Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief
Author Rick Riordan has written a series of children’s books based on his protagonist, Percy Jackson, as the son of a Greek God, Poseidon (Kevin McKidd) and an ordinary American woman, Sally Jackson (Catherine Keener). According to this film, the fictional Olympian gods are alive right now. Worse, or better, they copulate with humans, begetting children, who are, as a result, demigods half-god, half-human, just like the heroic Greek myths of old.
In the books, Percy is 12-years-old. The filmmakers changed his age to a post-pubescent teenager, apparently so the film could appeal to a category other than pre-pubescent boys. They needn’t have bothered. This film is so poorly directed that they will be lucky if even 10-year-old boys will swallow it. In doing so, however, they have made a film out of books aimed for children that is inappropriate for children.
The plot is that Percy (Logan Lerman) is suddenly thrust from his plodding life as a dyslexic high school student into an otherworld having to find Zeus’ (Sean Bean) lightning rod that has been stolen and find his mother, who has been abducted by Hades (Steve Coogan). Accompanying him is his best friend, crippled Grover (Brandon T. Jackson), who is a satyr. Grover seems to have known all along he was a satyr put there to protect Percy, but Percy has no clue about whom his father was until this film came along.
This film is replete with plot holes. I haven’t read any of the books, but I must imagine that they were all imported from the books. The biggest one for me is that Percy is somehow directed to some sort of training camp where there is a whole army of young people who spend all their time learning how to fight with swords and shields. Here are all these gods with unlimited power, living in the time of atomic weapons and guns and such and these people are learning how to fight with swords? Given the fact that the gods are capable of walking and copulating with humans in the world of the 21st Century, that seems incomprehensible, even for a 10-year-old mind.
This is directed by Chris Columbus, who has only one credit that impresses me, 1990’s imaginative “Home Alone.” Unfortunately, he has followed that up with things like 1993’s “Mrs. Doubtfire,” a sexist Robin Williams vehicle that I loathed, 2009’s “I Love You, Beth Cooper,” about which the less said the better, and two “Harry Potter” fantasies.
Even so, the movie does have some assets. Screenwriter Craig Titley comes up with some pretty good lines during the two-hour course of this film, and also takes a shot at President Obama in a metaphoric speech near the end of the film. And Logan Lerman gives his second good outing in a row, following up on 2009’s “My One and Only,” in which he played a role based on the young George Hamilton.
There are also good performances by Keener, whom I’ve rarely seen do anything that wasn’t outstanding, and Uma Thurman as Medusa. Counterbalancing them is Pierce Brosnan, appearing, literally, as a horse’s ass, who comes close to being more laughable than he was in “Mamma Mia,” where he was miscast in a singing role.