Saturday, February 9, 2013

This Month In... 2010: "Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief"

Frozen would have been perfect
timing if it had been this week's episode.

Someone Literally Stole Lightning

      Released on February 12, 2010, Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief is adapted from a children's novel written by Rick Riordan (The Lost Olympian) by writer Craig Titley (Scooby-Doo) and director Christopher Columbus (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone). It was one of many Harry Potter-like series vying to become the next Harry Potter once that series ended. Now, with the second film, Percy Jackson: Seas of Monsters due out in August, we might just have our new king. The film follows Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman, The Perks of Being a Wallflower), a teenager who learns that he is a demigod whose father is Poseidon (Kevin McKidd, Grey's Anatomy) and that he is being accused of stealing Zeus's (Sean Bean, Game of Thrones) lightning blot. Aided by his best friend Grover (Brandon T. Jackson, Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son) and fellow demigods Annabeth (Alexandria Daddario, Texas Chainsaw 3D) and Luke (Jake Abel, Supernatural), Percy attempts to clear his name before a war of the gods erupts, destroying Earth. 

Please kids: Don't text and swordfight.
 Harry Potter-Lite

      The Lightning Thief doesn't break much new ground. In fact, a good 90% of the film seems to be treading over the same action, character and emotional beats that most Harry Potter style film seems to tread on. The main three all embody the right characters for the genre: Percy is the "normal" teen who learns his destiny and learns to kick ass with it. Grover is the best friend that is mostly comic relief but can still help out when need be. And Annabeth is the strong independent teenager girl that can be both a role model to younger girls and still be Percy's love interest. And for the most part this works. Really, there's not a huge amount to say about The Lightning Thief. It's great entertainment for kids and solid entertainment for everyone else. All the actors do a good job and the action scenes are all well done. Hopefully future installments can focus a bit more on the interesting story of the novels. But overall, despite hitting all the cliches of the genre, The Lightning Thief is a pretty fun movie.

Books are Different from Movies

      However, a lot of fans of the books hate this movie. Now, this first time I saw this film, while it was in theaters still, was before I had read any of the books. Now, I have read all the books and really liked them too. And yet, I still don't feel where these fans are coming from. I'll be honest. The reason I picked The Lightning Thief was less to review the actual film and more to discuss the process of turning books into feature films. Namely, how I typically applaud movies for doing something relatively different than the books while still capture the style of the book, which I think is something that The Lightning Thief does well. It's absurd to think that a 300+ page book could be adapted directly into film, as most people probably wouldn't sit through a 6-hour movie. Screenwriters have to attempt to streamline the book's story into something manageable on screen. A lot of what you can do in books (Internal monologues, epic battles, etc.) cannot be done effectively and most importantly, cheaply on film. When a movie changes things that are in a book, it's not out of spite for the book (Though Columbus did acknowledge that he never read the book before directing the film), but out of the fact that what makes a good book is difficult to turn into a good movie. So, yes, the story is different, but it's like complaining that a orange isn't an apple. They are two different things, so differences should be forgiven. Plus, I personally don't feel like just watching something I've already read before word for word, but my that's just me not wanting to be bored out of my skull.

I know. That is a long paragraph.
The Shocking Verdict

     Yes, Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief is different from the book. And that's a very good thing. The film does a good job capturing the spirit of the book and having it's own mildly entertaining story. The film does do a whole lot that hasn't been done before by other movies like this one, but it does what it does well and there never is a dull moment. It might not be most imaginative movie, but it certainly is a fun one. Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief gets 4 and a half stars out of 6.  Stay tuned, cause on next week's all-new episode, things are about to get crazy!

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