The Collegian
Friday, August 14, 2020

Featured Flick: Percy Jackson and the Olympians - The Lightning Thief

Hollywood never shies away from rewriting a good idea, and who can blame it? The stories are already written, mostly, and the ones worth remaking are going to bring in enough cash to make the embarrassingly horrible ones worth it. Sometimes the gamble works -- as it did for Emma Thompson's "Sense and Sensibility" or the Batman movies featuring Christian Bale. But most of the time, remakes are so awkwardly bad that they are hilarious -- as is the case with "Spiderman 3" (you know it was terrible) or "Zathura," that movie about Jumanji in space.

"Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief" is to "Harry Potter" what a WWF wrestling match is to a cage fight -- a weak alternative that is simultaneously confusing and amateurish, or at least hilarious. Three friends -- one boy hero, one boy protector who provides comic relief and one smart girl -- get caught up in a magical world way beyond their maturity levels and solve a major conflict together. Sounds endearing enough for a children's story, right?

"The Lightning Thief" is about what happens when the gods get it on with the plebs. Percy (Perseus) Jackson is the offspring of Poseidon and an abused mother. He finds out he's a demigod when Zeus's lightning bolt vanishes and he's accused of stealing it. His best friend, Grover, reveals himself to be a satyr -- half goat, half human and three-quarters bad mental image -- and they have to go into hiding at a summer camp for other demigods (and Pierce Brosnan, the centaur) that is apparently invisible to everyone else despite being located a few hundred yards off a major highway. Percy's mom disappears into the arm of a Minotaur and everyone spends the next 30 minutes or so using the euphemism "gone" to mean she's in hell. Oh, did I mention this is a kid's movie?

While at camp, Percy meets Annabeth, daughter of Athena, and Hades (who pops out of a fire to threaten Percy's mother with eternal damnation if he doesn't hand over Zeus's bolt.) Percy decides to go to hell to get his mother back and Annabeth and Grover decide to join him.

And although this movie may sound awesome -- or at least a bearable alternative to "Valentine's Day" -- it lacks the general splendor and quality of a Potter flick. The characters are poorly developed and hard to watch. Annabeth is never referred to as the child of a war god and has giant eyes that never blink. Grover is like Will Smith 10 years ago, and even adapts several lines from other Smith movies for himself. And Percy, who never shows any actual emotion when his mom is taken, can replace Harry Potter as a new source of lost hope for children -- at least until the next HP installment comes out. As 11-year-olds once waited anxiously for the Hogwarts letter that never came, children with dyslexia and ADHD can now look forward to not finding out they're the sons and daughters of Olympian gods and that their disorders aren't actually superpowers.

In the end, Rosario Dawson as Persephone and Steve Coogan as Hades are the closest you get to great characters, but even they are only onscreen for six or seven minutes. And Catherine Keener is wasted as Percy's put-upon mother who gets turned into a wicker ball from Pier 1 Imports. Even in hell she can't catch a break. And the storyline of the lightning bolt takes up about 15 minutes of screen time. This should have been called "Percy Jackson and the Search for Green Pearls That Mean He Can't Count Properly."

Contact staff writer Jordan Trippeer at jordan.trippeer@richmond.edu

Support independent student media

You can make a tax-deductible donation by clicking the button below, which takes you to our secure PayPal account. The page is set up to receive contributions in whatever amount you designate. We look forward to using the money we raise to further our mission of providing honest and accurate information to students, faculty, staff, alumni and others in the general public.

Donate Now