Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief
Time/place: 4:30 showing at Ocean Ranch 7 (w/Tex) with Nick
I was rather certain how to write this review until I sat down to do so. Much like I was with Twilight, I was inspired to research the book series on which it’s based and on its author, and I got a bit wrapped up in all of it. I’ll get to that later, though. For now I’ll attempt to be very subjective and just talk about this movie on its own merits. This horrible, horrible movie.
When the whole thing ended, Nick turned to me and asked "Were the movies we had as kids really this bad?" I had, ironically, thought about the same thing while the movie was playing. I grew up inspired by something like Star Wars… but I also laughed and cheered my way through 3 Ninjas, which is just as stupid as Percy. This movie, no matter what anyone may try to say, is a movie for kids. Not that I think it’s very GOOD for kids, but that’s the aim. Like many things, nowadays, though… the movie makers did what they could to broaden the movie for as wide an audience as possible. In fact, that’s what makes it seem so much worse, when comparing it to the book-
Wait, sorry… just the movie, just the movie.
So, what did I apparently dislike about Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief so much besides its long title? Just about everything. I met some friends this summer, in their 20’s, who are big fans of the book series, so I figured that there could at least be some type of depth to the story. I haven’t read the books, but the movie has absolutely none. When a character thinks someone they love very much has just died, their reaction is… "Oh. Gee, I think that’s sad… hey, look, something else!" The tone is completely indifferent throughout the entire movie. Danger never feels real, the weight of the situation never feels too dire – even though the situation revolves around an Olympian war that would pretty much destroy Earth in the process. Eh, who cares about that… let’s put in a dance scene to Lady GaGa because it’s funny!
So funny :(.
The script is just very flat and boring, though it’s not necessarily "bad" in the way that Twilight might be. I mentioned the movie 3 Ninjas up there for a reason. It’s silly, makes young kids laugh at its silliness, and isn’t good for much else. Basically, it’s not what most would consider a good movie… just something for the kids. Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief is the same way. There are constant conveniences, a humor that borders on grating, and an overall lack of storytelling polish with which an adult could at least just see it as "a movie" without the need to precede that description with "kid’s." But, who cares, right? It IS just a movie for kids, so why be so harsh on it? Kids don’t care. That, my friends, is the most tragic part of the whole thing.
Remember those friends I mentioned earlier? The ones who loved the book series? After seeing this movie and reading up on the story of the books and the author, Rick Riordan, I can’t imagine how they aren’t devastated by this movie they were given. I’ll talk about the specifics below, as per my usual spoiler-free intentions here, but after reading about how the original author was a school teacher who simply wrote a kids book for his son, and after looking at a side-by-side comparison of the difference in plots between the book and the movie, I feel even more sad that this movie wasn’t better. As Nick and I sat in the theater, discussing from our adult male point of view what we liked and didn’t, one of the last audience members to leave was an 8-9 year old girl who was walking out with her mom. The part of the conversation I was able to hear as they walked by was the daughter sadly talking about how one character wasn’t what they were supposed to be… there was a disappointment in her voice that only a kid whose dream has been squashed can have. Granted, I’m sure I’d have issues with the book’s take on certain mythologies and ideas, as well (as I’ve heard parts, already), and I don’t imagine this little girl’s life being ruined, but to know what the movie should have been versus what it was… that makes it all the worse – not for just for my own dissatisfaction, but for its betrayed supporting audience… the kids.
Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief is competent, in that it’s technically sound, the performances are fine, and it isn’t TOO cheesy (all elements which plagued the wonderful Twilight movies), but even on its own it is a fairly forgettable as a boring movie. In light of what it should have been for the fans, though, it’s downright horrible.
Warning: There be spoilers below…
As I mentioned above, the greatest travesty is of a movie betraying the source material’s audience… especially when it’s kids. That’s a big sore spot for me, hence the tone I’ve taken with the review.
To start off with, the book is ABOUT kids. Percy is supposed to be a twelve-year-old kid, as opposed to the high schooler he is in the movie. I know, there are often differences between books and movies that purists find annoying, yet a change like that kind of makes a huge impact on the dynamic of the whole story. I took a look through this extensive list of book-to-movie differences, and while there are minor details altered and certain things eliminated that make sense… the overall culmination of EVERYTHING on this list makes for one heck of a different story:
Simply the fact that the inclusion of the Titan Cronos would have made the entire world of the gods feel bigger and more fun, makes some of these major changes a real mark against the movie makers. Again, though, I can’t harp on the book/movie comparison too much. I probably would have wanted to alter and play with details from the book, myself, but that’s sort of my point – don’t do it. I’m all for artistic interpretation, but in cases like this, the question of "why?" never seems to get asked, and so a movie comes out that is not only very different from the source material, but simply sub-par in general.
As far as the movie’s story goes, though, it’s very simple. The characters go from Point A to Point B and everything is very bland in the process. The hydra attacks our "heroes" in a museum, and it was boring. A HYDRA attacks and it’s BORING?? Oh, yeah, and the same goes for the minotaur. Granted, apparently in the book the minotaur was supposed to wear Fruit-of-the-Loom underwear – but that would’ve been better. The book’s tone seems to understand that it’s silly, childhood fun… a kids’ version of mythology, if you will. The fact that the books were written by an elementary school teacher is proven very much in what tone I have perceived of them. The movie, though, attempted to side-swipe that aspect (while still finding time for some really juvenile jokes and reactions), by hoping to appeal to a bit of an older, hipper generation. If that Wikia is true, changing the fact that a 12-year-old Percy looks at Medusa through a glass ball in the book, to a 17-year-old Percy looking at Medusa on the back of his reflective iPod sets everything up perfectly. Abandoning the almost innocent every-kid aspects of the book to appeal to current trends and older kids somehow makes for a movie that doesn’t seem to appeal to either group.
The Brave Little Toaster is a kids movie, but it’s also just a well-done flick. It’s also really freaking sad. Who DIDN’T cry during the scene between the toaster and the little flower? Kids can handle depth and emotion. When Percy’s mom is grabbed by the minotaur and vanishes into thin air, which is believed by the characters to mean that she’s dead, there’s no real reaction. If a kid sees his mom killed, there should be some gosh darn emotion! There isn’t, though. There never is. In preparation for this massive Olympian war, a giant cloud is apparently covering the whole planet. Does anyone really seem to care? No.. there’s no sense of reality throughout the entire movie, and that’s disappointing to see in ANY movie.
I could probably go on and on, but I won’t. I’m tired and I’ve said enough. Percy Jackson & The Olympians was a pretty lousy movie, but the saddest part for me is what it wasn’t. The fact that the author of the books never even mentions the movie on his blog sums it up well, for me.
Boring and not thought out? Yeah. Disappointing to its originator and fans? Indeed. Mark Mushakian approved? Certainly not :).