Animadversion: Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightening Thief by Kamran Jawaid and Farheen Jawaid

This is unedited version of the review printed in iMAGES on Sunday 21st February 2010

percy_jackson_and_the_olympians_the_lightning_thief

To Hell and Back Again: Boy-God on an Olympian Mission

By Mohammad Kamran Jawaid

On face value alone Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightening Thief works-in two core aspects of Greek mythology in one package: daddy issues and heroic expeditions.

The movie is based on the bestselling book by Rick Riordan, and its plot brands Percy Jackson, our title-referenced hero (a static and about likeable Logan Lerman), as the Lightning Thief who’s stolen Zeus’s (Sean Bean) fabled lightning bolt. If the bolt isn’t returned to Olympus, a celestial hovering edifice above Empire State Building, the gods go to war within themselves – without logic (rumor has it that they’re always looking for ways to engage in catastrophic, elemental, wars).

Percy is the estranged high-school going, human, son of Poseidon (Kevin McKidd), one of the three ruling Olympian gods, and he is oblivious of his demigod status because of a law that keeps gods from contacting their mortal kins.

As a mortal (with an uncanny ability to breathe underwater), for the films first fifteen minutes Percy suffers from ADHD and dyslexia, which clears up with one of the most absurd big-screen reasoning ever. Being a teenager (in the book he is said to be 12, he’s older here), he lives with his bedraggled mother, Catherine Keener, and grubby stepfather Joe Pantoliano, whose pungent smell helps keep his god-blood status hidden. That is until he is attacked by a mythical, scaly-winged Fury, who happens to be his surrogate teacher. School teachers, even surrogate ones, were never this ugly (or as scaly).

Like most Greek heroes on a mission, Percy Jackson is stacked with firepower. His armory consists of a backpack; a pen which snaps into a full gold-crusted blade; a broken shield which auto-fills its broken corners on danger; a glossy iPhone; a marauder’s map which pinpoints location of teleportation pearls. All this plus Percy’s ability to summon and control fantastic water-waves (which apparently no one cares to notice or capture to YouTube).

Naturally Percy needs sidekicks. They are Grover (Brandon T. Jackson) a wisecracking man-goat hybrid (called a Satyr) who’s also his guardian, and a sword-wielding near-girl friend Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario) who happens to be goddess Athena’s daughter. There is also Luke (Jake Abel), Hermes son who can play multiple games simultaneously, amongst other things.

Like Percy, his sidekick-friends also have personal quests: Annabeth has never been outside Camp Half-Blood, a secluded boarding school that train’s Greek god’s children. Grover, being half-goat, wants to sprout his horns (that’s about as sexually explicit as the movie gets by the way).

Percy Jackson follows Eragon, The Golden Compass and Chronicles of Narnia in a bid to rake in some of Harry Potter’s glory. In reality Percy Jackson is a close-relative of Night at the Museum and National Treasure in pace and nonsensicality. Like National Treasure the clues are ridiculously easy to find.

Unlike Harry Potter, the movie relies on clichéd, secondhand rudiments that have Percy and co. racing against time in a cross-country hop to get to hell where his kidnapped mother is kept by an unthreatening Hades (Steve Coogan). Along the way it is revealed that Hollywood has the pathway to hell, and Las Vegas has a casino designed to keep people there. Forever (a guy has been playing The French Connection’s arcade pin-ball game since the seventies). Even with all this travelling, Percy cares little about finding the actual lightning thief.

Percy Jackson wastes actors with depthless, preformatted roles with little on-screen time. Amongst them are: a leather-clad, dark-glassed and passionless Uma Thurman (as Medusa), a cantankerous Sean Bean, and an uncomplicated Pierce Brosnan as the centaur Chiron who trains Greek heroes by the dozens at Camp Half-Blood.

The camp is safe from godly intervention or global catastrophes, however, even its enchantments cannot buffer the filmmakers from nondescript storytelling.

As a franchise starter directed by Chris Columbus (the first two Harry Potter films), the movie is a domesticated fantasy that’s too aware of its PG-13 certification.

Second Opinion

By Farheen Jawaid

Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightening Thief (now that’s a mouth full), is about as fantastic and as absurd as National Treasure. Directed by Chris Columbus, popular for filming children (screaming, infuriating and otherwise) in Home Alone and Harry Potter, does a by-the-book job with Percy.

The three leads (Logan Lerman, Brandon T. Jackson and Alexandra Daddario) and the supporting cast (especially a miscast Uma Thurman as Medusa) do a passable job for a first film. Depending on how well the movie does, both the complexity of the screenplay and the performance would improve by the movie’s sequel, which was the same case as Harry Potter.

Percy’s comparison with Harry Potter is inevitable. Both movies have a lone misunderstood teenager with magical abilities, sharp sidekicks, detective role-playing and grand away-from-home quests. Even with all this similarity Harry’s original material was more engaging.

Still, based on the material, the screenplay by Craig Titley rushes through things without intelligence (rather than the gods looking into who actually stole the lightning bolt, they decide to go to war).

Percy Jackson ends up as a tame franchise starter that has way too much Americanized new-adult blood in its roots to make it gem. Sometimes the movie doesn’t even qualify as a fake gem.

The printed version can be found at:

http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/in-paper-magazine/images/boygod-on-an-olympian-mission-120

and

http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/in-paper-magazine/images/second-opinion-120

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