Two and a Half Torches (Out of Five)
After watching Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (a cumbersome title if ever there was one), I left the theater with this thought at the forefront of my mind: if you try too hard to be the next Harry Potter, you never will be.
A young male hero, who learns of his magical identity which has been hidden from him all his life. Brought to a school where he and other children like him learn to use their powers. A wise-cracking male friend to serve as the comic relief. A know-it-all female companion whose skills outshine the boys, but if only she were more likable …
That having been said, the movie had its strengths. Thanks to cutting-edge CGI technology, we can now behold photo-realistic creatures that up until now had to exist solely in the minds of Greek myth geeks like myself. Uma Thurman as Medusa was particularly cool — I’ve never thought of Medusa as seductive, but after this it will be hard not to.
Pierce Brosnan, who I’ve never really had any strong feelings about in the past, was perfectly cast as Chiron, the wise centaur, and I’ll go on record saying the movie has hands-down the best centaur effect I’ve ever seen. (How’s that for an accolade?)
Many of the performances were strong. Kevin McKidd, so magnetic in HBO’s Rome, made for a sympathetic Poseidon, and Sean Bean’s Zeus was a younger, leaner version of the King of the Gods than the Zeuses we’ve seen in the past.
But for all the shine and polish of the adult actors and the digital effects, the story doesn’t hold up as interesting on its own, and the three young lead actors don’t hold a candle to those other three young lead actors. You know who I’m talking about.
What made the first Harry Potter film so effective on screen is that it captured — in full, child-like wonder — what it must feel like to be at Hogwarts, to suddenly learn you can use magic, to fly on a broomstick. It had the sense of awe and splendor one would imagine goes hand in hand with entering a brave new world.
Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman), on the other hand, adjusts to his new life awfully quickly and easily, and before long he is whisked away to Camp Half-Blood, a training facility for demigods. Rather than the fully realized world of Hogwarts, Camp Half-blood is filled with teenagers dressed in jeans and casual shirts, with Grecian leather armor over their regular clothes. The effect is not mystical and awe-inspiring, but instead looks like a crowd of adolescents engaged in a complex LARP game.
I always have high hopes for fantasy movies, and it warmed my heart to see the theater filled with children and young teens who had clearly read the book and were excited about seeing the movie. I’m sure they all care very passionately about the characters and the story.
If only they knew they were eating leftovers.
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