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Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief

Fantasy-adventure film directed by Chris Columbus

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Like Harry Potter, but with Greek Gods

  • Aug 24, 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 similar location to Harry Potter's sorcerer's stone in the first Harry Potter movie. There are some differences, but I'd say this comes dangerously close to infringing on J. K. Rowling's copyright.

That being said, there's actually much to like about the film. If you liked Harry Potter, you'll probably enjoy Percy Jackson & The Olympians - although not as much. The special effects generally work well enough. And the plot is pretty surprising and has some unexpected twists. Best of all for action fans is that Percy Jackson & The Olympian doesn't suffer from much downtime. It flows pretty smoothly and quickly, keeping you glued to the screen (so that means there are no insufferable ballroom dance scenes as in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire).

Now for the bad. Something about this film just seems like less than the sum of its parts. It never evokes that sense of wonder that The Lord Of The Rings movies do. I can't pinpoint it. Perhaps it's the forgettable soundtrack. It might also be the fact that the boundaries between the world of Greek mythology and that of humanity aren't really clear. The characters never really leave the real world, but rather rely on drinking fountains and fight on top of skyscrapers. Meanwhile, the kids play capture the flag - except for the swords, it looks almost like day camp. I think what really dragged the movie down were those downright silly moments when it seems like the director just wasn't paying attention. For example, during the Medusa scene, the kids run across an old lady who is scared - and, quite frankly, is obviously only there to become Medusa-fodder. The predictability is tolerable, but the way she succumbs to Medusa is pathetic. She literally cannot resist the temptation to look at Medusa, even though she knows it will turn her into stone. God, anybody that stupid deserves to die.

Percy Jackson & The Olympians does have an A-list cast (something curiously enough the Harry Potter films didn't have), with Pierce Brosnan (Chiron), Uma Thurman (Medusa), Sean Bean (Zeus), Rosario Dawson (Persephone), and even Logan Lerman Percy Jackson himself). However, I think this only contributed to the problem - seeing so many familiar faces so horribly miscast. Brosnan plays a centaur who plays a mentor figure, kind of like Dumbledore with a "horse's ass" (Chiron's quote to describe his character). However, after seeing Brosnan so often as the suave gentleman, he sticks out like - well, a guy with a horses butt. Meanwhile, Medusa as a Uma Thurman the seductress? Without a snake's body no less. That's not the Medusa we all know and love from Greek mythology! Even Sean Bean just doesn't seem able to fill the (admittedly huge) role of Zeus. Dawson - whom I'd never really given much thought to as an actress - as Persephone is the only one who's really convincing. While these are all good actors, I would have preferred Percy Jackson & The Olympians cast them appropriately or not cast them at all.

Overall, I think it's best not to go into Percy Jackson & The Olympians with high expectations. It can be a fun adventure story, particularly for younger audiences. However, it won't make it to the annals of great fantasy films. It's too bad, because the concept behind the movie could have worked really well in the right set of hands.

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August 31, 2010
Percy Jackson & The Olympians does have an A-list cast (something curiously enough the Harry Potter films didn't have) ? Say just out of curiosity which of the following do you think doesn't qualify as an A-list actor? John Hurt - Helena Bonham Carter - Ralph Fiennes - Alan Rickman - Gary Oldman - Emma Thompson? I'll match them with your Pierce Brosnan any day, you only need to see him in Mama Mia to see his real acting worth. The Harry Potter films are very well cast and put reliance on rather good actors, they may not be the biggest names but that is/was unnecessary since the Harry Potter by itself will draw the crowds. Instead the focus was on really good British actors and I daresay Rowling had something to do with the pick. I'd rate Percy lower than you, for it is cheap in most ways and the story is inferior. The drawing from Greek Mythology is superficial and lacks depth. It is more a summary of things to be added as the story goes along and as you yourself clearly stated - It is trying to fill the vacuum of Harry Potter and quite frankly does not.
August 31, 2010
I don't think any of those qualify as true A-list - with the exception of Emma Thompson, who only because famous AFTER Harry Potter, and perhaps Ralph Fiennes. I've never even heard of the other ones. I agree with the rest of your point though, and that's what I was trying to say in my review. A-list actors are often just not appropriate for an epic/fantasy film. Sometimes they draw too much attention away from the plot. Other times, lesser known actors are just better. Star Wars and Lord of the Rings both used a lot of unknowns and were much better for it. I thought much of Harry Potter was superficial and silly at times, but overall it clearly had much more of that movie magic than Percy.
August 24, 2010
Completely agree with your review. One thing that might be contributing to the 'not adding up' bit is that they leave a lot of things out from the book. So much so that I don't see how they would be able to make the sequel and still have it make sense. I had high hopes for this one since the story seemed fitting for the big screen, however, it fell flat. They tried to dumb down an already simple plot/story line.
August 24, 2010
I gave this one a 2.5 myself and while I appreciated the ambition, I thought the direction was a little too shaky. Nice review!
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 . February 15, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
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 …
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
Dominic J Nardi ()
Ranked #77
I am a recent law school grad with an interest in Southeast Asia legal issues. Unfortunately for my checkbook, ever since high school I have been addicted to good books. I have eclectic tastes, although … 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, Rosario Dawson, Pierce Brosnan, Logan Lerman, Sean Bean, Uma Thurman, Brandon T Jackson, Jake Abel, Alexandra Daddario, Steve Coogan


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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