Movie Review – Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief

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Where’s Movies 1 & 2 you ask? Well…I haven’t reviewed them yet, and I don’t want to review it until I’ve watched them again; I waited too long to write about it, ha. Well…actually, I may not review Leap Year, haha.

I am going to preface my review by saying I am not a critical reviewer of adaptations. My literary focus as an undergrad was on adaptation, studying why they changed the things they changed from film to book, or from book to film. For my adaptions class I rewrote the a scene from the novelization of Star Wars from Obi-Wan’s point of view, taking into consideration everything from the prequel trilogy. For my major Shakespeare paper, I discussed which character in The Lion King most closely resembles Hamlet. For my senior capstone paper, I discussed the heroic tradition’s development from medieval literature to Lord of the Rings, and then the heroic transformation of Aragorn from the books to the films. Needless to say, I’m all about the why and the how and rarely the you did it wrong. This is the stuff I find fascinating, folks.

Percy Jackson is a demigod, who has been accused by Zeus to have stolen his lightning bolt. If the bolt is not returned to him by the summer solstice, he will start a war with the gods.

This is pretty much the end of the similarities between the book and the movie. And they take care of that in the first 5 minutes.

Spoilers Ahead

The film had a definite feel of “as much as we’d like to make the rest of the books, we don’t think it’s going to happen, and therefore we’re going to make sure there are no hanging plot pieces.”

The quest wasn’t to find the lightning bolt, it was to get the pearls so we can return from the underworld. The prophecy was completely ignored. Saving his mom was the biggest issue, not the icing on the cake. Percy and Annabeth had the teenage tension that doesn’t show up until Titan’s Curse. The gods no longer claim their children, you just know apparently.

My biggest issue was that a Daughter of Athena wasn’t smart enough to figure out they were chasing down one too few pearls. Annabeth’s Goddess of Wisdom side sort of drifted off and fizzled away. That would be my biggest problem with the plot changes.

Everything else I think I understand. Changing Percy’s age impacted how they wanted to tell the story. He was angstier than he was in the book, given his older age; he’s very protective of his mom, mostly due to their living situation, but it carries throughout the film. Obviously, age impacted how he looked at Annabeth. It impacted what was important to him, which wasn’t the war of the gods, it was getting his mother back. They hoped to pull the high school crowd to the film. They weren’t going to pull the high school kids if Percy was 12. Harry Potter could do it (I know, I was a Junior when SS was released) but Percy doesn’t have that wide of a following. They needed to give their target audience more of a reason to go.

I want to know if the script changed after Fox 2000 was attached to the project. Was this Chris Columbus’s intention all along, or was his original vision to make it more of a start for the series, rather than a standalone? I think it’s an interesting question to ponder, and I’d love to know the answer. I would also love to know if the teaser trailer was shot to only be the teaser trailer, or if there was a plot shift somewhere along the way.

Overall, this film is geared at teenagers, the storyline and the dialogue are geared at the teenage audience, who they hoped to draw. However, I have a feeling Percy Jackson will join Inkheart, Series of Unfortunate Events, and Spiderwick Chronicles, and we will never see Sea of Monsters.

Grade: B/B-

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