This awful movie was based on a popular book which I haven’t read due to lack of interest in the subject matter and apparent aim at a younger audience than usually appeals to me, The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 1) by Rick Riordan. I assume the books are at least somewhat better, because it would be nearly impossible for them to be worse.

Teenage Percy Jackson lives with his mom and his stinky, domineering, violent step-father. I got to the movie a bit late, and walked in just in time to catch Percy openly insulting the step-father. I was baffled by Percy’s demeanor, which in no way was that of a teenage boy mouthing off to an abusive adult, but was cocky and smug without a trace of underlying fear. At that point I thought that the writers and director were working solely from Hollywood clichés rather than attempting to reproduce even the suggestion of actual human behavior. Later I realized that while this was true, it was also true that Percy was a two-note character, and his notes were cocky and smug, with a side order of daddy issues. Imagine Jack from Lost recapping his most annoying moments and played by an 18-year-old who can’t act, and you’ll imagine Percy Jackson.

Percy finds out that he’s the son of Poseidon, and that his stereotypical and unfunny comic black sidekick is a satyr and his sworn protector. (Assigned by whom, given that Poseidon is out of the picture, is never explained.) Percy is attacked by a harpy, and he, the satyr, and his mom run off to a summer camp for the children of Greek gods. On the way, his mom is apparently killed before Percy’s eyes. Percy’s reaction to this is to look sullen and misty-eyed for about five seconds, then to smugly and cockily show off at camp for the next twenty minutes of screen time, without further reference to his mother who was just killed while he watched helplessly.

At the camp he meets the daughter of Athena, who is introduced as being an expert in strategy. (She does not ever strategize during the movie.) She spars with him, then informs him that she has strong feelings for him but she’s not sure if they’re positive or negative. If I could get past the issue of teenagers (and human beings) not talking like that, I’d still be hung up on the fact that to have strong feelings after one sparring match, the actors would need to have chemistry. They don’t.

Hades (character design ripped off from the Balrog in LOTR, except not actually cool-looking) appears and says he’s holding Percy’s not-dead mom hostage. Percy the Cocky and Smug, No-Personality Girl, and Stereotypical Black Dude go on a plot-coupon collecting mission to get her back.

I hated just about everything about this movie. It’s poorly directed, edited, acted, and written. The dialogue consists almost solely of unfunny Hollywood wisecracks. The action sequences lack suspense, the young actors are terrible and all look about twenty-eight, the old pros aren’t as good as they could be, there’s a total lack of genuine wit, and the characters are unlikable and don’t have clear motivations. Xena did this sort of story a lot better.

The magical elements are not well-explained. Once Percy gets to demi-god summer camp, he suddenly gains power over water, the power to heal, semi-invulnerability, and “I know kung fu” instant martial arts skills. It’s never clear whether he always had these abilities but wasn’t aware of them, or whether the summer camp is a magical space which catalyzed them in him, or what. He never struggles to access or use these abilities or seems surprised at them, which added to the lack of clarity of plotting and my lack of sympathy for him.

There’s a running joke in which Percy walks directly in front of archers lined up to shoot at targets. This might have worked if he was clearly doing it to mess with them. But since he just seems oblivious, it makes the hero look like a moron for the sake of a joke that isn’t even funny.

The worldbuilding is inconsistent. The characters sometimes know a lot about Greek mythology, but sometimes implausibly don’t so they can fail to figure out for ages that a bunch of statues of terrified people might indicate the presence of Medusa, and then seem like geniuses for figuring out that Medusa can be killed by a reflection.

There’s never any sense of jeopardy. Percy is given stacks of magical items without having to fight for, earn, or even learn to use any of them. (I count five: a magic shield, a magic sword, flying shoes, a magic map, and the eponymous lightning bolt.) He gets flung around in battles, but not only never acquires cuts or scrapes that way, he never even gets dusty or gets his hair messed up. I get that he’s semi-invulnerable, but a godly dust-protection shield? (The lack of cuts and scrapes is also part of the inconsistent magic, as he does get cut by swords a few times.) Much as Bond’s bloodied knuckles gave Casino Royale an unexpected sense of genuine danger, Percy’s airbrushed countenance drained even the chance of suspense from The Lightning Thief.

Speaking of fighting, it was terrible. The primary move is to spin around in circles, making yourself dizzy and exposing your back to your opponent, and then to smash your swords together. It was like watching eight-year-olds playing with light sabers.

I saw this with its target audience, several 12-year-old boys. They didn’t like it either.

From: [identity profile] clodia-risa.livejournal.com


I'm going to sound like a snob, but I don't care. I knew I wouldn't be able to watch this movie as soon as I found out that Athena's daughter was in it. I mean, I knew it's been a few thousand years and she can change her mind about the whole "virgin" thing at any time. But it still rubs me the wrong way.

Your review makes me feel a lot better about my decision.

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com


You know, I had completely forgotten that aspect. There's really no more detail or accuracy in the portrayal of the Gods than "Poseidon has something to do with water."

From: [identity profile] ellen-fremedon.livejournal.com


She had a virgin birth herself, kinda-sorta. Maybe she could produce a child the same way?

From: [identity profile] ruffwriter.livejournal.com


In the books, they handwave it by saying that all her children come from her head, the same way she did with Zeus.

(I haven't seen the movie, so I can't say one thing or another about the way they handle it there.)

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kate_nepveu: sleeping cat carved in brown wood (Default)

From: [personal profile] kate_nepveu


Imagine Jack from Lost recapping his most annoying moments and played by an 18-year-old who can’t act, and you’ll imagine Percy Jackson.

And here is where I stopped reading.

(Then started again for the snark, but, wow the idea makes me want to stab my eyeballs out with a spork.)

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From: [identity profile] fadethecat.livejournal.com


I bought the book (Half-Price Books!) mostly because I enjoyed that the first chapter included a Latin teacher in a wheelchair. Because, hey, Latin is cool, Greek mythology is interesting, and there aren't a lot of fantasy books out there that have disabled characters as actually interesting non-pathetic/evil characters in their own right!

A few chapters later, Percy had shrugged off his mother's horrible death (which at least in the book was pretty obviously caused by Percy not running like hell when his mother told him to--complete with "If you run it'll follow you and we'll be safe, go go go"--so you'd think there'd be SOME GUILT), Latin-teacher-in-a-wheelchair turns out to be a centaur with a magic pseudo-wheelchair to hide his horse parts and who actually teaches Greek now--because these are Greek gods and being "born to know ancient Greek" is why the kids all have dyslexia until they start learning Greek (what the hell happened to the Latin?)--and then he gets to meet the Pretty Girl Who Is A Good Person, and the Ugly Very Large Girl Did We Mention She's Large Who's Mean Also She's Large Did We Mention Ugly And Large Also Large.

*coughs* Anyway. Sold it to Half-Price Books, unfinished. I actually put down the book during another iteration of Mean Girl Is Totally Large Ugly And Stupid Also Large, mid-sentence. So while fans of the book are saying the movie bastardized the book... I don't think the problem is all in the movie.

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com


I forgot about that! I too initially thought, "Cool, disabled characters... Never mind."

"Born to know ancient Greek" makes no sense. If that makes them unable to read English, shouldn't they also be unable to speak English?

The Large Girl does not appear in the movie. Possibly just as well.

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From: [identity profile] tool-of-satan.livejournal.com


This is why I always tell my son that I am going to see what the reviews are like for a movie before I will commit to seeing it. I mean, I don't insist on only seeing incredibly great movies (we saw both the recent Narnia movies, for example, which certainly didn't meet that standard), but there are limits.

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com


I didn't think the Narnia movies were great art, but I enjoyed them overall. They benefited enormously from better direction, casting kids who looked like kids and were directed and written to more or less behave like real kids rather than smug Hollywood wiseasses, and at least some sense of the numinous - all factors completely missing from this movie.

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From: [identity profile] elfiepike.livejournal.com


i saw it with a group of 12-year-olds--four girls and a boy--and two of their littler siblings, who, for the record, all seemed to enjoy it, though i think mention was definitely made about how cute the lead actor was (mention was also made about how old he was, haha) and the 12-year-olds spent most of the movie whispering to each other, so who knows how much they actually watched. XD
larryhammer: a low-fidelity picture of a man, label: "some guy" (Default)

From: [personal profile] larryhammer


I rather like the books, but have been dreading this movie since realizing they'd aged Percy up from 12 to 18. Percy's mistakes make sense for 12 -- not for anyone older.

---L.

From: [identity profile] telophase.livejournal.com


I read the first three books and don't remember any of what the above commenters are saying. OTOH, I don't actually remember anything about the books. Except the existence of the demigod summer camp.

My co-worker's son adores the Percy Jackson books to death -- he also started reading them as an 11-year-old with ADHD, so I suspect he identifies with Percy in a big way. :D

I suggest you read some of Riordan's mysteries set in San Antonio. I can't tell you if the mystery itself is any good or not because I spent the entire time reading them going OMG THIS IS EXACTLY THE SAN ANTONIO I LIVED IN!!! I sent copies to a friend who'd lived in San Antonio at the same time I did, and he had the exact same response. Plus the protagonist's cat is named Robert Johnson.

From: [identity profile] tithenai.livejournal.com


The characters sometimes know a lot about Greek mythology, but sometimes implausibly don’t so they can fail to figure out for ages that a bunch of statues of terrified people might indicate the presence of Medusa, and then seem like geniuses for figuring out that Medusa can be killed by a reflection.

*giggleFIT*

Haven't read the books or seen the film, and don't really want to, because I doubt very much I could enjoy either more than this review.

From: [identity profile] rushthatspeaks.livejournal.com


The books were much, much better than I had imagined possible, in that I read all six and did not detect any major errors in the mythology, which is rare.

Also one of the few series I've seen for that age group to have actual female action heroes, though they take way too damn long to either show up or become cool.

Not actually good books, but I did read them all, which, I mean, I was expecting to MST3K.

From: [identity profile] londonkds.livejournal.com


I am also upset by the Christianised tendency of modern takes on Graeco-Roman mythology to assume that Hades/Pluto = Satan = EEEEEEEEEEBIL.

From: [identity profile] londonkds.livejournal.com


Or not even Christianised: my impression is that there are a lot of EEEEEEEEVIL death gods in RPG mythologies and the trope may come from there.

From: [identity profile] rilina.livejournal.com


I thought the books started off mediocre but improved considerably as they went on. It sounds like the movie found a way to lose the coolest stuff, alas. The books are extremely popular--were so even before the movie--and are often a big hit with otherwise reluctant readers.
ext_6446: (Sailor Venus)

From: [identity profile] mystickeeper.livejournal.com


I'm so glad I didn't see this with my niece/nephew this afternoon.

Based on the comics here, I might try the books, though.

From: [identity profile] sarahtales.livejournal.com


Missing the start was a good move, because the movie starts with Sean Bean as Zeus overlooking the city, and he pulls off the god in modern world thing in a fairly cool way, so I was psyched! And then Poor, Poor Man's Zac Efron butterfly-crawled onscreen...

From: [identity profile] lady-ganesh.livejournal.com


Avalon's Willow has the definitive takedown. For me, the best part of the book-- by far-- is Percy's voice, which is very distinctive, humble, and funny. (Three things which were not noticeable in the movie.)

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From: [identity profile] sartorias.livejournal.com


My understanding is that Rick Riordan is a sixth grade teacher, which would explain why the book reads like what a sixth grader would love.

From: [identity profile] lady-ganesh.livejournal.com


The stories were originally conceived for his son with ADHD and dyslexia, too.

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From: [identity profile] miz-hatbox.livejournal.com


Speaking of Medusa, that bit bugged me. Why was Medusa killed by her reflection, but the characters could use a reflective device to watch her, in perfect safety. (and with no product placement at all. VERY SUBTLE, Apple!)

Either the reflection is deadly or it isn't. Make up your mind and stick with it.

From: [identity profile] orca-girl.livejournal.com


I didn't think she was killed by the reflection so much as caught by it long enough for Percy to whack her head off with his sword. But I could be misremembering the sequence from the movie.

From: [identity profile] oracne.livejournal.com


This sounds a lot worse than the book, which I enjoyed.

From: [identity profile] sarge-5150.livejournal.com


I haven't read the books but my offspring rather like them. Either the books are better than the movie or my progeny have poor taste. Alas, it seemed like everyone but me liked this movie. Early in the film (I think it was during the first "fight") I quipped, "The tag line for this film should be 'Percy, Warrior Princess'." Your review is spot on.

From: [identity profile] janni.livejournal.com


I enjoyed the books (I have a soft spot for the daughters of Artemis--who are not her literal daughters, no), which is looking more and more like reason enough to skip the movie.

From: [identity profile] orca-girl.livejournal.com


The characters sometimes know a lot about Greek mythology, but sometimes implausibly don’t so they can fail to figure out for ages that a bunch of statues of terrified people might indicate the presence of Medusa, and then seem like geniuses for figuring out that Medusa can be killed by a reflection.

This was the part that gave us fits the most, actually, because we couldn't figure out which set of rules they were operating by when. Or, which rules the world itself was operating by. Because clearly, some myth was known to have happened... but it seemed like other myths were unknown, and it was really confusing.

I think your review of it here is fair. :) I went to the movie partly because we needed a movie for a couple of kids (one of whom had read the books), and partly because I could not pass up the chance to see Sean Bean and Kevin McKidd be bearded and sexy, and that part didn't disappoint. My expectations were thus waaaaaaay too low and specific for the movie to fail to meet them. (Only thing: I wanted more screen-time for Athena, and I wanted her to have an owl.)

(Here on [livejournal.com profile] katie_m's recommendation.)
Edited Date: 2010-03-02 10:18 pm (UTC)
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