Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief * * 1/2

 Genre: Fantasy

Director:  Chris Columbus

Writer: Craig Titley, based on the novel Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

Cast: Logan Lerman, Brandon T. Jackson, Alexandria Daddario, Catherine Keener

Running Length: 119 minutes

Synopsis: Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman) is shocked to discover, after an attack by his substitute Math teacher, that he is actually the demigod offspring of Poseidon (Kevin McKidd), and that his best friend Grover (Brandon T. Jackson) is actually a satyr sent to protect him. Zeus (Sean Bean) has had his mighty lightning bolt stolen, and he points the finger of blame at Percy. Ushered to the safety of demigod-training Camp Half-Blood, run by a centaur headmaster called Chiron (Pierce Brosnan), Percy needs to prove his innocence to Zeus by reclaiming the lightning bolt, aided by Grover and Annabeth (Alexandaria Daddario), daughter of Athena. Things get a little more complicated when Hades (Steve Coogan) abducts Percy’s mother (Catherine Keener), and the trio must make their way literally to hell and back, in the process stopping a war between the gods and the destruction of Earth (as always).

Review: Haven’t we all been here before? The answer is yes, of course we have – Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief (strangely the local film title is truncated, dropping the bit about Olympians) feels very derivative, almost like a mutant child of the Harry Potter and Twilight series, even though it is based on its own bestselling novel series. We even have Chris Columbus helming the movie, the same auteur that brought the first two Harry Potter novels to the big screen. But is the film any good, or just another “me too!” movie trying to cash in on Potter-mania?

It’s a mixed bag – Percy Jackson is a rather entertaining movie, chock-full of action set pieces and eye-popping CG visuals, but it also suffers from logical flaws and is narratively very sparse, especially for an “origin movie”. Of course, this does help to move the film along at a good pace, but there’s very little content behind the action sequences and creates little emotional attachment to even Percy Jackson, which makes the viewing experience a very passive one. However, the film does manage to check all the boxes without committing any major mistakes, which means it actually fares a little better than the first Harry Potter film.

Much like the Harry Potter franchise, apart from the young leads the remainder of the cast is composed mainly of rather famous faces. However, most of these are walk on roles that aren’t all that memorable, except for Uma Thurman’s deliciously campy turn as the most fashion savvy Medusa I have ever seen.

Of all the fantasy films that have surfaced after Harry Potter, Percy Jackson is one of the few that shows enough promise to become a viable franchise – the Greek mythos is relatively interesting, and if the series takes off then hopefully the characters will gradually become more fleshed out over the next few movies. It seems like a sequel is already being green lit, so this is definitely the one to watch out for, especially after the conclusion of the Harry Potter franchise in 2011.

Rating: ** ½ (out of four stars)

 

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