Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief is a fantasy franchise starter that gets things sort of right. Author Rick Riordan wrote the book series for his son with ADHD and dyslexia. When he started learning about Greek Mythology in school, Riordan created a hero steeped in the world. Although it sounds like something I would’ve enjoyed, I never knew about Percy Jackson until the movie came out. Even then I still didn’t embrace the series. Percy Jackson seemed a lot like a Greek Mythology version of Harry Potter right down to 20th Century Fox choosing Chris Columbus as the director. Only after the fact did I realize it was never supposed to be about teenagers or that most fans hate the changes. Percy Jackson & the Olympians follows the children of the gods in the modern world. The Lightning Thief refers to Zeus’ lightning bolt that all the gods think was stolen by the son of Poseidon. Like Riordan’s son, Percy Jackson has ADHD and dyslexia. Something he turns into a strength by having ADHD give him better reflexes and dyslexia allowing him to read Ancient Greek. Logan Lerman has the right young adult look, but I wasn’t too sure about his performance at first.
Percy spends a lot of time in water, but he’s never met his father since it’s forbidden. Instead he lives with his mortal mother and wicked stepfather played by Catherine Keener and Joe Pantoliano respectively. When a Fury attacks him on a field trip, Percy is suddenly thrust into the mythological world. He’s joined by his best friend Grover Underwood who turns out to be his satyr protector. Brandon T. Jackson has his moments, but he’s mostly just the comedic black friend. Similar to Hogwarts, Percy trains at a summer camp for demigods called Camp Half-Blood. Pierce Brosnan plays his teacher Chiron who turns out to be a centaur. Pretty much every mythical creature plays a part, including a minotaur who takes Percy’s mom to the Underworld. In order to get his mom back, Percy sets out on an adventure with Grover and the battle ready daughter of Athena, Annabeth Chase. Played by the lovely Alexandra Daddario. I think I only liked the movie in concept before the adventure started. The introduction to the camp and trio felt a little rushed, but the modern interpretation of every creature they face really grew on me.
Percy has everything he needs when Chiron gifts him a magical pen sword and Luke Castellan, son of Hermes (played by a charismatic Jake Abel) gifts him a magical shield. Along with his father’s flying wing shoes. Luke also gives the trio a quest that was never in the book. They travel cross country to find pearls that will allow them to leave the Underworld when they get there. Uma Thurman is unique as a modern shades wearing Medusa. Her head comes off even in a PG film. They also encounter a Hydra at the Parthenon, Lotus-Eaters at Vegas, and passage to the Underworld in Hollywood. Rosario Dawson is a seductive Persephone and Steve Coogan is a laid back Hades. Working just as well is an immortal Sean Bean as Zeus and Kevin McKidd as a caring Poseidon. Mt. Olympus is a grand location and all the gods are fittingly gigantic. When Percy encounters the true lightning thief at the top of the Empire State Building, they engage in a fight of mythical proportions. One that allows Percy to master water itself. When everything is wrapped up, Percy starts a new life at Camp Half-Blood. Although Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief feels like a Harry Potter clone, Greek Mythology gives it its own distinct voice that’s just as fun.
Followed by: Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters