Harry Potter clones are not hard to come by at all. After the success of the first few Harry Potter films, studios began to get the idea that they could possibly have their own Harry Potter-type franchise. Most of these movies were met with mixed results. Films like Zathura, The Golden Compass, and The Spiderwick Chronicles were rather fun, crafty family flicks, that did not feel like shameless cash grabs. On the other hand, films like The Seeker: The Dark is Rising, Eragon, Inkheart, and Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assitant were all largely bland, uninspired efforts, reeking of Potter-envy. Good or bad, all of these movies have died out quickly, due to the fact each had poor box office performance, meaning all of these potential franchises were just over in a flash. The one Potter clone to somewhat prosper is Percy Jackson.
While the original film did not perform great, Percy Jackson has actually become a series, with a sequel Percy Jackson: The Sea of Monsters coming out later this summer. While this may not be the most deserving film to earn a sequel, Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief is a fun, zippy, family flick.
When Zeus’s lighting bolt goes missing, teenage demi-god Percy Jackson is thrusted into a dangerous adventure, to stop a potential war between the gods.
The cast assembled here is quite good. A smart call here was made to support these relatively young actors with many great veteran actors, giving this material some more gravitas. Veterans such as Sean Bean, Pierce Brosnan, Steve Coogan, Rosario Dawson, Catherine Keener, and Uma Thurman all have roles in the film, and do a solid job. Coogan, Thurman, and Brosnan are just having so much fun here hamming it up with there sort of silly material, which makes the whole experience more fun.
Even the young core does a solid job. Logan Lerman has become a lead actor for a reason, and here was the first time he really got to show off his potential. Lerman has charm, likability, and presence as Percy, and is able to carry this film on his shoulders. Brandon T. Jackson is his right hand man, and while he can be a bit over the top as the sidekick, he is overall able to bring a few laughs to the material with his relentless effort. Alexandrao Daddario also does well as Lerman’s love interest, having enough chemistry with Lerman to make their relationship not seem forced.
The action in this film is well done. The film wasn’t made on the average blockbuster budget, but the action still looks great. Former Potter director Christopher Columbus gives a steady hand to the action, letting the movement speaking for itself, rather than adding unneeded style or edits. The special effects are not anything to write home about, but look sharp, especially for an early 2010 film. The action is frequent enough to feed any action fan’s action craving.
The film is very well paced. Columbus is an expert at pacing these type of family adventure films, keeping the film moving at zippy enough speed. At around a two hour running time, it would be easy for the film to lose its audience in that time period, but, it never feels like it’s too long. When it ends, it ends at just the right time, which even great films struggle to do.
While the story adds some fun Greek mythology, most of this story feels very simplistic and by-the-numbers. Shrek 2 scribe Joe Stillman is pigeonholed here because he has to work with the story of the book, but even the book does feature more of the Greek mythology, making it feel far more new and unique. The simple hunt for such and such item story has been done so many times over, and this film really falls flat on making it feel more unique.
The dialogue itself also really falls flat. This is the area where Stillman had a chance to show his talent, and fails. Most of the dialogue feels very simplistic, with jokes that are very much only centered towards its younger demographic. A great family film can make not just kids, but adults laugh; Percy Jackson’s script really never puts any effort towards pleasing the adult viewers.
Probably the worst quality about the film is that it lacks a true voice or style to it. Films like Harry Potter and The Prison of Azkaban and the other Potter films work rather well because they capture what was special about the books, their mix between wizardry and character. Percy Jackson has none of that special quality to it, which is the main reason why its clumped in that Potter rip-off category. In the simplest terms, Percy Jackson is just a piece of white bread with no real flavoring to it.
A minor complaint; there is a scene where the characters go to Las Vegas and there is a montage of zaniness, with the song “Poker Face” by Lady Gaga being played along with that. Just why is this scene here? It made my brain become numb. It is idiotic and dull to the highest degree, but it’s only like two minutes long, which made it not so bad.
A fun, yet by-the-numbers family adventure, that is better than most Potter wannabees, but not by much.
Chug a Beer: during the whole montage scene, it’s the only way to escape it.
Do a Shot: for all the weird facial make-up on some of these actors, like a beard on Steve Coogan.
Drink a Beer: to forget that terrible pen line that was heavily marketed in the trailers for no real reason.