Percy Jackson And The Lightning Thief
Bloomin typical. You wait years for an all-action adventure inspired by Greek mythology, and then two come along at virtually the same time.
Next month promises the remake of the 1981 sword and sandals epic Clash Of The Titans, and here Percy Jackson and The Lightning Thief juxtaposes the very same battle of the Gods on Mount Olympus, and the exploits of a teenage boy destined for greatness, based on the first of five books by Rick Riordan. Echoes of Harry Potter are uncomfortably palpable, but Percy offers significantly more laughs than the first outing of the earnest Brit wizard.
Percy or Harry?
Chris Columbus, who directed the first two Potter films, is a safe pair of hands behind the camera of this big budget extravaganza, seamlessly melding live action and computer trickery. The similarities with JK Rowling’s boy wizard are – even to an eye really, really trying not to be cynical – overwhelmingly evident: A tormented hero oblivious to his noble bloodline; a brainy female sidekick and a wise-cracking best friend who accompany the hero on his quest; a Half Blood camp where the protagonists hone their skills; and benevolent centaurs and other magical creatures. If we were JK, we’d be more than a little put out. Screenwriter Craig Titley tries his darndest to distance the characters from the students of Hogwarts by upping the ages in the book from 12 to 17, thereby introducing some additional growing pains and raging hormones, but let’s be honest, there’s only so much we can turn a blind eye to.
Growing Up Is Hard To Do
Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman) is struggling at high school and rowing constantly with his mother Sally (Catherine Keener), who has married a loser called Gabe (Joe Pantoliano). During a visit to a museum, the troubled teenager learns a shocking secret: He is the son of Poseidon (Kevin McKidd), god of the sea, and a war is brewing because Zeus (Sean Bean) believes – quite wrongly – that Percy has stolen his lightning bolt. Moreover, best friend Grover (Brandon T Jackson) is a weird man-goat hybrid “The politically correct term is satyr”; retorts Grover – charged with protecting Percy from evil. Spirited away to Camp Half Blood, Percy begins his training with centaur Chiron (Pierce Brosnan) and the other demi-god children including Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario), daughter of Athena, and Luke (Jake Abel), son of Hermes. When Hades (a scene stealing Steve Coogan) enslaves Percy’s mother and promises her safe return in exchange for the stolen lightning bolt, the teenager embarks on a quest to the underworld accompanied by Grover and Annabeth, pitting the teenagers against fearsome adversaries.
It’s Take Two For Columbus
Percy Jackson and The Lightning Thief suffers from the same problems that – surprise surprise – Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone did. It sacrifices in-depth characterisation for the sake of eye-popping thrills and a brisk pace, never quite fulfilling the potential in the book itself. Lerman is an engaging and sympathetic hero, tormented by his dyslexia which turns out to be a preference for ancient Greek. Daddario catalyses pleasing on-screen chemistry and Jackson quips energetically, denouncing a hair-brained scheme to disable the cleaning staff at the replica Parthenon in Nashville: “You’re going to kill janitors? Those are working class Americans!”; Columbus doesn’t let the effects overwhelm the storytelling, although it’s more of a stretch than a squeeze to fill the rollicking two hours. In the end, there’s no getting away from it, it’s a sassy, Americanized Harry Potter. But that doesn’t stop it being good fun.