Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief

Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (2010)
★★ / ★★★★

Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman) thought that he was nobody special but was, in fact, the son of Poseidon (Kevin McKidd). After Hades (Steve Coogan) kidnapped Percy’s mother (Catherine Keener) because he believed that the boy had stolen Zeus’ lightning, Percy, his best friend (Brandon T. Jackson) and Athena’s daughter (Alexandra Daddario) went on a quest to find a way to go to the underworld, rescue Percy’s mom, and save the world. Based on a series of novels by Rick Riordan, the film impressed me with its special and visual effects but the big picture left me wanting more. It’s strange because for a two-hour undoubtedly thrilling action-adventure, it felt somewhat like an empty experience because it failed to really explore its characters except for exposing their most obvious quirks and dominant personalities. I like Logan Lerman as an actor but there were times when I spotted weaknesses in his acting. Some of the lines he delivered fell completely flat and I caught myself either rolling my eyes or chuckling because I just did not believe the words that were coming out of his mouth. There was a disconnect between him and the character and therefore his character and the audiences. This was particularly glaring during the most emotional scenes when he was supposed to summon sadness or rage. Perhaps if he was given more takes, he could have nailed the lines. However, as far as children’s adventures, I hardly think the movie was a failure. I enjoyed many scenes such as the duel with a minotaur, a nice surprise on who played Medusa (and I think she did a wonderful job), and that brilliant scene in Las Vegas in the Lotus Casino (it was nice that it illuminated why it was called as such). It was fun to watch, despite the characters making unnecessarily stupid decisions, lacking internal dialogue and angst, because it was very energetic and creative when required. If a sequel is in store for “Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief,” directed by Chris Columbus, I’ll be interested in watching it. People have compared this film to “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” and its sequel so I’m curious to see if it can grow as a strong franchise. In order for it to achieve “Harry Potter”-level, it is going to need more focus on the story and characters, much stronger acting especially from the lead, and more magic via playing with our expectations and emotions.

3 replies »

  1. Franz,

    I’ll open by saying that I absolutely hated this film. I agree about what you said about Logan Lerman, although I think not even the best actor in the world could have made some of his lines come to life. If you want to get a good performance out of Logan Lerman, I think the solution lies somewhere near what was done in the seriously underrated ‘My One and Only’; give him a role in which most of the time he can simply live off of his charm, and if you need him to do some real acting, then give him scenes that suit his acting temperament (witness some of his most dramatic scenes opposite Renee Zellweger in ‘MOaO’). In his worst scenes in ‘Percy Jackson’, it’s almost like the bombast of even the emotional scenes sort of makes him lose his focus and tread into over-acting.

    As for the comparisons to Harry Potter, I think they get at something important about ‘Percy Jackson’. At times, it feels like a rip-off of Rowling’s universe. PJ’s three main characters have almost exactly the same dynamic as Harry, Hermione and Ron, and the training camp element was eerily similar as well. It might seem a little lazy to compare Percy Jackson to Harry Potter, since Chris Columbus directed ‘The Sorcerer’s Stone’, but while the PJ universe is far less interesting, the two films share one overarching weakness, which I attribute mostly to Columbus; their complete lack of any sense of danger. PJ didn’t manage to strike a balance between humor and drama, and the jokes were sometimes incredibly bad.

    I can’t get myself to hope for a sequel.

    As usual, though, your review challenged me to define and defend my views, which is never a bad thing.

  2. “My One and Only” is on Netflix my queue. I’m not sure when it’ll be available on DVD, though. But definitely looking forward to it. I know deep inside that Lerman can act. I mean, we were 2 out of 9 people who saw “J&B.” =p

    I actually didn’t catch the parallels between the 3 characters here and “Harry Potter” so thanks for that. I thought people simply compared the two because Chris Columbus directed both.

    You should hope for a sequel so it can redeem itself! haha

  3. “Great special effects but I just could not get past this Hollywood preoccupation with having to make every hero an American, and set every film in America, no matter whether it spoils the movie or not. But in this film they made it one degree more ridiculous by portraying the inheritor of Poseidon’s powers inexplicably as a New York jew (Logan Lerman). Still, at least he got the brunette goyische shiksa in the end. And no doubt, if Chris Columbus ever remakes “The Ten Commandments” he’ll make sure Moses has a broad Welsh accent, just to balance things up a bit. “

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