Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief managed to surpass expectations and defy first impressions right from the opening scene. For some reason, I was expecting more of a cutesy version of Harry Potter or something. All of these movies being released lately with rather large sized budgets and extravagant special effects usually feature a fairly young cast and fall victim to typecasting. The Lightning Thief was like that for me. While the movie is able to offer an at least somewhat entertaining experience, it still isn’t quite good enough to be considered great.
Once Sean Bean was shown as Zeus, I knew this film would at least be somewhat decent. Sean Bean is one of the greatest underrated actors of our time and even though some of the projects he chooses to be in turn out to be more than a little weak (like The Hitcher remake), his performance is usually still worth sitting through mediocrity for. The look Zeus gives Poseidon (Kevin McKidd) right after he opens the door to Olympus when they speak at the beginning is crazy amusing like Zeus is just begging for Poseidon to start a fight or something. The cast for The Lightning Thief was actually really surprising. Turns out a lot of fairly big named actors were attached to this movie; Pierce Brosnan, Rosario Dawson, Joe Pantoliano, and Uma Thurman. All of them put in pretty solid performances, as well. So the strong, recognizable cast was an enjoyable surprise.
The visual effects are also one of the strengths of the movie. Grover’s goat legs demonstrate that fact rather well, but that’s only scratching the surface. The effects soon become more detailed during the minotaur fight and as we see Percy (Logan Lerman) learn to use water to his advantage. If there was such thing as a main event featured for the special effects, it would be a tie between the hydra battle and the intricate details of the underworld. Monsters are incredibly detailed and their motions have a natural flow to them while the underworld and Olympus are established well enough to feel like entirely different, majestic worlds than the one you started in.
That’s when the movie begins to hiccup and its flaws slowly evolve into gaping wounds. The dialogue is really atrocious at times; like cringe-worthy. Most of it falls on Grover’s (Brandon T. Jackson) shoulders as it seems like he spends the majority of the movie saying, “Come on!” over and over more than anything. When he finally does say something else, it’s typically something really obvious (after a car crash, he gets out of the car and says, “Watch out! There’s glass!”) or extremely corny (when they arrive to the location of the first pearl, Grover eloquently adds, “This place really needs an extreme makeover!”). Uma Thurman even falls guilty to having terrible lines. She fits the Medusa role particularly well, but once she meets Percy Jackson she has to throw in, “I used to date your daddy!” It probably wouldn’t have been so bad if she hadn’t tried to sound menacing at the same time. It just…didn’t work.
There seemed to be one detour too many from the simple storyline, as well. Percy Jackson learns that he’s the son of Poseidon and goes to Camp Half-Blood to train and develop his skills. In the meantime, Zeus thinks Percy has stolen his lightning bolt and gives a deadline of fourteen days for it to be returned. Otherwise Zeus will start a war amongst the gods. Hades shows up at the camp wanting the lightning bolt. He reveals he has Percy’s mother in the underworld and Percy sets out to find her with Grover and Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario), the daughter of Athena. They travel the US searching for the pearls of Persephone (Rosario Dawson), which will allow them to leave the underworld once they finally retrieve Percy’s mother. There’s a scene where Grover is driving while Annabeth and Percy are asleep. Grover falls asleep at the wheel and they almost crash, so they decide to stop at a hotel. They never sleep though. Percy goes for a swim, Annabeth talks to him, and Grover watches TV. Then they get back on the road. The entire hotel scene could’ve probably been cut, as well. Did we really need to see Grover dance or the kids experience a watered down version of The Hangover? It was almost like a family friendly version of Fear and Loathing when they bit into those Lotus flowers and nobody who’s a fan of Terry Gilliam’s film wants to see that. Is anyone else starting to think of Grover from “Sesame Street” whenever you read that name yet? The story felt simple, but it unfolded as if it was trying to be more complex in its execution.
There was one scene near the end of the film with Poseidon talking to Percy Jackson where he tells Percy, “If you ever need me, I’ll be there for you…in your thoughts and in your dreams.” What kind of crappy parenting is that, man? I won’t actually be there in person, but you can think about me or dream about me and that’ll be close enough. Oh and I hope you don’t mind me not paying child support all these years. I am a god after all. Seriously, Poseidon? Weak sauce.
Lastly, the splendid special effects were a little precarious at times. The scene with the centaurs running, where you first realize Mr. Brunner (Pierce Brosnan) is a centaur, is probably the best example. It just looked sketchy, unnatural, and off-putting. There are moments like that scattered throughout the film. The computer generated effects are mostly top notch, but every once in awhile you stumble onto something that doesn’t look quite right that sours the whole thing.
Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief is a mostly entertaining fantasy adventure effort with spectacular effects and a mostly solid cast. Its semi-erratic storyline and weak dialogue ruin what would otherwise be a fantastic experience. Brandon T. Jackson doesn’t help matters, but the movie does show shades of Narnia which is something to be proud of. In the end, The Lightning Thief falls short of achieving greatness and has to settle for being shelved somewhere between disappointment and ordinariness.
Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief will be playing at the Edwards Marq*E IMAX 23 movie theater Wednesday, June 29th at 10am. Be sure to check out this article for more information on Regal Entertainment’s Summer Movie Express.
The Edwards Marq*E is the only theater in the Houston area offering the Summer Movie Express. Dates and a list of films are available right here (click on “See Dates and Movies”).
Sources: imdb.com, regmovies.com, takesontech.com, flixster.com