Friday, February 12, 2010

Love: Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightening Thief

Modernizing tales of the Greek gods is never a very good idea (Wonder Woman, I'm looking at you). But Percy Jackson and his incredibly long title makes the cheese and predictability work to its advantage with a big tongue-and-cheek smile that never tries to be anything more than fluff, and in the process, makes something fun, creative, and action packed despite the lame leadership of Chris Columbus.


Percy Jackson (our new Spiderman Logan Lerman) is your average high school loser suffering from a few learning disorders that make school a chore and a misogynistic stepfather that makes home life infuriating. Like all heroes of his age and good looks, he knows that things are about to change and soon discovers that like his namesake Perseus, he is also a demigod. Poseidon (Kevin McKidd) is his father (who met his mother (Catherine Keener) on the Jersey Shore) which explains his ability to remain underwater for long periods of time, his crippling ADD (impulsive battle instincts) and dyslexia (turns out, he's "hardwired for ancient Greek"). When Zeus (Sean Bean) marks him for death and the world for war, he teams up with love interest Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario) and Satyr friend Grover (Brandon T. Jackson) on the typical hero quest to save his mother, clear his name, and restore peace to the gods and the earth.


While this story sounds like every predictable hero arc you've ever heard (and it is), it's the creativity of the journey that makes this one stand out. In Percy's world, the entrance to Olympus is the at the top of the Empire State Building, the path to Hell is under the Hollywood sign, and the lair of Medusa is a garden statuary, her stone cold gaze defeated with the shiny back of an ipod touch. Hades, played by the perfectly cast Steve Coogan, is a Sammy Haggar clone surrounded by electric guitars and burning souls, while the Lair of the Lotus Eaters is a casino in Vegas where the Ke$ha and Lady Gaga are set to repeat. Each scene is like an inside joke to anyone interested in Greek mythology, and half the fun is figuring out just who Percy is going to encounter next. The film packs enough comedy between excellent CGI effects and exciting action to back itself up and keep things interesting.


And while the acting is perfectly pitched for this sort of PG fun, director Chris Columbus doesn't really deserve the credit for all the good. Rick Riodan's source novels are rich and offer up a complete world much like that of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and like the first two Harry Potter films, Columbus doesn't really do anything that interesting with Percy Jackson, the cinematography, or anything else, but plays the story straight and mainstream. While this was a disappointment with the Harry Potter films, Columbus is lucky that at least in this first installment, Percy's story lacks the same undercurrent of dread that made the execution of Harry Potter feel lacking, but might not work in later films if Percy takes a darker turn. Columbus and the actors included don't take themselves too seriously, which allows you to over look some of the problems with pacing that drag down the first half before Percy gets to the more action oriented scenes as his quest progresses.

There are few movies that are honest to god kid fluff in a nice enough package, and Percy Jackson accomplishes a good time for all. In the hands of a director with more vision and artistry it could have had all the makings of a classic (and maybe in future installments we might get that), but for now, Columbus' popcorn fair manages to at least communicate the excellence of its source material. 
 





2 comments:

  1. Hi,
    Very fine description I find. Hollywood has also brought to the screen some fine love stories from the island of Erin, and a trip to the panoramic area of Cong in County Mayo will see you following in the footsteps of John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara in 'The Quiet Man' amidst the lush Irish countryside. Wild and beautiful Dingle Bay in Kerry is another fine spot, made famous in Hollywood by 'Ryan's Daughter' starring Robert Mitchum.

    lisa

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  2. Very interesting blog.Percy is usually portrayed as being good-natured, friendly, brave, and often willing to risk his life to save his friends.

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