Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief
– for action violence and peril, some scary images and suggestive material, and mild language.
Director: Chris Columbus
Starring: Logan Lerman, Brandon T. Jackson, Alexandra Daddario, Uma Thurman
Running Time: 1 hour, 58 minutes
Theatrical Release Date: February 12, 2010
It’s the 21st century, but the gods of Mount Olympus and assorted monsters have walked out of the pages of high school student Percy Jackson’s Greek mythology texts and into his life. And they’re not happy: Zeus’ lightning bolt has been stolen, and Percy is the prime suspect. Even more troubling is the sudden disappearance of Percy’s mother. As Percy adapts to his newly discovered status as a demi-god (his father is Poseidon), he finds himself caught between the battling titans of Mt. Olympus. He and his friends embark on a cross-country adventure to catch the true lightning thief, save Percy’s mom, and unravel a mystery more powerful than the gods themselves. (from Yahoo.com)
I remember being a kid and watching the original Clash Of The Titans story. While the Greek mythology was beyond me at the time, I had been intrigued by the heroic tale of Perseus, his victory over Medusa, and his resultant saving of the damsel in distress. Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief is a teen-centered action film that brings the Greek mythology to the present day, and is based on a book written by Rick Riordan from 2005. Since its release, the book has gone on to sell over a million copies and spawn four follow-up stories in the series. While I haven’t read any of the books, I went into the film with only the expectations to be entertained, and with a limited knowledge of the Greek mythos.
I suppose taking Greek mythology subject matter with a grain of salt and approaching it as mere fantasy is the best way to view it. All the talk about “gods” surely can ruffle a Christian believer’s feathers, but viewing anything from this mythos through a lens of understanding that it’s pure fiction allows for some fun entertainment and storytelling. Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief revolves around a boy named Percy who embodies what it means to be and feel like the underdog, while living with his mom and his verbally abusive stepfather, after his real father had abandoned him when he was a baby. We soon learn that Percy is really a demigod, born of his mother after she had a love affair with the god Poseidon. It’s not until the Greek god Zeus finds his powerful lightning bolt missing and believes it to be the doing of Poseidon’s son Percy that Greek characters, both good and evil, begin to chase down Jackson to try to seize Zeus’ great weapon. What unfolds is an adventure that takes Percy and a couple other “half-bloods” across the U.S. in a race against time to stop a war between the gods from forming.
While The Lightning Thief is an action-packed fantasy story stamped with a PG rating, it’s certainly not suitable for all audiences. Once the action launches with an unassuming older woman quickly turning into a sort of demonic-looking bat-like creature (named Fury) and briefly attacks Percy, it’s evident that this will be one of those harder-edged PG films, bordering at times on PG-13 due to the creepy content alone. Some of the creatures and monsters found within are the kind of things nightmares are made of, and children are likely to have difficulty with the aforementioned Fury character, Medusa, the Hydra, and Hades. I definitely wouldn’t recommend it for any young kids as some of it is pretty jarring. In true Greek fashion (and if you’re completely unfamiliar with Greek mythology, you may want to skip to the next paragraph), the film does include a sequence where Percy faces Medusa and, of course, lops her signature snake-covered head off. The way it’s done is not graphic, however, we do see the head lying on the ground (and looking realistic enough since it still carries Uma Thurman’s actual likeness), as well as the severed head several more times throughout the film (including the end credits). Other action sequences show a great deal of sword fighting and characters being sliced with resultant bloody scrapes. Overall, it adds up to a rather edgy PG film for those who may be more sensitive to such material.
The acting in Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief is pretty solid. Logan Lerman does a great job as the lead, while Brandon T. Jackson serves as fun comedic relief. Alexandra Daddario serves her purpose more as romantic eye candy than a leading lady, but she does well enough as a tough companion for Percy in his quest. Pierce Brosnan, Thurman, and Steve Coogan are all great in their underused respective roles, but collectively add a fair amount of merit to the film. Sean Bean is also a no-nonsense Zeus who I actually would have liked to have seen more of here as well. The story takes a lot of liberties with Greek mythology, but it is sort of a classic underdog tale where an unlikely hero is able to do something extraordinary. The effects, which the movie does rely pretty heavily on, range anywhere from decent to pretty impressive, and it does add to the film instead of potentially detract.
Overall, I did enjoy Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, despite the fact that the film felt a bit rough for a PG rating. While there have been many PG-rated flicks over the years that seem to overstep their assumed boundaries, I honestly wasn’t expecting The Lightning Thief to be as intense or violent as it was (and there’s also a little bit of innuendo). Families with children sensitive to creepy imagery or a fair amount of violence will want to pass on Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, while those up for a decent popcorn movie should be rather satisfied with this one.
– John DiBiase, (reviewed: 3/7/10)
Blu-Ray and Special Features Review
Fans of Greek mythology have had some big productions to check out at the theaters this year, with Percy Jackson aimed more at teens and a remake Clash Of The Titans aimed more at adults. Both are fun popcorn films (although Percy is probably handled a little more skillfully by director Chris Columbus than the other film was) for their respective audiences, and Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief is the first one to come home to video this Summer. On high definition Blu-Ray, Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief looks great. The colors are fantastic and the clarity is sharp, while the special effects are also pretty strong for such a production (although they don’t seem to translate to the small screen as well as they did on the big screen in some scenes). After revisiting the film on video from its theatrical run, my feelings that this movie is a bit intense for most kids (and some teens) was rekindled. It’s a fun adventure tale, but it probably should have gotten a PG-13 rating simply for the action and scary images (monsters and such). Regardless, I’d love to see them make a series of films from this, but I suppose only time will tell.
The Blu-Ray Disc (BD) release for the movie offers the quintessential combo pack of a Blu-Ray disc, regular DVD, and portable download. In addition, there are a series of special features for those wanting to delve a little deeper into the world of Percy Jackson…
Deleted Scenes (14:03) – Surprisingly, [at least] nearly fifteen minutes had been cropped from the two-hour final product and are included here as the first bonus feature. The first scene takes place in the museum before Percy has his encounter with Fury and we see Grover taking a photo with his iPhone of the statue bust of a female Greek god which shows her bare breasts (Grover remarks to himself as he takes the photo that “those are definitely implants”). Mr. Brunner takes the phone from Grover and makes a spectacle of him, but then comments that “we all share the same weakness… lust.” The next scene shows Percy meeting Annabeth in the infirmary (Percy says “oh my G-d” when he is given a chalice of nectar to taste). The third sequence is a pretty pointless one that shows Grover jumping into a spa filled with bikini clad women (the daughters of Aphrodite). The fourth is another unnecessary shot that shows Percy, Grover, and Annabeth on a bus and then walking up to “Auntie Em’s Garden Emporium.” The next is a brief extension of Percy being chased by Medusa and is followed by a clip of Grover talking about trying to protect Zeus’ daughter. The next three scenes are pulled from the Casino sequence, the first being Grover dancing (I’m glad this was cut), Percy meeting a guy who thinks it’s still 1958, and a pretty violent extended action scene of the three fighting guards as they leave. The last scene has Hades talking to the kids about his curse, and comments that he loves but cannot fulfill his desires (to which Persephone remarks “Tell me about it”). Some of the scenes are worth watching for fans of the film, but otherwise, they don’t add a whole lot and aren’t really missed (Although the sequence with Grover talking about his protecting of Zeus’ daughter was a great character development moment).
Secrets of the Gods – This featurette shows the Olympus council room with significant characters from the film that you can click on. Each character is given a brief video bio that shows clips from the film while a narrator talks about their history and/or relationship to other characters. It’s not an extremely necessary feature, but it does give some cool insight into some of the characters that viewers wouldn’t otherwise know. The spots on Chiron, Hermes, Medusa, and Persephone were especially interesting.
Discover Your Powers Quiz – This is exactly what it sounds like: a quiz. The purpose of it is to see if the viewer, based on the fiction from the Percy Jackson stories/film, is a demigod and who might be their parents. Based on about four questions that I took, I was deemed from the house of Hermes. I tried it a second time, with four different questions asked and was given Hermes as an answer again. Trying it a third time, with a mix of the previous questions (and answering them randomly instead of intentionally) it gave me the house of Poseidon as an answer.
The Book Comes To Life (4:24) – Fans of the books as well as the movie will get a real kick out of this featurette. Although brief, this segment features a lot of the book’s author, Rick Riordan, talking about how he came up with the story (which started as a bedtime story for his kids), how it was birthed into a book, and how director Chris Columbus grew to love the story because of his own daughter’s struggle with dyslexia. This short sequence also shows a montage of behind the scenes footage, set pieces, etc, while Riordan and others talk about the film and their love for Greek mythology.
Inside Camp Half-Blood (5:09) – “Inside Camp Half-Blood” takes viewers on set of the camp that Percy enters to learn about his powers and origin. Here we see the director, producer, screenwriter and actors talking about the camp, its design, its concept, and what went into training for the movie. (And for anyone sensitive to language, Logan, who plays Percy, comments that he got his “*ss” kicked during some of the fight scenes)
On Set With Brandon T. Jackson (5:56) – This one’s a cute little behind-the-scenes candid montage of footage featuring Brandon T. Jackson, who plays Grover, in his trailer, walking the streets of New York, and hamming it up in Nashville. We also see Logan and Alexandria (Annabeth) hanging around the set, and get to see them as they shoot a scene outside the museum in NYC. It could have been a little longer (especially since it covers several days), but it’s a neat addition nonetheless.
Meet The Demigods (3:49) – This one features more talking about the plot and characters from Jake Abel (who plays Luke), Alexandria, and Logan. It’s a mix of behind-the-scenes shots and finished footage and the whole thing almost plays like an extended trailer for the film.
Composing for the Gods: A Conversation with Christophe Beck (3:29) – Here, composer Christophe Beck talks extensively about composing themes for the characters, the style of the composition, and even what he likes most about writing film scores. It’s cool to hear his take on the process, while a lot of home video releases seem to ignore the music altogether.
The theatrical trailer concludes the bonus features (not including BD Live, which offers additional bonus features for download or streaming. It can be kind of frustrating depending on your connection speed trying to access BD Live features on any BD). I would have liked to have heard more about the film from the adult cast (Brosnan, Bean, etc), but I supposed given the younger target audience, it makes sense to focus on the central cast. Still, this Blu-Ray combo pack is a nice presentation for fans of the film and should give just enough extra features to keep them satisfied.
– John DiBiase, (reviewed: 7/12/10)
Parental Guide: Content Summary
Sex/Nudity: We hear a lot about the Greek gods who have children across the world with mortals, resulting in them being demigods; Grover points out the daughters of Aphrodite who we briefly see in bikinis from a distance. He then goes over to them (not seen), which is played for laughs; Gabe slaps Sally (Percy’s mom) on her clothed butt (to make the point that Gabe is a jerk); We learn that Hades had forced Persephone to marry him, but she takes visitors to Hades on a regular basis (to seduce them); We later see Persephone who acts seductively towards Grover and makes a comment that she hasn’t had a satyr before, pausing in her statement before adding “as guests”(making it sound like she was implying sexually); Persephone makes a seductive motion for Grover to come over to her and the scene ends (we don’t know if it goes any further, but we hear Grover make a comment later that he thinks she really likes him); We see Grover comment about wanting to hang out with the ladies at the Lotus Casino. We later see a group of women surrounding Grover who is flirting with them; In telling his students about Greek legends, Mr. Brunner starts to state that many of the gods had relations with humans. But when pausing to choose the right term to use, someone suggests “Hook up,” and he repeats it.
Vulgarity/Language: 2 “a” words, 3 derivatives of “G-d”
Alcohol/Drugs: Percy, Grover, and Annabeth eat Lotus flowers which give them a sort of “high” feeling, dulling their senses and allowing them to be seduced into having fun at the casino (gambling, partying, playing games); Gabe asks Sally to get him a beer (but we never see it). Later, Gabe goes into the fridge looking for a beer
Blood/Gore: Percy has some bloody cuts on his face and arms. We then see the wounds close up as water heals them; A monster/woman is decapitated and we see the head on the ground. We then see the head several times again later on apart from its body; A person is turned to stone and their arm gets broken off; We see an abrasion on Annabeth’s arm and then be healed with water; The five heads of a monster are all sliced off, but they quickly grow back; A horn breaks off of a minotaur and someone uses the horn fragment to stab and kill the minotaur. It’s dark in the scene, but it appears there might be blood on the horn; A person has some slightly bloody cuts on them during a fight
Violence: Lots of action violence; sword fighting, some resulting in some bloody cuts; A person quickly changes into a sort of demonic bat-like monster that grabs Percy and then drops him; Gabe threatens Percy and pushes him against a wall; A car crashes and flips; A giant minotaur attacks Percy and his friends, and throws a car at them; A person vanishes (presumably dead, but we find that they’re still alive); A person is turned to stone from looking at another person’s face; A woman threatens people with her gaze that would turn them to stone; A person beheads another person and we see the severed head throughout the film; Five humans dissolve into a hydra monster attacks, breathing fire, and has its heads sliced off, but they grow back; To escape the snare of a casino, Percy and his friends punch and kick casino security; We see the inside of Hades where fiery souls in torment are seen briefly, as well as menacing “hell hounds;” A person shoots a lightning bolt at a god, knocking him down; A dual between Percy and the lightning thief involves knives, swords, and bolts of lightning. A person is then hit in the throat with a watery trident (seen at a distance) and thrown into the water); A man opens their refrigerator to find Medusa’s head inside and we see the eyes open and snakes get excited. When the screen goes black, we hear the sound of a person turning to stone