At first glance, Percy Jackson & The Olympians seemed like a Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001) wannabe successor. Based on the first book in a series of young adult novels, the film looked to be a bit of a mix between that series and, say, Clash of the Titans (1981).
So, yes, it did look interesting, but with director Chris Columbus behind the helm, I wasn’t so sure I wanted to see The Lightning Thief. After all, Chris Columbus was the same guy who tried kicking off that other film series with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001), and failed rather badly. Still, he did make it up somewhat with Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002), but I wasn’t too keen on seeing if this new series would get off to as bad of a start.
But, when we were offered a chance to see the movie for free, we couldn’t pass it up. Would this possible film series be off to as weak a start as Chris’ other series? Or would Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief be able to introduce the characters without losing sight of a plot?
Just like Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001), The Lightning Thief‘s main characters are three unknowns. These three, however, are a bit older, more akin to Harry, Ron and Hermione these days. They do a decent job with their roles, and actually contribute decently – if not spectacularly – to the film.
Still, the main characters are overshadowed – again, just like Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001), by the supporting cast of notable names. This time around, Pierce Brosnan, Uma Thurman, Rosario Dawson and Sean Bean all show up in supporting roles and very nearly completely overshadow the main characters – although Uma’s Medusa tends to showcase more her inability to really grasp how to act believable when cavorting around with a CGI head full of snakes that was obviously added later than anything else. Still, most of these notable names are, as they are supposed to be, highlights of the film, and the viewer spends part of the beginning of the film on the lookout more for the next famous face rather than any plot points.
Thankfully, however, the plot doesn’t get lost in the shuffle during the course of The Lightning Thief. While the film becomes more of a road trip movie than originally expected – a road trip that oddly doesn’t really showcase any of their actual traveling time, just the stops they make – the reasons for their road trip are always evident. Whereas Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001) translated to film by Columbus became nothing but highlights of particular scenes with no real connection between them – basically a highlight reel of favorite scenes from the book – The Lightning Thief, while still displaying a similar sort of tactic of jumping from scene to scene without any real attempt at transition, is able to tie the scenes in together more easily.
The special effects are top-notch, thanfully, as one of the foes they face is completely CGI – again, just like Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002). Instead of an ogre, however, these three face off against the legendary Hydra. The special effects help bring these monsters (others include the afore-mentioned Medusa, for one) to vivid life that far surpasses that of the time-eroded Clash of the Titans (1981).
While Percy Jackson & The Olympians compares favorably with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001), it’s timing could affect how the film is remembered. With a big budget remake of Clash of the Titans (1981) just around the corner, this film may be forgotten if that film does the business it’s expected to. After all, both films contain most of the same type of villains, so most moviegoers may put this film into the “wannabe” category in both Clash of the Titans (1981) and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001) genres and not give it a second thought.
That would be a mistake, however. It’s enjoyable tale that entwines Greek mythology into today’s culture and it’s vivid supporting cast of CGI-enhanced famous names help make Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief a fun way to spend an hour and a half. Go on and check it out for yourself – and see if you aren’t hoping this series is going to at least get to a sequel.