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Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief

Fantasy-adventure film directed by Chris Columbus

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You Can't Predict Where Lightning Will Strike (3.5/5)

  • Feb 15, 2010
Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief may be the worst movie title ever, but it is far from being the worst movie ever.  There is something quite fun about the film in and of itself.  It will require a LOT of suspension of disbelief to enjoy, but once you settle in for the ride it becomes a movie that's fun in spite of some of it's more daunting moments that actually come out from me just having to nitpick and ask questions. 

The Lightning Thief is directed by Chris Columbus.  I don't know about you, but I'm not a big Chris Columbus fan.  So for me to even utter, "It was fun..." about a Chris Columbus film is, in fact, a big deal.  Give him credit, though, because he knows this territory.  He directed Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and made them successes.  Why then, would you NOT get the man to direct what is clearly a Harry Potter rip-off?  The Percy Jackson series is a book series all on its own written by Rick Riordan... and if the previews didn't show it already, allow me to be the first to tell you that purist of the book will be disappointed.  Percy Jackson's age alone should be enough to tell you this movie isn't going to be very faithful to its source material.

With that out of the way let's just talk about the movie.  The Lightning Thief puts Olympus and the Greek Gods in a more modern day setting.  The Gods reside above the United States where The Empire State Building in New York serves as Mount Olympus.  From time to time the God's leave Olympus and go and spend time down below with mortals where they get jiggy with it and produce a half human half God spawn referred to as a Demigod.  This is what Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman) is, a Demigod.  A kid with a knack for water because that's where he feels comfortable.  He can stay under water for long stretches of time and be safe and sound.  It doesn't take a genius to figure out he's the offspring of Poseiden (played by Kevin McKidd).  Percy is, for the most part, trying to live a normal life.  But it doesn't help that he has dyslexia and a bad case of ADHD (that you wouldn't know if the film didn't insist on telling you he does).  It turns out those are strengths, however.  His dyslexia isn't really dyslexia at all, he just rearranges letter to read Greek instead of English, and his ADHD(?) isn't really ADHD it's just instinct.  They come in handy because apparently someone has stolen Zeus's (Sean Bean) Lightning Bolt and Zeus thinks that it was Percy Jackson who did it.  It isn't just Zeus, apparently word has spread throughout Olympus that Percy Jackson has stolen Zeus's Lightning Bolt because even minions of the Underworld are seeking him out. 

Why is Zeus's Lightning Bolt so important?  Because the Gods are constantly at odds with one another.  The three brothers: Poseidon, Zeus and Hades in particular are always clashing.  And while none of them are allowed to steal the powers of another... their children apparently are.  Since the brother's are rivals Zeus concludes that it must be Percy Jackson who did so.  Zeus then issues an ultimatum.  The Lightning Bolt must be returned to him by midnight on the Summer Solstice or else the gods will wage war.  To make matters worse, the rumors of Percy Jackson having stolen the Bolt don't help because Hades (Steve Coogan... seriously?), the God of the Underworld, wants a war among the Gods and to show he's serious, he kidnaps Percy's mother and says that in order to save her he must bring the Lightning Bolt to him.  

Percy, who is sure to remind you he didn't take the Lightning Bolt each and every time someone brings it up, has two missions.  The first is to find The Lightning Thief.  The second is to rescue his mother.  I suppose him keeping the Gods from waging war on one another would be a close third, but as he goes about his quest that doesn't seem to matter much to him. 

Except it won't be that easy.  He'll need access to underworld, and the only way to do it is to die... or to find three specials pearls that will allow him to exit the underworld.  So before he can even confront Hades... he has to find those pearls for himself.  His guardian Grover (Brandon T. Johnson) and his companion Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario).  It may seem like a lot, but The Lightning Thief is a fairly straightforward movie in its approach.  And if it weren't so fun, it might actually be boring instead. 

There is actualy a pretty good cast at work.  At least that isn't among the main characters.  Sean Bean and Kevin McKidd are fantastic in their roles, but they don't really do much.  Actually the real treat here are all the actors who don't play the main three kids in this quest.  Pierce Brosnan plays the Centaur Chiron and does it beautifully.  Uma Thurman shows up in a marvelous role as Medusa and does a fantastic job at being both seductive and a little creepy, while Steve Coogan fills the role of Hades and does a fantastic job.  Finally, Rosario Dawson shows up as Persephone.  All these guys do such a wonderful job in their roles.  It's unfortnate, then, that the main three characters you'll spend much of your time with actually don't.  Logan Lerman and Alexandra Daddario in particular are a little stilted in their roles.  There are some comedic moments, but for the most part the two hardly come off as two teenagers embarking on a quest.  It's probably a good thing the rest of the cast saves them from having to carry the entire movie themselves as they're constantly being upstaged by actors like Pierce Brosnan, Uma Thurman and Rosario Dawson.  That would be great if it weren't for the fact that those three actually don't spend much time in the movie at all.  Of the three teens embarking on the quest... only Brandon T. Johnson as Grover really adds any spice to our three musketeers here, and he's really only there to serve as the comic relief.  He does so with ease as he has some of the funniest moments in the film.  It's just that of the three main characters he's also the only one who appears to be lively in any sort of way. 

The quest for the pearls is really at the meat of the film.  The encounter with Medusa is fun, but afterwards the movie slows down while they go for the other two.  A fight with a Hydra sounds exciting--and it is--until the end.  And while a trip to Vegas also sounds enticing as well it actually just feels like the movie is padding out it's length.  

I also have to throw this out there because I'm a gamer... but yeah, watching Percy Jackson actually does feel like watching someone slug through a video game at times.  The quest for the pearls in particular feels like this.  They go to the area, find the pearl and have to confront an evil monster before they can move on to the next pearl.  This feeling is emphasized by the fact that they don't learn the location of the next pearl without already finding one (and yes, for you gamers the location really DOES pop up on a map after they complete each "level" for one pearl).  If The Lightning Thief gets a video game to accompany the film... there's no possible way they could screw it up unless they didn't watch the movie.  It's basically: Go to level, fight boss, pick up new item, move onto next level.  That is quite literally what the quest for those pearls are.  Hell the movie even has a "World Map" with the next location clearly marked for them to travel too.  Gamers watching will notice this formula instantly.

With the quest for three pearls taking up time, you can see why some of the movie just might feel a little long and episodic at times.  And while Chris Columbus has pacing problems, he actually does move through the pearls faster than you think.  It's the final moments of the movie that feel long.  Just when you're positive the movie is going to end it keeps going.  At least it's not a long movie, but sometimes it can feel like it.  It's also pretty sad that not much of the cast is given character.  Though, as noted earlier, it may be because of the actors who are to portray the characters rather than the characters themselves.  There are some funny, goofy quips thrown in there for good measure, which makes Percy Jackson fun.

The only thing which probably really bugged me was that much of Percy's success came about as coincidence.  They just happen to find Greek Currency along the way... they have no idea what it's there for, but they grab it and take it anyway and they just happen to need it to get into the underworld, for example.  Another moment comes with Medusa's fall that I won't spoil.  It just seems kind of strange that we have to watch Percy train only for much of that training to go to waste because he's more "lucky" than "skilled."  Even how he manages to stumble upon the bolt and get it back comes off as a coincidence (finding the bolt) and sheer luck (obtaining the bolt).  This might be annoying, but considering it's a kids movie, I suppose they're not going to be sitting in the theater asking themselves questions as they watch.

And that's exactly what I did.  As Percy trains in a game of capture the flag I began to wonder how he could be so bad with a sword at one moment (so bad I probably could've killed him with a butter knife--he's that terrible) and ten seconds later be a master of the sword after only training with it for like ten minutes.  I wondered why the Gods would father children and then immediately leave.  Are they, you know, horrible daddies or soemthing?  Okay, that question actually does get answered.  Then I wondered with all the havoc and such going on through New York City in the final confrontation... did anyone notice?  The movie never hints.  This is the sort of stuff a kid might ignore, but it's hard not to wonder.  The adults throughout the film are also quite moronic... with only the "evil" ones actually having any sort of intelligence to them.  Other than that... many of the adults in the film are actually quite stupid (in particular, I'm referring to the adult that just has to take a peak at Medusa... when you see the movie you'll know why).  It's no wonder Percy Jackson succeeds... all he has to do is know how to put a square peg into a square hole to succeed.  And have a lot of luck.  

So yes, for the older people going into this, it requires quite a bit of suspension of disbelief.  But your kids will get a kick out of it because it's funny and it's dazzling to look at.  There are some pretty cool special effects here, as well as some pretty well choreographed sequences.  In spite of the narrative slowing down and the main cast of characters being quite lifeless (for the most part) you can actually have some fun at some of Percy Jackson's more off the wall moments.  The experience is made better because the movie seems pretty well aware of its incredibly bizarre premise.  It insist on being fun more so than being serious and that actually does make it enjoyable.  It still suffers from some of the same old Chris Columbus stumbles.  It lacks a lot of heart and imagination, for the most part... but it's not emotionless.  And it stumbles in the pacing department. It's two hours long but at certain moments you're going to feel it. 

Nevertheless if you just sit back and turn your brain off, Percy Jackson is actually enjoyable.  It's got the worst title for a movie ever, but it's still a lot of fun to sit through.  Your children are apt to enjoy it as well.

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March 13, 2010
Good review. This is one of the few teen movies that I actually liked, I hate the Twilight series and I really loath the Harry Potter films so "Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief" was a cool and very interesting film. It worked for me even isn't like the novel it is based on.
February 17, 2010
I think I'll wait for the DVD and rent it. It just looks too much like another special effects-fueled fantasy film for kids and there have been so many since Harry Potter and I'm kind of sick of them. And I agree, a terrible title.
February 17, 2010
It's a definite Harry Potter ripoff, that's totally true.  And actually the title alone almost kept me from seeing it, but I offered to take a friend to the movies and this is what she wanted to see.
February 17, 2010
Brave man.
February 15, 2010
I was actually interested in seeing this but I opted to see THE WOLFMAN instead. I was afraid that it was going to be one of those tween flicks again, I liked the trailer with the HYDRA. Sounds like I made a mistake, I guess I'll have to save this on dvd sometime soon..great work! You always earn three thumbies from me!
More Percy Jackson and the Olympian... reviews
review by . August 06, 2010
A Decent Kid-Friendly Action Film That Has More Ambition Than Solid Execution...
After the mega-success of the “Harry Potter” adaptations, Hollywood is in the hunt to find the next family-friendly fantasy franchise that can generate huge profits. They gave it a shot with an adaptation of the “Vampire Assistant” and now, director Chris Columbus makes a shot at box-office success with an adaptation of the books by author Rick Riordan with “Percy Jackson and Olympians: The Lightning Thief”. The film is a kid-friendly fantasy series that uses …
review by . August 24, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
My first impression on seeing Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief is that it's basically a Harry Potter ripoff. Almost literally, except for the fact that it draws from Greek mythology rather than Medieval legends. Otherwise, it's the same movie, with two guys and a girl on a quest; the main hero never really knows his father; there's a school/camp for young magicians/demi-gods; and the first quest in this movie even involves searching for something (lightning) that …
review by . July 12, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
The first film based on the successful series of books makes the character of Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman), parentage true that a normal high school is much stranger than anything he could wait. His best friend Grover (Brandon T. Jackson) claims to be a student with physical disabilities in the school of Percy, but the fact of hiding their true nature. It's really a satyr: half man, half goat. He was responsible for the custody of the gods of Olympus Percy, which should never find its location.   …
review by . February 14, 2010
Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief
Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief sounds a lot like Harry Potter in it's title. I think everyone will go in expecting something akin to Harry Potter Lite if they choose to see this at all. The title immediately suggests Greek gods and goddesses and the traier hints at lot at what you're going into to see. We've been trained for many years on the Potter franchise though, and unless you've read the books this movie is based on, I expect most will  go in expecting some version …
Quick Tip by . July 27, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Got a chance to watch this movie this past weekend and found it to be a good movie. Children could watch this and be enchanted by the Greek Mythological creatures, learn a bit about Greek Mythology and a couple of "bad words". If you don't mind the word a$$, then they can watch it as that's about as bad as it gets. The movie was nice, flowed decent, but we could tell who was the Lightning Thief right away. Decent if you want something different to watch!
review by . August 23, 2010
My first impression on seeing Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief is that it's basically a Harry Potter ripoff. Almost literally, except for the fact that it draws from Greek mythology rather than Medieval legends. Otherwise, it's the same movie, with two guys and a girl on a quest; the main hero never really knows his father; there's a school/camp for young magicians/demi-gods; and the first quest in this movie even involves searching for something (lightning) that ends up in a suspiciously …
Quick Tip by . July 10, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
A good adaption from the book. I suggest disassociating it from the book and watching it solely as a movie.
review by . March 11, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Chris Columbus takes the bold outlines of Greek Mythology and turns it on it's heels......
For teenagers they all think that life is going to be simple and easy, some of them find out the hard way that is not so while others lazily go by doing what they do everyday. For High Schooler Percy Jackson this is   so, Percy thinks his only purpose in life is to just survive High School, barely, while dealing with his slob of a step-father. Battling his troubles with dyslexia, ADHD and all the while trying to make his mother proud of him. For a teenager this is no easy feat especially …
Quick Tip by . July 09, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
not even close to the book in any way, but an entertaining film.
About the reviewer
Sean A. Rhodes ()
Ranked #3
I'm a more analytical person. I believe that the purpose of the review is not for me to give you my opinion but for me to give you an analysis and help you decide if you want to get it. If you reading … more
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Mythology and the modern world collide in this epic quest for justice by Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman), your basic below-average, misfit student whose family life is a mess and who's misunderstood by everyone except his best friend, Grover (Brandon T. Jackson). A voice warns that everything is about to change as Percy enters the New Roman and Greek Art Gallery on a school field trip, and, indeed, it does. Percy's substitute teacher morphs into a mythical beast and tries to attack him, and it's revealed that Percy is the son of Poseidon, and a true demigod. Percy also discovers that Grover is really a satyr--half-human, half-goat--and his sworn protector, and that one of his teachers is a centaur--half-horse, half-man--who's more committed to Percy's education than he could ever have imagined. On top of it all, Percy is the prime suspect in the recent theft of Zeus's lightning bolt and is being hunted by the gods. Following these shocking revelations, Percy is taken to a special training camp to learn to control and use his exceptional powers, and in the process, his mother is imprisoned by Hades. Against all advice, Percy, his protector Grover, and Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario), daughter of Athena, leave camp to rescue Percy's mother from the underworld. Their quest is extremely dangerous and puts them squarely in the path of Medusa (Uma Thurman), with her venomous hair and gaze that turns people to stone. The three also battle a five-headed, ...
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Movies, Action Movies, Science Fiction Movies, Hype, Pierce Brosnan, Rosario Dawson, Logan Lerman, Sean Bean, Uma Thurman, Alexandra Daddario, Steve Coogan, Brandon T Jackson, Jake Abel


Director: Chris Columbus
Genre: Action, Adventure
Release Date: February 12, 2010
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Screen Writer: Craig Titley, Joe Stillman
DVD Release Date: June 29, 2010
Runtime: 120 minutes
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