Science fiction and fantasy                                            

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief

directed by Chris Columbus

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief poster  
Percy Jackson thinks he's an ordinary young man who just happens to be able to hold his breath underwater for a very long time. He's in for a rude awakening. In this tale of Greek gods in modern times someone has stolen Zeus' lightning bolt, and if the king of the gods doesn't get it back sharpish there will be war. Some factions believe Percy is the thief, so he's caught in the middle of this divine conflict.

So Percy has to leave his normal life behind as he's pursued by furies, monsters, and even Hades himself. His mother tries to get him to safety, but she's in danger herself. Fortunately for Percy he's not without allies, in the form of his protector Grover (Brandon T. Jackson) and Chiron (Pierce Brosnan). Chiron is charged with training demigods, which he does in a protected encampment in the woods. It's like scouts for people with superpowers.

Yet Percy isn't willing to stay in the safety of the camp when so much is at stake. He plans to go to the underworld in order to clear his name with Hades. But first he must pick up three special pearls that will allow him and his companions to return from Hades' realm. So Percy and his friends charge around America, encountering legendary monsters which are hiding out in the modern world.

Visual effects are slick and plentiful. However the story is aimed at children who have little to no knowledge of the Greek myths. For anyone who knows the stories it's all very predictable, and the movie adds few extra layers of meaning. What's more, Percy ends up battling a couple of creatures that, according to legend, had already been slain. It's not exactly canon.

Not content with altering the myths, the creators of Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief have set about Christianising the Greek gods. Hades (Steve Coogan) is perhaps closest to the spirit of the legends, but he's made to look like either a Mick Jagger wannabe or a huge, fiery Satan, and very much the bad guy. Whereas Zeus (Sean Bean) has been turned into more of a benevolent, hands-off deity who spends a lot of time surrounded by angelic-looking gods in Olympus, being wise. Whatever happened to the selfish, egotistical and ruthless god who killed his own father, married his own sister Hera, seduced Leda whilst disguised as a swan, and sired many other gods and demigods with various mothers? In this version the philandering fiend has been watered down considerably, and Poseidon (Kevin McKidd) is no different. The Greek gods are fun precisely because they were capricious, self-serving and unfair. Mortals were supposed to cower before them. But this movie's so short on fear and trembling it might as well have been made by Disney.

One thing there's no lack of, however, is famous faces in the cast. So it's surprising that the acting isn't more impressive. Uma Thurman plays a very hammy Medusa, whilst Pierce Brosnan's Chiron makes mythical creatures less exciting than last year's bus timetable. Part of the problem is the script, which could do with more jokes, sharper dialogue, or something to give it more intensity. As it stands the film may look good, but it limps along with no soul. It's Greek without the fire.

Film Details

Year: 2010

Categories: Films

  Kids     Fantasy

Classification: PG

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2 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson
Read more about Chris Columbus

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