Thursday, 13 February 2014

Percy Jackson & The Lightning Thief (2010)

Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman) is a teenager with his share of teenage problems. His mother (Catherine Keener) is living with a douchebag (Joe Pantoliano). He seems to have dyslexia and ADD, and only finds real peace when holding his breath at the bottom of the swimming pool, being timed by his friend, Grover (Brandon T. Jackson). It turns out that Percy is actually a half-blood, the result of a tryst between his mother and his biological father, the god Poseidon (Kevin McKidd). That's why he has dyslexia (his brain is actually designed to read writings in Ancient Greek) and ADD (he's impulsive and good in a fight). And, of course, that's why he likes the water. It's also, unfortunately, why he ends up as the main suspect when Zeus (Sean Bean) has his lightning bolt stolen. The clock starts ticking as Percy learns about himself, learns about many others like him at Camp Half-Blood (including Annabeth, played by Alexandra Daddario), and plans to somehow find, and return, the lightning bolt before the gods start fighting one another. Oh, and he also has to save his mother from Hades.

Based on a popular series of books by Rick Riordan, Percy Jackson & The Lightning Thief is very enjoyable family entertainment that should please fans of the Harry Potter franchise. In fact, that's obviously what everyone was thinking when Chris Columbus was hired as the director. The script from Craig Titley gets all of the information across and paces things perfectly in between some great set-pieces, but there's just something in the execution of the material that stops this from being as great as it should be. It's always entertaining, and there's a lot of fun derived from the updating of the Greek myths, but it suffers greatly, I think, from a weak finale. Especially after the fantastic characters that our plucky group have already encountered before they realise who the real lightning thief is.

Lerman, Jackson and Daddario are all good enough in the main roles, but a lot of the fun here comes from the stars having fun in the supporting roles. Okay, Bean and McKidd are as serious and weighty as they need to be, but Pierce Brosnan is memorable in his supporting turn, Uma Thurman is fantastic as Medusa, and Steve Coogan and Rosario Dawson play well off each other as Hades and Persephone, respectively. Jake Abel seems a bit bland as Luke, a fellow camp resident who provides a lot of help as Percy and his friends prepare for their quest.

All of the choices here, from special effects to music to camerawork, are predictable enough. This is safe family entertainment. It has some grandiose moments, but always works hard to get back to focusing on the teenagers and their teenage ways of working out solutions to their problems (this isn't me being sarcastic, I'm just specifying that the film constantly keeps its target demographic in mind). Unfortunately, despite trying hard, it's probably not cool enough for most teenagers to enjoy. That may explain why the box office performance was pretty disappointing, and it may explain why I like the movie more than many other film fans I know.

Because if there's one thing I know, it's that I have never, ever been cool.


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