Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief – Film Review

Posted on 12. Feb, 2010 by Administrator in Film/TV

If one wanted proof of the entertainment world’s complete and total lack of original ideas, they need look no further than Percy Jackson & The Olympians. A copy of the Harry Potter series so shameless that it even features Chris Columbus, the same director who shepherded J.K. Rowling’s character to the screen, there’s not one single thing in it that will appeal to a person who has ever seen a mythological origin story before, much less any other sort of adventure movie.

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Alexandra Daddario, Logan Lerman and Brandon Jackson in Percy Jackson & The Lightning Thief

The film starts off annoying as hell and manages to get boring as hell from there, which qualifies as a modest triumph but dubious praise at best: abandoned by his father Poseidon (Kevin McKidd), Percy and his mother live under the quasi-abusive thumb of a Muggle – excuse me, alcoholic named Gabe Ugliano (Joe Pantoliano). Alienated from most of his classmates because of ADD, Percy pals around with Grover (Brandon T. Jackson) until he discovers that he is the son of a god – and unfortunately, one that can’t protect him from folks who believe he has stolen Zeus’ lightning bolt. Fleeing to the safety of Camp Half-Blood (come on! Are you serious?), he learns that he’s a minor celebrity, but realizes he has much to learn when he decides to strike out on his own, find the lightning bolt, and return it before the world of gods comes crashing down on that of mankind.

Perhaps more problematic than ripping off the Potter audience with a cheap (okay, expensive) knockoff of its visual and thematic hallmarks is the way that the film softens the edges of a mythology which, all other things being equal, could truly make for a twisted kid movie series. At one point, Percy’s mom is supposedly killed, but not only does he basically not react at all – a lazy and irresponsible choice given that the crux of the movie is his desperate quest to find his absentee father – the film never, ever uses the word “killed” or even “dead.” She’s just “gone.” Later, when Percy and his cohorts literally end up in Hell, there’s fire and brimstone aplenty, but none of its true horrors are on display, making the worst place imaginable seem about as scary as Disney’s Haunted Mansion.

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Uma Thurman and Logan Lerman in Percy Jackson & The Lightning Thief

Mind you, I didn’t expect that the film would be some pitch-black universe of petty deities screwing mortals on screen or using their powers in casually malevolent ways. But none of the monsters in the film, including Medusa (Uma Thurman, channeling Gloria Swanson by way of Poison Ivy), the hydra, and the minotaur, feel remotely threatening, and the ultimate villain (whose identity I won’t spoil) is just about the most underwhelming, petty and pointless adversary in any major event movie in years.

That said, I recognize that it wasn’t necessarily the moviemakers, but the original writer, Rick Riordan, who is cribbing liberally from the Potter playbook. But like last year’s lackluster Cirque du Freak, this feels like another desperate attempt to capitalize on kid and adolescent fanboys’ utter lack of discrimination when it comes to fantasy stories. In which case I feel compelled just on principle to recommend that no one patronize this boring, personality-free garbage, and demand something original, or at least interesting.

Because Percy Jackson & The Olympians might as well be one of those mash-up videos on Youtube where somebody digitally replaces a movie star’s head with their own – in this case, Daniel Radcliffe’s with Logan Lerman’s. If you like the Greek god aspect, read some books an actual mythology; if you like alienated, “special” kids going off to fantasy schools (here called “camps”) to learn how to use their special powers, read Potter books. But there’s not one thing except for money that justifies this story’s existence, much less this movie’s, and there’s no reason I can see to support it by giving away more of your own.

Rating: star Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief – Film Review star Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief – Film Review blankstar Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief – Film Review blankstar Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief – Film Review blankstar Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief – Film Review 2 out of 5 Stars

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19 Responses to “Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief – Film Review”

  1. tim

    12. Feb, 2010

    How is Logan in this film? I heard he is being considered for the next SpiderMan…

    Reply to this comment
  2. Meg

    18. Feb, 2010

    I wonder if I am the only one who realizes that the whole “kid discovers he is special and goes off to a place where he hones his special skills” formula was not invented by J.K. Rowling.

    Reply to this comment
    • HJG

      13. Mar, 2010

      Thank you, you said it exactly.

      Percy Jackson series may be lackluster and even bad ( I don’t know, never read the books), I don’t think there is much to be ripped off from Harry Potter either. Btw, the movie was a hour worth of brainless fun while it latsed, and this is coming from someone who has read Iliad, Odyssey and good chunks of Ovid.

      Now, if they can grab someone who is even more of an eye candy (say, Megan Fox level) for Anabeth, I might have even more fun watching.

      This is Hollywood visual junkie after all; what kind of depth are you expecting?

      Reply to this comment
  3. jenn

    22. Feb, 2010

    i see that it so doesnt go w/ harry potter. this reporter guy stinks!!!! PERCY JACKSON RULEZ!!!!!( and is hot!!!!)

    Reply to this comment
    • Xo

      27. Feb, 2010

      And I’m assuming that is the basis of your analysis on this movie: “Percy Jackson is hot.” About as stupid as the twillight fans who go: “Taylor Lautner is hot.” and scream so we can’t even hear if the guy can act or not.
      Trust me, you don’t want me to begin the never-ending comparism of the two books. But I can’t resist, to name a few, let’s start with the basics: Harry potter-black-haired, green eyed. Percy jackson-ditto. Main trio in harry potter made up of alienated boy, smart girl and silly guy. Percy Jackson- ditto. Age of harry potter -11, percy jackson- 12 9too close to be ignored). harry potter books - equivalent of one school year (excluding summer) , percy jackson- hilarious inverse: equivalent of one summer (excluding much of chool year). and that’s just surface stuff! You do NOT want me to go on!
      p.s this “reporter guy” rules!

      Reply to this comment
      • Maya

        21. Feb, 2011

        In actuality, if I’m not mistaken, Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief was written BEFORE Harry Potter. Therefore Harry Potter would be the copier.

        Reply to this comment
  4. Vicky

    23. Feb, 2010

    I completely disagree with your commentary of “Percy Jackson: The Lightning Thief.” The books and the movie are fast-pasted, innovative construction of imagination where by bringing mythology into an understanding any adult and/or child can grasp. The movie had great graphics and the actors all were very good. We did not need to wait five years for them to grow up to become good actors (as in Harry Potter); they already are. Likewise, the main character embraces his new-found talents to use them to succeed in bringing hope back to everyone (rather than like Harry Potter who is afraid to use what he has learned).
    Though it was not his doing, Percy returns the lightning bolt. The movie follows the book well without much deviance while still capturing the theme and audiences’ imagination. “Percy Jackson” should be entertaining to all audiences alike unless it is only blood and gore the audience wants. The storyline in the movie moves forward and captures the essence of the books.

    I liked the books. I liked the movie and I hope there will be sequels to follow. It was well worth watching twice!

    Reply to this comment
  5. Diamondgirl

    28. Feb, 2010

    Well, actually, Rowling pulled liberally from Greek & Roman mythology. Almost everything in this movie is something I studied in high school. And ‘person discovers they are special’ is a formula older than Zeus. I am tired of reviews that blather on about Harry Potter, thanks.

    I liked the movie, and love Kanakaredes as Athena, but she needs to drop the ‘accent.’ The kids were good. I loved Percy’s mom.

    Reply to this comment
  6. Cesar

    01. Mar, 2010

    agree 100% on your report

    Reply to this comment
  7. Dredwulf60

    17. Mar, 2010

    Maybe not every movie needs to be ‘original’. Consider that there are up-and-coming generations that will have a place for this movie in their hearts, because they aren’t comparing it to anything except what they see on the screen.

    One of the first ‘cool’ movies I remember seeing at the cinema was the original Clash of the Titans.

    I saw this Percy and the Olympians advertised and I knew I had to bring my own kids to the cinema. My girls, 8 and 10 have seen movies before, but this was their first foray into the action-adventure genre.

    They loved it, and now they want to learn more about the greek mythologies. I enjoyed the movie myself, moreson because I could pretend I was seeing it through their eyes. So I say, great movie, well done!

    Reply to this comment
  8. RocketDad

    29. Mar, 2010

    There are a lot of “this is a Harry Potter rip-off” reviews of this movie, but that complaint totally misses the mark. Actually, the books seem like an improvement on the ideas of HP - the readers are taught actual Greek myths, instead of Rowling’s made-up latinoid spell nonsense.

    The flaws in this movie are all the fault of the director and screen writer. Perhaps they should have read the book before making the movie. It might have helped.

    I read the entire series to see what my kids were talking about, and Riodan’s books are great. They’re not high art, but they’re written for kids! All the depth and layers in the book are chucked aside, sacrificed on the altar of Overblown CGI.

    Reply to this comment
  9. Alicia

    29. Mar, 2010

    Why does everyone use Harry Potter as a basis for comparison? Doesn’t anyone know that JK Rowling got most of her ideas from mythology and classical literature? And like several people have pointed out, the Harry-type character has been central to fiction for thousands of years. Every writer gets his or her ideas from somewhere; very little is entirely made-up. I do agree that the trios of characters central to each series are very similar, as are some of the plot ideas. However, I object to your calling it a Harry Potter rip off. Not everything is about Harry Potter. It wasn’t the “orignal” either, so everyone needs to quit acting like that was the case.

    I’m not defending the Lightining Thief movie at all, because I thought it was silly and shallow, but don’t blame the source material. The original book series was an interesting and imaginative twist on classical mythology, the movie just didn’t do it justice at all. The only similarities between book and movie were character names and a vague strand of the plot. Litteraly, that’s all.

    Reply to this comment
  10. Seth

    06. May, 2010

    I agree with one of the comments. Why does the basis always have to be the Harry Potter books? It’s like what my teacher said (and I’m not so sure it was her original) that all ideas have to come from somewhere - even Harry Potter!

    So i think comparing the Percy Jackson books or even all those other books that have some similarities to Harry Potter is not a good thing. They have their differences.

    Harry Potter is to those wands and those curses and jinx while Percy Jackson is to how the Ancient Greeks explained their everyday life - mythology. But I think they have their similarities as well…Bringing us to a world less ordinary so we can experience just once in a while the extraordinary.

    That’s all, thanks.

    Reply to this comment
  11. Karine

    22. Jun, 2010

    I read the entire series before watching the movie. I mainly decided to watch the movie because the books were fantastic, but what a big disappointment. I don’t understand how someone can say this movie did not deviate much from the book. First of all, Ares the God of War never even shown his face in this movie, let along his daughter Clarisse. And the part about Annabeth and Percy kissing at the end? That did NOT happen until the end of book 5!!! What was the director thinking? What was the studio thinking?!! Judging by how they just mixed up materials from all 5 books, I’m guessing they are not expecting to make a sequel?

    I never have the same expectation for movies that were based on books. But this was just beyond my expectation of how terrible it could be. It might as well be advertised as “inspired” by Percy Jackson series!

    Reply to this comment
  12. Trevor Meehan

    01. Aug, 2010

    This guy who did this report is just a grain of sand on a beach of the other reviews the movie is good so what if it didn’t match movies never match books the next Percy Sieries is going to be good Percy as an adult I think even an instructor at camp can’t wait!!!!!

    Reply to this comment
  13. Luke

    07. Aug, 2010

    I hated the movie ¬¬
    I loved the book series *-*

    Reply to this comment
  14. thecriticofcritics

    15. Aug, 2010

    Yes, Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief is originally a book. Actually, Dear Sir or Ma’am, It is a book series for CHILDREN aged 12 or so.(He made it as a bedtime story for his sons..then wrote the book blah blah wiki it!). Emphasis on ‘children’.

    So naturally, the storyline will be -as you said- “luckluster” in the minds of adults (I’m assuming you are) like you. Of course the kids love it, so why not let them be the judge?

    I’m not flaming you nor hating you but hey I had spare two cents so I thought I’d use it here.

    Reply to this comment
  15. Pixie

    23. Sep, 2010

    I would have to agree with this review (and the Harry Potter analogies were hilarious, btw. xD). The first 40 minutes of the movie were great, but the rest of the movie just fell really flat; there were way too many jokes and pop-culture references that weren’t even funny (and some that were a bit insulting to me, personally). On a lighter note, the Medusa scene was epic, as was the minotaur scene, but the hydra scene wasn’t very exciting for me (possibly because a joke told a few minutes prior to the scene by Grover, a.k.a. one of the most irritating movie characters that I’ve ever seen, had me really annoyed for the next 10-15 minutes), and as for Hades and the final villain, could bad guys possibly be any LESS threatening!? Also, there were quite a few flaws that really bugged the crap out of me:

    [SPOILER!!!!!!!!!!!!] When the kids made it to the casino… well, that’s just it; teenagers can’t get into a casino in Las Vegas! And when they ate the “lotus flowers” and it made them want to stay at the casino, Poseidon spoke to Percy and told him not to eat the flowers. Annabeth was the daughter of Athena; why didn’t Athena tell Annabeth not to eat the flowers? [OKAY, I'M DONE WITH THE SPOILERS NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!]

    So, yeah. It’s not a “bad”, movie, it’s just a very very “average” movie. I’m considering reading the books sometime (even though the movie made me kind of NOT want to read the books; but according to the fans of the book series, who really despised the movie, the books are A LOT better).

    My rating of the movie: 2.5/5 or 3/5.

    Reply to this comment
  16. Harvey

    14. Oct, 2010

    The Movie Had To Many Changed up and Taken Out Scenes It Was a Big Let Down After Reading the book

    Reply to this comment

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