The Lightning Thief Was Robbed
I love Rick Riordan‘s Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. It’s not surprise since I love Harry Potter, but while every critic ever is comparing the new Percy movie to the Harry Potter ones, it’s no shock that it doesn’t measure up.
I went to the midnight showing in part because I made the painful realization that, despite the wonderful references to Greek mythology which have taken me many years in college to master, the plot and story is, essentially, aimed at teenagers. The advantage of going at midnight on a Thursday night is that all the wee ones are at home in bed, leaving the 17-26 year old fans and their sweethearts to a delightfully cellphone/text-free theatre.
There is always a danger of watching a film after reading books you love. There’s no way they could get it right, even with a plot as straightforward as “The Lightning Thief”. I won’t say I was disappointed, but I definitely felt robbed. They removed all the wonderful bits that lead to the overarching plot of the book series. But while this movie stands alone as a cohesive film, there is no sense that the story could continue. So much background information was changed or simply left out that it made poor Annabeth into a mild love interest with no character depth despite her dazzling blue eyes. The plot was so simplified that my sweetheart, who hasn’t read the books, figured out whodunnit within the first 30 minutes of the movie.
Of interest to Pagans is the treatment of the mythology by the film–and I daresay the script treated it with a kind of irreverence that I found annoying. The Gods were flat, and while they looked cool, you could barely tell them apart. They behave like squabbling family in an almost abstract sense where you aren’t really sure why they are fighting and acting that way. Zeus is made out to be a tyrant, not as a nearly omnipotent deity who can see the big picture–and the actor, Sean Bean, wasn’t quite the perfect Greek form I had in mind. The hero himself, Percy, was reduced to a kid who was a self-proclaimed troublemaker (we don’t see it, we’re only told) who has daddy issues and is WAY too close to his mommy. Medusa was reduced to a comical character, although her snake hair was really cool (the best image of her I’ve seen on screen to date). Only the Satyr named Grover was dead-on from my imagination, although they took out the part where he had his own hopes and dreams of finding the great God Pan, a piece of the story that I find symbolic of our own dreams of “returning to nature”.
However, I do seriously want to visit the Parthenon replica in Nashville, Tennessee. And I seriously want a pair of Hermes’ winged Converse hightop sneakers (which I can’t find a picture of, or I’d totally show you).
Other things, like the camp, were cheaply played out, and you don’t get the sense that you’d want to stay there, since it looks like 100+ kids with swords running around an acre of forest. And there was no Dionysus, who I was really looking forward to seeing on film! I get why–they needed to cut out the “non-essential” characters to move the plot along (the film was already two hours). Plus, the whole boozer thing is kind of a downer for kids, and they already had the evil beer-drinking step-father (BTW, stay through some of the credits to see some sweet revenge!). The portrayal of Hades infuriated me, but then redeemed itself once we were in the underworld.
Overall, I feel the source material, both Riordan’s novel and the Greek mythology, was robbed of its deeper meaning and symbolism, and sacrificed over the “let’s make a buck” altar. I suppose there is hope for a second movie, but judging by the lack-luster opening night crowd, I don’t know if they will bother. While the movie lacks most of the charm of the original book, I have to say I wasn’t bored, and the things that bothered me didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the film. I will certainly enjoy owning it, and if they bring out any sweet licensed Greek God toys, so much the better.