8 February 2010 | DICK STEEL
A Nutshell Review: Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief
I guess you know the drill already. With the Lord of the Rings making Hollywood studios go into a frenzy in adapting the many fantasy books out there, not everything Tinseltown touched turned to box office gold, and more often than not, save for that famous boy wizard, what could have been pilots of franchises, became no more than false starts. I suppose it goes to show that a solid story is still fundamental, other than making yet another special effects extravaganza to try and wow a growingly jaded audience.
So the verdict for Percy Jackson & the Olympians? I dare say I was impressed by how engaging it was, so much so that 2 hours just flew by, but that doesn't mean that it didn't have its fair share of plot loopholes for you to ridicule, or clichés that make you chuckle that these are still utilized in this day and age. Simply put, if the Greek gods and goddesses were all powerful, especially that of Zeus, well the first few minutes as played by Sean Bean, made him out to be a clueless weakling who had his all powerful lightning bolt being stolen from under his nose, like taking candy from a kid, and now the kid's throwing a bad tantrum, threatening the fate of the world and that of Olympus (erm, the Empire State Building in New York, anyone?) unless his accused, the titular thief and demigod son of Poseidon (Kevin McKidd) coughs out his favourite toy.
But that is only if Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman) is guilty in the first place, given that he actually doesn't know his half-god lineage no thanks to Poseidon being horny enough (as do the other gods in their frequent visits to the human earth) to impregnate Sally Jackson (Catherine Keener), and then Sally deciding to keep Percy safe from jealous harm from other godly beings, because being the son of Zeus, Poseidon and Hades (Steve Coogan) is a big thing actually, the three being big daddies and sworn brothers in this mythology.
But of course in one fell swoop, all hell breaks loose, Percy discovers that a Pen can indeed be a powerful weapon, and allies himself with a Satyr Grover (Brandon T. Jackson) his good friend and protector, the cute demigod Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario) - note the necessary trio of heroes in the vein of Harry Potter here given that they're demigods, but still need to go to a Hogwarts equivalent to hone their special abilities, amongst other Greek god offsprings numbering in the hundreds (told you they were horny), in the middle of a nowhere forest, demarcated by a sign board and a force field to keep out muggles, I mean, humans.
Being an introductory film to the world of the Olympians, we learn facts like why Percy's such a big deal (no he didn't repel the biggest foe in the franchise), and the little do's and don'ts they have to learn from the likes of the centaur Chiron (Pierce Brosnan). But kids being kids, and wanting to save his mom from the clutches of Hell, Percy and his friends embark on an American cross country road trip, and in the meantime try to decipher just who could that Thief be, having 14 days as the deadline to meet, which forms the basis of incidents and episodes that the trio come face to face with in exhibiting their powers (well, actually only Percy's).
Part of the fun is to see how other notable names in the casting list get to play up their gods and demon status. Uma Thurman stars as Medusa, spruced up by special effects snakes adorned on her head, which at certain points looked quite CG-ed for its own good. Or having Rosario Dawson star as Persephone in quite fed-up manner, and the lists goes on. Suffice to say that many of the appearances here are quite self contained in the scene they appear in, that they rarely re-appear again until the sequel (already announced for next year). Joe Pantoliano hams it up as Percy's muggle, I mean human step dad, and I was somewhat impressed by the extremely mean looking CG design of Hades, which can really strike fear with his appearance. The one that came out in the bonfire, that is.
With Clash of the Titans coming just round the corner, one wonders whether it may suffer from an audience jaded with this version's interpretation of Greek mythology, plus the uncanny use of the same villainous types that would prove detrimental by the time Titans come around. I guess that remains to be seen. Meanwhile, stay tuned when the end credits start rolling, as there's a scene that'll come on as soon as the cast list rolls off. And I certainly have no clue why "The Olympians" were dropped from the title of its release here.