Movie Review ~ Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lighting Thief
© 2010 by Joyce Mason
All Rights Reserved
Virgos are supposed to be great critics—both book and movie reviewers. I could not resist trying my hand at the game with the debut of the movie, “Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief.” (I will refer to it as Lightning Thief from here on out. What were they thinking with such a long, tongue-twister title? It took me three days to memorize it. Uh, what’s it called again?)
Lightning Thief is a mythological movie that brings the gods down to earth in modern times through their demi-god offspring, three teenagers played by Logan Lerman (Percy), Brandon T. Jackson (Grover) and Alexandra Daddario (Annabeth).
Pierce Brosnan stars as my spiritual mentor, Chiron. You know, the centaur who has a recurring role on this blog.
To see how Hollywood “did Chiron” was one of the major lures of the movie for me.
I can’t help but wonder if the producers consulted an astrologer on the release date of this film, just days before an exact conjunction between Neptune and Chiron. These two characters are key players in the movie, and it’s even more cosmic and mythical if no one was conscious of their meet-up in the sky.
Interspersed throughout this review are quotes from a real movie reviewer and certainly my reliable favorite, Roger Ebert. As a born-and-bred Chicagoan, I love the Sun Times critic for his old home location and casual wit. His full review of The Lightning Thief is linked here, and I think you’ll agree, this guy gives great raised quotes! (Roger’s a Gemini, born 18-Jun-42 in Urbana, IL).
For a Good Time, Pretend You’re Going to See Harry Potter
I have to say outright; we’re not talking Oscar caliber, deep or cerebral cinema here. Park your disbelief and leave it locked in the car, but bring your sense of humor and adventure. Lightning Thief was directed by Chris Columbus who did the first two Harry Potter movies, so it’s no surprise that there’s the same quality to the film, down to the trio of two male and one female friends who are on a quest, fighting alls sorts of demons and god/esses gone amuck. There’s even a school involved, of course. Otherwise, why would Chiron be there?
I’d rate it higher than most of the reviews I’ve read—a solid 3 to 3.5 out of 5 stars. But then, I’ll be the first to admit; I’m easily entertained.
The Story Line
Percy Jackson goes underwater to think where he can hold his breath for seven minutes at a time. Before long, we understand why. He is the son of Poisidon (aka: Neptune) and a mortal woman. Many people around Percy are secretly mythical beings disguised as “normal” in his everyday world. Soon Percy must learn the truth about himself. He’s in danger because Zeus (Sean Bean) is powerfully peeved that someone has made off with his most potent lightning bolt—and the Z-god thinks it’s Percy. This is actually not the case, which makes Percy’s imminent danger all the more thrilling, because he has to find a way to clear his name. He can’t just turn over what Zeus wants and fix the problem. Percy is given till the Summer Solstice—two weeks away—to return Zeus’s lightning bolt or the gods will stage a war that’s likely to destroy the earth. Talk about pressure, especially when you don’t even have the thing in the first place. Believe me, after seeing Zeus’s temper in action in this film, I’ll no longer await my Jupiter transits like they’re upcoming picnic days with ice cream.
Because he’s so sure Percy stole the lightning bolt, Zeus is on the outs again with his brother, Poiseidon, the kid’s absent father. But he’s absent for a reason. Zeus has forbidden the gods, who have borne half-breeds with humans, to see their children, which sets up some wonderful lines and wonderings about “Daddy issues.” There are some Mommy issues, too.
To spare you any spoilers, I’ll go light on the plot but comment that there are moments of witty comedy in-between never a dull moment of action heroics and edge-of-your-seat happenings.
Director Chris Columbus has fun with this goofy premise, but as always I am distracted by the practical aspects of the story. Does it bother the Greek gods that no one any longer knows or cares that they rule the world? What are the genetic implications of human/god interbreeding? ~ Roger Ebert
Compliments to the Casting Director
Although I have mixed feelings about Pierce Brosnan as Chiron, which you’ll read below, in general, the cast was most appealing. Catherine Keener as Percy’s mom is sweet and long-suffering, putting up with spouse Gabe Ugliano, who has ugly in his name for a good reason. If he were one of the mythical beings, it would be half-pig. I’m sorry to say, he’s an abusive, base, woman demeaning creep. Percy says as much and stands up to his stepfather with help from Grover in a defining moment. Gabe is played by someone who has the creep factor down pat, Joe Pantoliano, best known as Ralphie from The Sopranos.
Uma Thurman demonstrates she can wear a snake-covered head as gracefully as Pierce Brosnan can trot around with a horse's netherlands. ~ Roger Ebert
Rosario Dawson is hot as Persephone, and even though we know he’s the same kind of animal—far worse than Gabe Ugliano—when Hades takes form in Steve Coogan, he’s utterly magnetic. He made me see why I used to go for all those Plutonian guys!
Although her appearance is tantamount to a short cameo near the end, Melina Kanakaredes (Stella Bonasera in CSI:NY) is breathtaking as Athena. A beautiful woman in urban America, in her goddess garb, Melina’s classic Greek looks are even more stunning in their natural element. The “real” Athena could not have been more beautiful.
Who Would You Have Cast as Chiron?
To his credit, Pierce did a wonderful job of capturing Chiron’s kind, caring, but task-mastering spirit, training his young charges constantly for battle, presumably both literal hand-to-hand combat and their future struggles between good and evil. He looked a little young for the job in my mind, and like all the gods and demi-gods portrayed in this movie, he was almost too handsome. My disbelief was barking from the car that his horse half did not look too authentic nor its intersection, hidden by a wide leather belt, but since I’ve never seen a centaur, what do I know? At least I can agree with Roger Ebert that he wore it well. Chiron gives a one liner toward the end that encapsulates the point of all spiritual warrior training when he tells Percy why he’s his favorite student.
Give Brosnan a lot credit for wearing the back half of a horse as if he'd been doing it for years. ~ Roger Ebert
If you’re curious about Pierce’s birth data, note that it was time for Chiron to shine through him, given the close square between his Taurus Sun and the Neptune/Chiron conjunction. This show had to go on!
Don’t Miss the REAL Ending
Stop! Don’t head for the exits as soon as the credit start to roll or you’ll miss one of the best and funniest scenes in the entire movie, even though it’s entirely predictable, once you see where the action is headed. I had to look up the term for what I’m talking about—a post-credit scene, also known as a movie coda. I don’t want to spoil the fun for you. Let’s just say that someone gets his or hers in a way that’s not only satisfying down to the viewer’s toes for instant karma; it also juxtaposes a scene for which this actor is famous, and I didn’t even get the play on it till I got home. I have to give a lot of credit to any movie that keeps on giving after some and all of the credits.
If any of my reactions tempt you to see The Lighting Thief—or if you’ve already seen it—I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments. I really enjoyed myself.
Photo Credit: Marquee ~ © oxygen64 - Fotolia.com
Pierce Brosnan as Chiron ~ Filmofilia.com, used by permission
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