Monday, March 15, 2010

Robert's Special Movie Pick of the Week: Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief

In a previous book review I commented on the similarities between Percy Jackson’s “The Lightning Thief” and Harry Potter. Since then, I have seen the film adaptation of the children’s novel "The Lightning Thief" and feel I have to explain my initial reasoning. First, Percy Jackson was directed by Chris Columbus, coincidentally also director of the first two Harry Potter films. Hence, I had my suspicions and prejudices that Percy Jackson was to be just another Harry Potter. Also, since the Harry Potter film series will be ended in 2011 (release year of the final HP film), the film series could be seen as a sort of replacement for the audience, yet in competition for viewers. Moreover, Chris Columbus might have seen as being given a second chance at directing a super-natural fantasy film. Indeed, director Chris Columbus stated in an interview that the actors were chosen with sequels in mind.

True or not, when I went to see the film, I was in for a big surprise! Instead of a cookie-cutter Harry Potter from the cupboard, Percy Jackson in the movie was a teenager in High school! Overall, it almost seems as if Chris Columbus created the opposite of his two Harry Potter films: Whereas in the two Harry Potter films, the story is driven more by the characters and the acting, this was not the case in Percy Jackson. Indeed, the plot could have been more developed and the characters could have been better introduced to the viewer. Instead, the movie dives right into the plot. For the reader who has not read the book nor watched the movie, I would like to point out that Chris Columbus’ Harry Potter films are notable for there closer-to-the book approach. Indeed, some Harry Potter movie critics disliked that very fact. In Percy Jackson, on the other hand, there are a number of notable changes in the adaptation from book to film. For example, Percy Jackson's age was changed from age twelve in the book to eighteen in the movie. Another significant change is that in the book it is not until Percy gets to Camp-Half Blood that it is known that PJ is the son of Poseidon. In the movie adaptation, however, it is known from the start that he has this rare demi-god position. I wonder why Chris Columbus chose these changes? Were they purposeful changes to make a point or were they economic necessities?

Whatever you may think of all the above, the visual effects in the movie were truly amazing. While the characters were quite undeveloped, the visual effects seem almost to drive the story! One of the most memorable scenes in the movie was the scene at the Lotus Casino in Las Vegas. Here, thousands of people are seen amusing themselves and playing endless video games that seduce with the charm of luxury. People never wake up because they are eating drugged lotos flowers, half voluntarily and half under pressure. It is scary because they never really know what year it is. It might be a description of some part of American society. In other words, that scene may be more powerful than it was meant to be. On the other hand, if the films crew did intend to capture it, years from now it shall be viewed by scholars and preserved as a historical treasure! I and some fellow viewers also thought that the depiction of the Hollywood sign as “Gateway to Hell” was an interesting way to show Hollywood hopefuls what they are in for! In conclusion, I think that viewers of the first two Harry Potter films will find a certain magic from "Sorcerer's Stone" and "Chamber of Secrets" missing. However, “The Lighting Thief” must be viewed in a different light with qualities of its own. My mother, Diana, called “The Lightning Thief” a “disturbingly good” movie and asked to refrain from rating it until she has seen it a second time.

I can recommend this movie to you. It is an action-packed, humorous and unforgettable film that will be enjoyed for generations to come!

ratings on scale from 0-100: Robert Steven Mack: 96/100, Alex Mack: 95/100, Peter T.: 96/100, Jayne T.: 83/100, Diana Mack: pending a second review; average rating: 92.5/100 (but Diana Mack's rating is pending)

Copyright 2010 by Robert Steven Mack (with special thanks to my editor Diana Mack)

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your insight, Robert! The Lightning Thief is a very thought-provoking movie. I have not read the book and thus have a couple of questions. Perhaps you can answer some of them:
    1. Harry Potter's parents are very different from Percy Jackson's parents. Harry's parents were loving and heroic. Why did the Greek Gods swore an oath not to have children with "mortals" anymore?
    2. You mentioned in your book review that it was practically "illegal" for poor Percy to be alive. This is very interesting. Under what laws? Did the Greek gods and goddesses suffer any punishment for their irresponsible acts? Or are they "above" the law?
    3. I missed the first couple of minutes of the movie. How was Percy Jackson treated in the "mortal" world? Where did he grow up?
    Why did his mother feel compelled to live "undercover" with this awful man? Does the explanation make sense?
    Could you compare and contrast Percy's upbringing with Harry's early life?
    4. Does the "Lightning Thief" book explain what the gods and goddesses are doing all day long? What is their purpose in life? Can you compare and contrast it to the life of witches and wizards in Harry Potter?
    5. Does the book the "Lightning Thief" go into any detail about the schooling demigods receive? The movie emphasized the importance of "instincts" and showed a lot of martial arts training. Could you compare and contrast it to Harry's schooling?


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