Sunday, March 14, 2010

Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief


Have you read the book on which they based this film? I haven't, but Max has, so I am going by what he remembers, which is this: the plot isn't horribly different from the book. There are some key differences, which, if I had read the book, would probably drive me BATTY (which happened when we read/watched The Water Horse), but overall Max wasn't terribly bothered by any of the divergences. So I won't be either. Well, until I read the book, or listen while FDPG reads the book and tells me all about them and THEN be horrified about how callow and disastrous the changes are...

Calm down Sheila.

The story is this: Zeus, head honcho in Olympus, loses his lightening rod. There he is up there, in that picture. That rod in his hand is the very one he lost in the book. So you can see why he'd be so pissed. Goes nicely with the shield, although in the movie he was more of a long black coat, long blonde hair, cool scarf kind of guy. He was played by Sean Bean, whom we usually refer to as Seen Been, or Shawn Bawn (think about it - it'll make sense in a minute).

Anyhow, Zeus thinks that his brother's son has stolen his lightening rod. He's very annoyed about this, because losing his lightning rod means that he can no longer make lightning. Why this was an issue was beyond me, frankly, but it was obviously not an issue for the Movie Executives. They glossed over it in a matter of nanoseconds: I think it involved a toss of the head, a couple of brotherly shoves, and three very cold glares. If they could have inserted a Meagan Fox cameo, I'm sure they would have, even if this scene was on the top of the Empire State Building.

The brother in question, in case you tend to mix up your Greek Gods, is Poseidon. One of the Big Boys of Greek Mythology. Here is a picture of him rising out of the Mediterranean. He's pissed about Zeus' accusations, although from what I remember of the scene he doesn't seem very indignant about Zeus accusing his offspring and most of us in the movie theatre assumed that he figured his kid was the thief. I was more indignant about Poseidon's assumption of guilt than I was about Zeus' assumption of guilt, frankly, although both of those assumptions paled when I stopped to think about Omnipotence and God-like Abilities To See All and Know All, because surely they


Calm down, Sheila. Calm down.

Okay, so Poseidon is a fairly tough guy, played by the grimly charming Kevin McKidd of Rome. When he comes out of the waters in his Greek God outfit, complete with trident, and glares at some hapless fisherman, well, forget about Venus rising from the waves. Kevin, err, Poseidon, looks pretty darn cool. He stalks almost continuously from his initial entrance until the very last scene. I like a man who can stalk well.

Move on Sheila.

Turns out that Poseidon's kid is no mere God, but a part-human offspring, or demi-god. And his name is, in true Super Hero convention, is Percy. Percy Jackson.

Percy is your average disenfranchised Modern American Teen, who likes to sit underwater for minutes on end (helps him think), has issues with dyslexia, and is fairly conversant with terms like ADHD and "show some respect, man!" He has charming blue eyes, likes to argue about everything that happens to him, and is fairly likable, as far as the MAT thing goes. His accoutrements: sad-eyed, sad sack mother; initially-charming-but-later-cringe-worthy sidekick-slash-Protector friend; school principal-slash-centaur; and Hot Chick-slash-demi-god-slash-ultracool-fighter-friend, all have their good and bad moments, although I have to say that his mother (played by She Really Must Be Slumming Catherine Keener) is truly awful. Someone show that woman how to IRON. I need a little verisimilitude with my movies, puleeeze.

Anyhow, Percy, as the heroic convention goes, has to find the bolt, return it to Zeus, get some action with the Hot Chick, kill off the Baddies, and manage his angsty teen attitude, not necessarily in that order. Medusa makes an rather campy appearance, as does a very cool Hydra. There are a lot of absorbing CGI effects in this movie, effects that make the story line far more palatable than it otherwise would. Call me a complete killjoy, but I had the distinct feeling that the director didn't quite know who he was making the movie for: adults, children, or teens. And by this I mean: there are goofy, funny scenes involving kids running around being Cool Demi-God Fighting Heroes, exciting scenes involving Angry Gods being Angry Gods, dramatic scenes with monsters and lots of things getting smashed up, and distressingly mature scenes where the cast of High School Musical (on acid), Meagan Fox, and a couple of pole dancers wouldn't have gone amiss.

Poor Meagan Fox! What have you got against her?

The entire Transformers franchise, for one thing. And her complete lack of acting talent, for another.

Get on with this, Sheila.

Let's just say that watching a satyr do an ensemble dance routine (with a number of 'sexy chicks') as if he were a randy Michael Jackson kind of guy is quite cringe-making when one has taken one's 8 year olds to a movie that one assumed would be packed with action and not hormones. And let's just say that one doesn't usually expect Persephone to be dressed as a panting, slutty 18th century prostitute while she's in Hades (I won't even get into what I thought of Hades except to say that he had baroque pretensions of Rock Star Grandeur that might, just might have been amusing had I not been accompanied by my 8 year olds who were puzzled as to why Hades had such bad hair and why the satyr bleated whenever he was near Persephone). I felt like saying GET A ROOM ALREADY.

And let's not even get into why the satyr got his horns after spending time with Persephone in Hades. Oh my my. It was all Juvenile. Such a hackneyed male fantasy. I wanted action. Excitement. Dramatic tension. Pure fear. Terror, even. I did not want to watch a couple of boys have a Losing My Vir— movie.

Gosh, don't hold back, Sheila.

Sorry, Rick Riordan, but I was completely disappointed.


Rebecca said...

Kevin McKidd. Mmm.

Sean Bean. Mmm.

It was a double header.

BTW, I liked it (maybe I'm *cough* easy)... but did wonder about the boost in age of the main characters (and the sexy satyr). I haven't read the book but I've heard bits of it while Jr. reads it aloud to his dad in the mornings. I think I'll read it (the series) soon.

I loved Medusa. What's her name did a great job.

Are you planning to take the kids to the remake of Clash of the Titans.

Sarah N. said...

I have read the book, and if you read it you *will* be distressed by the changes including the fact that Percy is 12 in the book, that's right 12, not an oversexed 16 or whatever he's supposed to be in the movie. Please, tell me the directors didn't mean him to be 12. Needless to say, I was greatly distressed (weirded out might be a better phrase) by the overly mature scenes too.

sheila said...

Rebecca, I liked MOST of it but those weird bits really creeped me out - they ended up eclipsing the parts I did like (Kevin, Minotaur, Hydra, Uma Thurman as Medusa, Steve Coogan as Hades, etc). As Max put it: "some of it was really cheesy." And yes, we WILL be seeing those Wacky Clashing Titans, even if the initial trailer had the (uh oh) unfortunate "Titans. Will. Clash." slogan that I can't erase from my mind. Besides, we need to follow Quai Gon Jin and his epic movie career...

What did you think of Catherine Keener? Did you not think she was channelling Keanu Reeves a bit? (the wooden bits)

sheila said...

Sarah, either the director had too many bosses to listen to, or he himself couldn't make up his mind, but I can only explain those weirder bits with this: need for big $. They knew it worked for Transformers (especially Revenge of the Fallen) and I think they thought the same audience would show up for this one. Plus the family audience. Plus the 20-somethings. It did strike me as exceedingly tacky, all that pandering, I have to say. And I don't think I am a very prim person. I draw my limits with cheese though.

Rebecca said...

Re: Catherine.

Wasn't really all that thrilled about her character, although I rather liked the smelly step-dad.

But, was that the direction? Or her acting? It's so hard to tell.

I did like Pierce Brosnan's hind quarters, though. Oh, baby.

Diane said...

I couldn't agree more with your comments. We did love the movie and daughter loved the book. Luckily the parts of the movie you mentioned breezed right over her head and no questions were asked. But I feel that they didn't need to put those parts in the film.

Fiddler said...

Oh dear--I sent my DS (12) with a couple of other tweens and one of the boy's parents to see this movie. DS didn't particularly like it. ("The book was better." "You have spoken wisely, Padawan.") Didn't realize it was so hormone-ridden. The books certainly were not.

sheila said...

Diane, I asked my younger two how they liked the movie and they could barely remember the idiotic bits, so there you go: it went right over their heads as well.

Fiddler: don't worry - he probably did what my son (aged 13) did: focus on the CGI effects and ignore the cheese. I'd be curious to hear what the parent thought though. It all seemed so hokey.

Kez said...

Well, Sean Bean sounds a good start (and lol at your joke - gotta love the English language!!) It sounds like it went downhill really fast from there though - I think we'll skip it!

Nonie said...

Huge changes from the book. And the book was MUCH better. (Duh!) I was quite annoyed with the jump in the ages of the characters. Thankfully, my kids didn't catch on to any of the hormones in the film.

Do read the books. They're good :)

Anonymous said...

I think your last line shouldn't be "Sorry, Rick Riordan, but I was completely disappointed," but "Sorry, Chris Columbus, but I was completely disappointed."

Riordan's books are just so charming and funny, it's a shame how the movie's director ruined it.

My kids won't be seeing the movie anytime soon. Aah, yes the hardship of having a strict mother!

sheila said...

Subspace: my "sorry" was more in the "they ruined your book and I am SO SO sorry" vein. That Chris Columbus though - argh. He SO ruined this movie - I should have given him more blame.

I am now reading The Lightning Thief. It IS good. Poor Rick. I wonder how he feels about this movie?

Anonymous said...

Oh. Okay -- I totally misread that last line. Sorry.

I find it so strange that Columbus altered Lightening Thief so heavily, yet his treatment of the 1st 2 Harry Potter books was wonderful and respectful and true.

sheila said...

Me too! I LOVED his Harry Potter movies - they were probably my favourites in terms of continuity (the last HP movie was like a series of vignettes and while I liked it it was no first or second movie, that's for sure).

This latest movie had so much pandering in it, it was like he was under a Hollywood edict: make it pay or we don't let you direct anything ever again. You could see his touches, but there was something more as well. Desperation? Hollywood bigwigs thinking they knew better? Box office angst? Sort of depressing, really. Just like most of us have learned to separate church and state, Hollywood has to learn how to separate business and creativity.