning disabilities Percy may be the hero that shows them that even they have the potential to do great things despite their disability. One other point is that this film and Riordan’s “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” series has the potential to raise interest in Greek mythology in young readers and viewers today.

Another plus – this fast-paced motion picture will keep children interested with all of Percy’s battles and his use of water powers. Perhaps this film is strictly geared toward Riordan fans but this leaves many potential moviegoers who aren’t 12 years old or younger out of the loop. A heads up to viewers: This is no Harry Potter and if its months of proper demigod-training is what you’re looking for, this is not the film for you.

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