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>> Sunday, February 21, 2010

I can't believe we're about to battle Harry Potter!

As the Harry Potter series begins to come to an end this year it’s no wonder why a movie like The Lightning Thief would come to be. It’s a successful book series that has monsters, people with powers and a hero that believes he will never amount to anything great. But compared to Potter, it has the potential to be much better.

Zac Efron look-a-like Logan Lerman is a poor, poor kid who lives in the slums with his adoptive parents who give stereotypes a bad name. The hardworking mother (played just a’ight by Catherine Keener ) irons and loves and supports her son, Percy, while his alcoholic step-father actually orders his woman to get him a beer when he gets home, wears plaid and slaps his woman’s ass (and is also a gross, GROSS underuse and almost insult of Joe Pantoliano). Despite this typical upbringing, Percy (sounding a lot like Perseus) is very talented, especially when it comes to swimming and holding his breath underwater for 7+ minutes. It’s enough to make one say “Oh…my… GOD !”. (*PS – Despite my use of this pun to entertain myself momentarily, I’m genuinely glad this line wasn’t actually in the movie).

On a field trip to a museum exhibit with his class, his substitute teacher, Mrs. Dodds, takes Percy to a private area of the museum and literally jumps out of her skin and turns into a ‘fury’ (a winged beast who looks like an over-sized bat) who tells Percy to give her Zeus’ lightning bolt which as we learned has been stolen, and everyone seems to think it was Percy ‘who dun it’. That’s where Percy’s real journey begins.

He learns his dyslexia is actually a natural way for him to read Greek, and his ADHD is just his natural battle skins yearning to get out, which, after a sword fight with his new potential love interest Annabeth (Athena’s daughter), seems to be the truth as he goes from iPod playin’ street kid to battle warrior in a matter of only minutes. On his way to a camp (to hone his battle skills) just for the bastard children of Gods, his mother (who knew all along about Percy’s gifts) gets kidnapped by Hades, who tells Percy he must bring him the lightning bolt or he will banish Percy’s mother to the underworld forever. So Percy, Annabeth and Percy’s Narnia -inspired goat friend, Grover, take off on a journey to save his mother and return the lightning bolt.

Not being sure what to expect to begin with, it's hard to not be impressed with anything that’s better than a bad adaptation of a book I've never heard of. However, that's not to say I wasn't genuinely entertained once Lightning Thief got past all the intro stuff and Percy started on his quest.

Superhuman movie intros are always sticky though - filled with montages and sometimes meaningless character development when all you really want to see is all the cool things they can do. In the case of films like Spider-man I was terribly bored in the first hour because as a viewer and a fan I was there to see him in the Spidey suit and kicking ass; everything leading up to that point was plain, simple filler. In a movie like Lightning Thief you want to see what this guy can do with his new powers and you find until that first hour passes you're rolling your eyes a little and kinda ‘not impressed’ - especially when Joe Pantoliano is uttering lines like “Sally, get me more beer!”

Despite all that, though, I liked this film. Because once it picked up – it picked up nicely. This includes questionably small roles for Uma Thurman and Rosario Dawson, who play Medusa and Persephone respectively. The movie ends strong though and shows promise for upcoming sequels now that it’s found its footing a bit. As aforementioned it has the potential to be better than Harry Potter. Lightning Thief’s first chapter starts with teens who are almost graduating high school, therefore aging through the next four or five films won’t be as big and noticeable an issue as it has been with the Potter series. It also aims at an older audience from the get go which means perhaps some more mature themes will be the focus and we’ll get less ‘puff’.

The other plus here is that I actually got joy out of seeing some of the Greek gods and seeing the way they worked a lot of that Greek mythology into the film (including the beheading of Medusa). It’s nice seeing some of those plot points based on actual ancient lore instead of hearing made up words and phrases like in Harry Potter (this also includes you Lord of the Rings – not you Avatar).

So for all those fans of Potter who are desperately searching for the next book-turned-movie series to fill the hole that the Hogwarts dwelling wizard is sure to leave, I think Percy Jackson might be the man to take his place. The door to Olympus is open here, so if you’re up for some good old fashioned snake-haired women and lightning bolt-wielding Gods, then this is a movie you’re going to want to check out – at least until Clash of the Titans is released.

*Stills courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox


Alex Chandler March 6, 2010 at 10:02 AM  

Ya, I went and saw this one, and you are right in that it was nice seeing real Greek mythology built in.

Bryon June 10, 2011 at 8:59 PM  

Much like the Harry Potter series this movie has potential for young adults if it continues. Because Percy is 16 in the first movie, he will bring in a generation of young adults who are watching him find his way like they are. Luckily since we have a rich tradition of stories about the Greek gods there is a plethora of material for Rick Riordan. I love to rent movies on my DISH Network employee HD DVR because it’s so convenient and reasonably priced. This movie was available in VOD in HD and I won’t watch my movies any other way because I want the best quality on my TV. Honestly I won’t watch any TV other than in HD and since DISH has more HD channels than any other provider right now I never lack finding something to watch.

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