3 out of 5 flames
By Elizabeth Crawford
Gods, Goddess and Greek myths galore–Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief aimed to put the entertaining tales of the past, remixed in a modern era on the big screen. Now more than a decade after its release, a TV-show reboot is in the works between Disney and author of the book series, Rick Riordan. I decided to rewatch the movie for old time’s sake and figure out what went wrong in the movie compared to the book, and more importantly what future watchers might hope to see differently in the upcoming show.
The Lightning Thief follows troubled teen Percy Jackson, a son of Poseidon, on a quest to retrieve Zeus’s lost lightning bolt by the summer solstice or there will be war amongst the gods. Percy himself has practically been thrown into a world of Greek myths come to life after he is discovered by a fury, a monster of the underworld. Soon thereafter, Percy is sent to Camp Half-Blood, a safe-haven for demigods. He receives very little training before being sent on a quest with Grover, a satyr, and Annabeth Chase, a daughter of Athena, to retrieve the lost lightning bolt. Adventure ensues, partnered with a healthy amount of heroics and mythical creature fan favorites like Medusa and a multi-headed hydra. As for the acting, it’s a bit patchy throughout the movie. In some scenes, actors Logan Lerman (Percy), Alexandra Daddario (Annabeth) and Brandon T. Jackson (Grover) fulfills their quotas like when Percy first gets to the camp and Grover is showing him around, whereas other times there are integral scenes where the dialogue fell flat. For example, a scene following a run in with Medusa there are some poorly constructed lines from both Brandon T. Jackson and Alexandra Daddario. To be candid, it’s a bit tricky to critique the acting of a character that goes off road from its parallel book character since it’s hard to tell if it’s bad acting or just an inaccurately depicted character. For the most part, it seemed the problem was by way of below average script writing and even worse timing.
To put it bluntly, there seems to have never been such a fantastical blunder in book to movie productions as with the Percy Jackson movies. Rick Riordan, author of the book series was notoriously kept out of much of the movie production. Point blank, there’s a lot to not like about this movie coming from a book nerd’s stand point. To start, Percy is meant to be twelve. No offense to Logan Lerman, he did his best with the cards he was dealt, but the actor by no means looks 12.
Depressingly enough, the plot holes thicken. One of the moments that foreshadow Percy’s parentage in the books is completely left out of the movie all together, as is the bully who prompts the incident from happening. The struggle between demigods and their relationship with their godly parents is a huge plot point in the books and this idea is carried over into the movies, but without much context despite being a main motivator for conflict. All that being said, I absolutely loved this movie as a young kid. The movie tried its best to put a beloved book on screen. I’d say this movie mostly portrays a theme somewhere along the lines of discovering who you are. Percy follows in the footsteps of many of the other half-bloods trying to figure out who they are in the world when their parent is a god. Viewers could see character development for Percy, a boy finally being able to step into shoes he never realized existed before.
The question remains, what would a prospective tv-show watcher look for in the upcoming Disney+ tv-series? I would say three things are necessary to make the project go right: world building, proper characters depictions, and following the book. World building is a top three as plenty of important locations and place descriptions in the books were lost in the shuffle between the books and movie leaving some unanswered questions at the end. Secondly, I would suggest proper character depictions. Considering the appeal of the books was to be relatable to the demographics they were released into, it was disconnecting to see a late teen depicting a character meant for a young boy, as well as important characteristics being completely lost on other characters, truly taking away from their importance in the plot. Thirdly, following the actual book plot would fix a plethora of other problems too long to list. Major plot points would be remedied with the addition of Ares, the god of war, and his daughter, Clarisse. Their entire erasure in the movie left key moments in the film dry and open-ended as to their importance. Looking even further in the future, should the tv-series continue on following the later books, connections would become unclear between the book and movie because of these characters being left out.
This movie is PG, but is family-friendly, and perfect for those intrigued in an exploration of the surface of greek mythology. The movie definitely would do well with a clean up here and there, but overall deserves 3 out of 5 flames should it hit your movie radar. For someone walking into the Percy Jackson series for the first time, the movie does its job as a stand alone, with no prior context. As for a book watcher, the movie gives a nice starting point for what is next to come in the Percy Jackson cinematic universe.