Fox // 2010 // 118 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // July 1st, 2010
Get Him To The Greek sans Jonah Hill and the comedy...
For those who thought Clash of the Titans wasn't kid friendly enough, along comes Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, based on the series of best selling books by Rick Riordan. Get ready to ride the lightning with Percy and some of the biggest deities this side of Mt. Olympus!
Percy Jackson is the son of a God, which makes him a demigod. Endowed with powers beyond that of mortal men, young Percy (Logan Lerman, 3:10 To Yuma) discovers his true heritage from his mother (Catherine Keener, The 40-Year-Old Virgin), who once had an affair with the mighty Poseidon (Kevin McKidd, Dog Soldiers). Percy's best friend is a satyr -- a half man, half goat protector -- named Grover (Brandon T. Jackson, Tropic Thunder), and his romantic interest ends up being the tough as nails daughter of Aphrodite, Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario, Bereavement), whom he meets at a camp for half-bloods (i.e. kids of Greek gods). When the head God, Zeus (Sean Bean, Goldeneye), has his lightning bolt stolen, the assumption is that Percy is the "lightning thief." Percy must trek all over heaven and earth to retrieve the mystical weapon, before a war breaks out between Zeus, the vengeful Hades (Steve Coogan, Hamlet 2), and the other ancient Greek gods, which could wreck not only Mt. Olympus but also the human race!
Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief is exactly what I was expecting; sadly no more, but gratefully no less. The film wallows in convention, but does so with skill and pacing. The characters are cut from the same stock as almost every movie of this ilk (the wisecracking sidekick, the tough yet gentle love interest, the handsome but bland lead character), but just likable enough not to be overly grating. Director Chris Columbus (who helmed the first two films in the Harry Potter series) puts it all together with polished professionalism, but little else; here is a movie that just seems so...standard. Before the film ended, I knew every twist and turn coming without fail. There were no surprises, no original story arcs, nor anything overly exciting (or disappointing) when it came to the gargantuan special effects sequences. Welcome to yet another prefabricated teen action movie.
So, you want to see a giant ten-headed dragon battling a kid with a sword and shield? Sure thing. How about an updated version of the gorgon Medusa (Uma Thurman, in what could be considered a glorified cameo) complete with leather trench coat and sunglasses? Check. And what would a movie about the Greek gods be without a visit to the hellish afterlife of Hades? You got it! All of these scenes are in place, all visually well rendered, but with little excitement or energy. It often feels like Percy is just leaping from one creature battle to the next on his way to the film's inevitable conclusion.
One of the more disappointing aspects of the film is its wasted cast. Pierce Brosnan (Die Another Day), Joe Pantoliano (The Matrix), Thurman, Bean, and a few other solid character actors are given little to do but espouse Greek mumbo jumbo while looking pensive for the camera. Brandon T. Jackson, so sharp in 2008's Tropic Thunder, is given little to do here but sidekick shtick that wears thin faster than Chris Tucker's career. There is little to be said about Logan Lerman as Percy Jackson. He fits the role (young boy who has a mission to fulfill) but isn't much of a standout. Faint praise goes to the animators who worked on the Medusa character, as its heads and shoulders above the 2010 Clash of the Titans version.
As I watched Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, I couldn't help but wonder what could have been done differently to make this story more interesting. I like the idea of the colliding Greek myth with modern day technology, but it didn't really jive on screen. I know this storyline can connect with audiences, since the literary series is a hit with the teen set. Could it be the grumpy film critic in me has seen this cinematic variation one too many times? Possibly. Younger viewers may very well eat this up, since the film did pull in around $90 million at the box office -- although compared with the similar Harry Potter franchise that's relatively small potatoes.
I can certainly appreciate the craftsmanship that went into making Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, but it's not a film I'll ever need to revisit. As standard Friday night fare (especially for those with children old enough to handle some of the more frightening imagery), the movie fills its junk food quota. Just don't expect it to leave much of a lasting aftertaste.
Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief is presented in 1080p high definition in a 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio. My complaints about the movie are enormous, in comparison to any complaints about this transfer. Fox has produced an excellent picture free of any major defects or imperfections. The movie's slick visuals are complemented by a sharp, crisp picture and deep colors. Even the night scenes are filled with nooks and crannies detail, making this a top notch transfer for videophiles. Kudos to Fox on a job well done.
The soundtrack is presented in DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, as well as 5.1 Descriptive Audio, both in English. Much like the video portions of this disc, the audio tracks should give your sound system a healthy workout. Surround speakers are used generously with the bass in full effect. Again, not a whole lot to complain about. Also included are Dolby 5.1 Surround tracks in French, Spanish, and Portuguese, as well as English, Spanish, Portuguese, Cantonese, Mandarin subtitles.
The extra features are mostly geared toward looking at Greek mythology for younger viewers, than for those looking to learn about the film's production or inception. Ten deleted scenes (in HD) are included, but don't add a lot to the proceedings. A few features ("Secrets of the Gods" and "Discover Your Powers" quiz) add for a bit if interactivity, especially if you're looking to find out where you belong on the demigod scale. A selection of very short, promotional featurettes ("The Book Comes to Life," "Inside Camp Half-Blood," "On Set with Brandon T. Jackson," Meet the Demigods" and "A Conversation with Christophe Beck") run the gamut from three to five minutes in length. For the ADD crowd this is a great selection, but those looking to delve into the making of the film will only find a few talking head interviews with the stars and writer Rick Riordan. The most interesting extra is an interview with Christophe Beck, who at least gives some back story into his musical compositions for the film.
As a bonus, Fox has included a standard definition DVD copy of the film, as well as a portable digital copy for your PC or portable device (each on a separate disc).
The demographic for Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief will most likely enjoy its interesting but flawed concept. While packed with action, there's little in the way of gore or realistic violence (though Medusa's end may disturb some younger viewers). Adults may be checking their watches near the three-quarter mark. Either way, I recommended a rental before purchase.
Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief is guilty of
banality for adults, but given a pass for the tween set.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English, Descriptive)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Portuguese)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 118 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* Deleted Scenes
* Cinema Verdict Review