Movie Review: Percy Jackson & The Lightning Thief (2010)

March 17, 2010 in Movie Reviews by pacejmiller

Percy Jackson & The Lightning Thief (also known as Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief – too long for my liking) was not as bad as I expected.  That doesn’t mean it was good though.

The usual reaction to what seems like a Harry Potter rip-off is to not give it a chance, call it derivative and find ways to discredit the film.  The thought did cross my mind initially, but I went in with an open mind and a clean slate.

However, while I enjoyed the premise of the “Olympians” and the exploration of Greek mythology (I love that stuff), and the film does have some innovative moments and a bit of excitement, Percy Jackson (based on the best-selling book series by Rick Riordan) is riddled with character and plot issues.

The acting is certainly no worse than say any of the first few in the Harry Potter series or The Golden Compass or Twilight, but the three central characters (Percy, Grover and Annabeth) all lack charm.  There isn’t much to these teenagers and they are there to simply push the plot along.  I was, however, surprised to see such an all-star supporting cast (having not really heard of the book series much), which includes Catherine Keener, Pierce Brosnan, Uma Thurman and Rosario Dawson.

Anyway, my biggest gripe with Percy Jackson is the contrived plot.  I’m usually quite forgiving when it comes to such things, but when almost every event is skewed for a forced purpose that lacks sense or logic, it can be very irritating.  There are lots of “coincidences”; convenient and fortuitous things that occur just when the characters happen to need something.  I haven’t read the books, so I’m not sure whose fault this is, though I read somewhere that there are significant differences between the novel and the film.

Naturally, this leads to lots of plot holes.  You don’t even have to look for plot holes or inconsistencies or failures in logic – because they are absolutely everywhere.  They are so glaring that you can’t avoid them even if you wanted to.  I know this is supposed to be a fantasy, but if it’s set in the real world, I would expect there to be at least a little bit of real world logic.

Further, the tone of the film is very uneven.  There are a few half-decent (though mostly lame) jokes thrown in there, but Percy Jackson chops and changes between dead seriousness and kiddish fun, often without a transition period.  It just feels weird, and part of this may be because Percy is supposed to be younger in the books (like 12 or something), but in the movie he is, and acts, a lot older (like 16 or 17).

I probably sound harsher than I was trying to be in this review.  Percy Jackson is not totally horrible and there are enjoyable moments, but there are too many problems with it for me to give it anything more than 2.5 stars out of 5!

[PS: SPOILER ALERT – a few of the things that irked me.  One, why did everyone think Percy, who, at that stage had done absolutely nothing except be a normal teenager, stole the lightning?  There was absolutely no evidence, not even circumstantial, to suggest that he knew anything about it.  Two, how the heck did Luke manage to steal the lightning?  I assume it must not have been easy.  Three, why do those kids at the camp fight with real swords and weapons and actually get seriously hurt?  There is no way people don’t lose limbs and die from those ‘training’ exercises.  Am I the only one that thinks there is something wrong with this?]