Percy Jackson & The Lightning Thief (Contains Spoilers)

Based on the popular series of kids books by Rick Riordan, The Lightning Thief follows Percy Jackson who finds out he is the son of Poseidon, and that Greek Gods are all real… and… stuff… Ok, so basically, a lot of people have been saying “Isn’t that just Harry Potter, but different?”, and they’d be right for questioning that if they hadn’t heard anything about this before. In fairness, it does take a similar approach to the “boy finds out he has really cool powers and get whisked away on an epic journey which ends with him saving a bunch of people and being all heroic and junk”, and is directed by Chris Columbus who did the first two Harry Potter films. But it’s actually NOT like Harry Potter almost at all…

To start with, I found The Lightning Thief to be a lot more grounded than the magical world of wizards. As far as wizards go, everything and anything can be explained with “all this is possible because it’s magic”. In The Lightning Thief, there’s history and mythology that has to be factually correct before there’s a legitimate story. The theory of the Greek Gods being real takes less suspension of disbelief than there being a whole parallel world of wizards that no-one knows about or can see, purely because the history is there – the Gods would come down from Mount Olympus to interact with humans, which brought about the existance of Demi-Gods, which a lot of Greek myths stem from. So, already, this film is a lot more grounded, and for the most part takes place in the real world.

The fact that Percy Jackson (played by Logan Lerman) as a character is flawed (in the way that he has both dyslexia and ADHD) adds a sense of realism to him – kids DO suffer from this, and its not belittling that. The fact these later turn out to be useful (his dyslexia is how he can read Ancient Greek) is obviously a way of showing kids that suffer from these that they can still have underlying talents. Which I thought was very clever, in its own right – taking something bad and turning it on its head.

I’d like to mention here that I have not read the original book, so I am going into this in a purely fresh mindset. However, my source of information on the book (in this case, my teenage brother) is perfectly reliable, and I now have a certain understanding of the differences from screen and scripture. As I am led to believe, there is actually a fair amount of difference between the two, but with understandable reasoning behind this. A lot of things happen within the first 30 minutes of the film (including Percy getting attacked, finding out he’s a Demi-God, leaving home with his Mum and his friend Grover, who turns out to be a Satyr, who then takes him to Camp Half-Blood – a summer camp/training ground for Demi-Gods – and being told his father is actually Poseidon and that people are out to get him because they think he stole the lightning bolt of Zeus – played by Sean Bean, no less), and it seems to almost fly by too quickly, but this is actually to get all the set-up of the characters done and out the way so that the ACTUAL story can be covered. Films can suffer from too much set-up, but The Lightning Thief dealt with it pretty effectively.

The Lightning Thief also doesn’t hold back on the brutality, which sets it apart from a lot of other kids films. Camp Half-Blood trains the kids in battle, and they fight each other to the point where blood gets drawn. Again, this grounded the film more for me, because it’s not all “nicey-nicey” like some others. This was harsh, and it had action. The pace that the film sets towards the start never really gets lost – things get explained as the film progresses, in ways which mean you don’t lose interest in what’s being said.

Where the film apparently differs from the book (according to my resource… ahem…) is in a few places. Firstly, the quest to find the pearls that will allow them to escape the underworld, doesn’t happen in the book. Yes, they do find themselves at the places where they get the pearls from in the book, but it’s all coincidental, and I liked the fact that the characters have reasons behind finding these places. Everything gets explained, and there’s very little in the way of plot holes. Secondly, there’s apparently a big debacle about the three main characters meeting Ares in a café and he gives them some sort of bag, which is linked to the ending in the book. This tangent storyline was obviously ditched from the movie as it creates a whole new underlying story, and would take longer to end the film. Which leads me to the third point, which is the big finish.

By the end, Percy has found the master lightning bolt hidden in a shield given to him by a friend at Camp Half-Blood (which resource tells me doesn’t happen until the second book), and found out who stole it and a fight scene ensues. I feel its right to explain here that I actually liked this also, as the way it was explained to me from the book is that the lightning bolt “appears” in said bag. Had this happened, I probably would have felt cheated – cheated in the same way that at the end of many of the Harry Potter films, after all the events that have occurred, someone says one magic spell and everything is over. As it happens, a more straight-forward but no less effective explanation is given, and the action is allowed to swiftly continue, ending with Percy Jackson (obviously) saving the day and making new friends in the process.

Overall, The Lightning Thief didn’t talk down to its audience at all, and it stayed grounded and didn’t take itself too seriously. I’d be tempted to give this film a 6 out of 10 (but if you’ve read the book, it would probably be a bit less), but its worth seeing at least once, even if it’s for the star-studded cast that appear.

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