February 8, 2010...12:58 am

Review: Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief

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The weight of the world is on Logan Lerman’s shoulders. Not only is he expected to become the next Daniel Radcliff, he literally has to save the planet by keeping the gods from going to war in Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief. Will Lerman save mankind and lead the Percy Jackson team to franchise glory as hoped? You’ll have to see the film to find the answer to the former, but the odds are in his favor in terms of the latter.

Percy Jackson (Lerman) is an average kid. He isn’t the greatest student but finds solace in being in the swimming pool and hanging out with his best friend Grover (Brandon T. Jackson). While his classmates are busy learning about Greek mythology, Percy is thrown directly into it when he finds out that he’s the son of Poseidon (Kevin McKidd). Making matters even more complex, Percy is being blamed for committing the unthinkable, stealing Zeus’ (Sean Bean) coveted lightning bolt. Not only does Percy have to meet Zeus’ deadline for returning the bolt, but he’s also got to evade the forces of Hades (Steve Coogan), who wants the power of the bolt for himself.

Percy ventures off to Camp Half Blood, a training facility for young demigods. There he hones his powers prior to heading out to take care of business. He’s joined by Grover, who happens to be a Satyr assigned to protect Percy, and Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario), the daughter of Athena and a skilled warrior. The trio travels across the country battling Medusa (Uma Thurman), a nasty Hydra and any other evil force that comes their way in order to identify the true lightning thief and return the powerful weapon to its rightful owner.

The only person incapable of enjoying this premise is an individual lacking an imagination. Percy Jackson will appeal to kids and adults alike. Younger audiences will be spellbound by out-of-this-world creatures, mystical powers and charming characters while more mature crowds will take a liking to the famous faces and having the chance to feel like a kid again.

The three main characters are immensely likable. Lerman has a commanding presence with an innate likeability. He successfully makes Percy transition from a vulnerable teenager into a powerful hero. Jackson’s Grover makes for the perfect sidekick. The majorities of his jokes are targeted towards the youngsters in the crowd, but will undeniably evoke a few innocent giggles from older moviegoers. Annabeth is the ultimate female hero. She’s confident, tough and has an unspoken influence over Percy. Unfortunately, she is a rather flat character, but at no fault of Daddario’s. Hopefully if Percy Jackson spawns a sequel, more attention will be payed to unveiling additional layers of Annabeth.

Of the seasoned veterans Coogan makes the biggest impression. Unlike his fellow gods, he ditches the typical Greek garb for something humorously gothic spitting out a few jokes at the outfit’s expense. On the other hand, Uma Thurman’s Medusa is unintentionally comical. The CGI snake hair doesn’t quite work and is more of a caricature.

This is a problem that plagues a number of scenes in the film. Some of the special effects are impressive, particularly Grover and Chiron’s lower bodies, but others don’t seem to have been taken seriously enough. The film has a campy and cartoonish undertone, but some of the CGI takes it a step too far and ends up looking sloppy. The opening scene is particularly hard to digest.

Stylistically, Percy Jackson is very similar to Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant. I immensely enjoyed Cirque du Freak, so that’s 110% a compliment. Percy Jackson’s leg up on the vampire film comes from its deeper meaning. Cirque is all fun and games while Percy Jackson has just enough weightiness to make it a good film rather than just a novelty. Percy Jackson is no Harry Potter, but if you let your inner child loose, offers an extraordinary adventure that moviegoers of any age can enjoy.

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