He has already successfully launched Hogwarts’ world of wizardry on
the big screen by directing the first two films in the Harry Potter
franchise and now Chris Columbus turns his attention to Greek
mythology in a different popular series of children’s books: Percy
Jackson & The Olympians. With the exploits of Harry, Ron and
Hermione scoring big at the box office, the only question is: Will
lightning strike twice?
Percy Jackson (Lerman) is typical teenage boy who has trouble
with school thanks to suffering from both dyslexia and ADHD. However,
when he is attacked by a demonic creature on a school trip, he discovers
that he is a demigod, the son of the Greek sea-god Poseidon (McKidd),
and has been accused of stealing Zeus’ lightning bolt, the most powerful
weapon in the world.
After being introduced into a world of mythical creatures and
warriors, Percy goes on a mission to clear his name and rescue his
kidnapped mother from Hades, God of the Underworld. Joined by half-boy,
half-goat Grover (Jackson), his loyal friend and protector, as well as Annabeth (Daddario), daughter of Athena, Percy’s quest takes him on a dangerous journey riddled with monsters and mayhem.
The comparisons between this child-friendly saga and that of the boy
wizard are easily drawn, not only in the youngster discovers
supernatural powers and an extraordinary heritage storyline, but also in
the perilous creatures and glorious special effects that lie in his
path. The advantage with Percy Jackson, however, is that his age has
been upped from 11 to 17 for the film, so audiences do not have to
experience the same stilted child acting that peppered Harry Potter and
the Philosopher’s Stone.
In fact, Logan Lerman shoulders the whole film with a natural talent worthy of a genuine star-in-the-making, rather than just a newcomer that
has had a blockbuster thrust upon him. His similar aged accomplices
secure the family entertainment value with Daddario’s Annabeth providing
Percy with a thinly-veiled love interest with Jackson’s Grover as the
comic side-kick, who manages to raise a few genuine laughs in the
Of course, just as in the Harry Potter franchise, the rest of the
cast is filled out with famous faces, although, in this instance, rather
than enriching the film with colourful characters, they are left with
not much more to do than frown and occasionally bellow. While Uma Thurman’s Medusa is pantomime villainy at its finest, Sean Bean’s Zeus is just frustratingly helpless, and Brosnan’s Chiron, a centaur who helps to train the young demigods, merely hints at the familiar father-figure stereotype.
By far the most interesting character, Hades, is also the most wasted. Playing the God of the Underworld as a jaded rock star, Coogan
provides the film’s funniest moments but, despite Hades orchestrating a
large part of the plot, Coogan’s latest comedy creation has
disappointingly little screen-time.
None of this, of course, is down to the talented actors involved, but is, instead, the fault of the script. Clunky dialogue makes the gods seem powerless and the rushed plot results in Percy never really showing any distress
at his mum’s kidnapping. It also means that the youngsters travel
across the US in the time it takes to play the introduction of an
appropriate song. Worst of all, the tragedy at the heart of the story –
the fact that the gods are forced to abandon their human offspring – is
always undeservedly brushed over.
But then, that was never the purpose of the film. All the plot holes, daft scripts and unexplored characters in the world could not stop this from being a blockbuster hit,
thanks to a million convincing pixels bringing the world of Greek
mythology to life. It’s fair to say that sequels can be expected and,
with this film being a much stronger start to a franchise than
Philosopher’s Stone ever was, this is the first real contender to the
Hogwarts sorting hat.