I don’t doubt that Rick Riordan’s series is a fabulous read. Full of Greek mythology and more than a little action, it makes for a fast paced tale of adventure but how that translates onto the big screen isn’t exactly great. I’m sure one of the reasons Fox brought director Chris Columbus on board to direct the first film in the series may have something to do with his success in kicking off the Harry Potter franchise. What they failed to take into account is the fact that Harry Potter already had a rabid fanbase where as Percy Jackson…let’s just say he’s no pre-pubescent magician.
Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief has a whole lot going for it. The story of demigods living amongst humans in the modern world certainly offers many an opportunity for story telling. In this particular world, Zeus has forbidden the gods from communicating with their mortal children in fear that they will overlook their Godly duties but when Zeus’ lightning bolt is stolen, Zeus gets angry (and a little irrational). He knows his brother Poseidon didn’t steal it but he thinks Poseidon’s son Percy may have and so an ultimatum is set: return the bolt in two weeks or face war. Typical God stuff wouldn’t you say? It also brings this whole Gods not interacting with their half human kids into question.
Here’s where the story really kicks off (as much as it ever does). As everyone searches for the bolt (who wouldn’t want to rule Olympus?) Percy comes to know his true origin, is taken into a camp for special kids (other demigods like himself), gathers a few troops and heads off to rescue his mother who has been kidnapped by Hades, the ruler of the underworld, a dude who also happens to be his uncle. Basically, there’s a whole lot going on including some digging through Greek mythology. To the film’s credit (likely due to screen writer Craig Titley who adapted Riordan’s book) the convoluted associations between characters and the mythology associated with them is peppered throughout the film quite well. The only problem is that with all of the supernatural stuff flying around, the film still manages to be pretty dull.
The action is yawn inducing, the effects good in places and laughably bad in others, the comedy occasionally works and falls flat in other places – it’s a bit of an uneven mess, one that’s heightened by the appearance of some amazingly talented actors. Makes you wonder what they were thinking when they agreed to some of these roles. From Kevin McKidd as Poseidon to Catherine Keener as Percy’s mother, there are a spattering of appearances from some heavyweights including Pierce Brosnan, Sean Bean, Melina Kanakaredes, Joe Pantoliano and Uma Thurman. When one appears, you can’t help but groan – yes, it’s that bad (with the exception of Sean Bean as Zeus who is just…well, awesome). As for the leads, Logan Lerman as Percy has a promising career ahead of him; he may not be great but neither is the material and he does show promise (along with a fair amount of screen presence) while Alexandra Daddario’s pretty face is likely to turn up again, hopefully in another role where girls kick ass.
Percy Jackson is a disappointment considering the amount of money thrown at it and the calibre of talent involved. It’s a bit of a slog at nearly two hours but you know what? It’s worth every penny for the awesomeness of seeing Hades and Persephone duke it out. Steve Coogan and Rosario Dawson are easily the highlight of the film and they steal the show in their short interlude. Someone should really think to cast them in The Life and Times of Hades and Persephone because they’re genius together. And seriously, is it even legal to look this amazing? And I’m not talking about Coogan.
Yeah, that’s what I thought.