Sunday, February 28, 2010

Films in Review: An Analysis of Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (2010)

An enjoyable film, but my initial sense is that since this is based on a series of children's novels, I imagine the books must be better? However I've not read them. But even judging by the movie alone I would say that this story does not quite span the depth and epic feel of say, the Harry Potter series. Where Harry Potter (at least as the books) quickly spans out from the children's arena into more mature territory, Percy Jackson tends to stay within a nice safe children appropriate zone, even adding a little touching sub-story on how children can often feel alienated from their parents (Gods that they are). But even these attempts at profundity barely skim the surface of any real emotional drama and remain out-scoped by the adventure action-packed spectacle of it all, which I must say is quite impressive with everything from charging minotaurs to spitting 6 headed Hydras blowing fire into water (what an effect!). Though I don't know what they were thinking by casting Uma Thurman as Medusa...I don't know what was harder to buy, this famous actress as an ancient monstrous Gorgon or those ridiculous CG snakes in her hair. However, it is often quite clever how they adapted the Greek Myth into Modern Day mythos and it does come with everything you would come to expect from a film of its kind, pulling out all the stops. Of course the coolest thing this film tried to do was insert the idea that the myths of old were as real and true today as they were back then. That Gods and Goddesses are real and their children are living among us. But the film makes no real attempt at credibility or realism to establish this, flying off into highly unrealistic scenarios from the get-go that are the things such spectacle based movies are made of. Feeling only surface value, flap-jack action packed scenes rush right over any potentially emotional profound moment or cool concepts of ancient historical interest. The characters become one-dimensional with no real depth, character, or personality, except for perhaps Grover (Brandon T. Jackson), Percy's personal sidekick who comes along with a cute personable quip here and again. For me, this deprives the action scenes of any real investment on our part when, as the audience, we haven't really established a care for these characters, so it's really of no consequence to us what happens to them. One thing I did appreciate tremendously though! How the story did include an aside concept that Percy Jackson's ADHD (attention deficit disorder) and dyslexia were not actually shortcomings of him as a human, but indications of his inherent prowess as a god; attributes of how his mind works in a divine and different way.

So for those of you that know your Greek mythology you will certainly get a kick out of how they inserted certain historical mythos into the modern adventure story, with the three main characters, Percy son of Poseidon (Logan Lerman), Annabeth daughter of Athena (Alexandra Daddario), and Grover facing up to the same dangers of ancient times adapted for a modern-day setting (I found the Los Vegas Lotus-Eaters particularly clever). But I suspect that for those of you who really know your Greek mythology, you might just get annoyed with the silly distorted modern take on such ancient epic lore, with a lot of the portrayals of the Greek Gods themselves (particularly Hades and Persephone) falling a bit short. A movie like this aims to please and entertain, and with that in mind (ignoring the use of such epic ancient characters to serve this end) one can find it rather entertaining indeed. But if you are looking for an insightful look into how Greek gods and goddesses really exist today in the midst of our modern day world (somewhat along the level of say, X-men) you will surely be disappointed. There is no real substance here, just a quippy modern day spin-off, re-interpretated to please the masses. However, in that, I do believe that this film has succeeded in being exactly what it set out to be, an action packed children's adventure-spectacle featuring Greek Gods and monsters.

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