Friday, February 26, 2010

Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief **

Director: Chris Columbus
Cast: Logan Lerman, Alexandra Daddario, Brandon T. Jackson
Sean Bean, Kevin McKidd, Steve Coogan, Melina Kanakaredes
Rosario Dawson, Pierce Brosnan, Catherine Keener, Uma Thurman
Joe Pantoliano, Dylan Neal, Jake Abel

With the end of the Harry Potter movies in a couple of years, the vacant spot for teenager magical hero is up for grabs.
One of the first entries we get is Percy Jackson (Lerman) the demigod, son of Poseidon (McKidd) and Sally Jackson (a misused Keener) who discovers his origin when a fury tries to kill him.
He also learns that his best friend Grover (Jackson) is a satyr working as his caretaker and his teacher Mr. Brunner (Brosnan) is a centaur who also works as trainer and counselor in a demigods training camp.
When his mother is kidnapped by a minotaur, Percy learns that the gods of Olympus are in a hassle over his alleged theft of Zeus' (Bean) thunder-don't ask-and war will erupt if he doesn't return it in time.
Of course the movie never cares to explain why Percy is accused of such a crime or how the gods could think he did it if he was ignorant of his ancestry. What the movie is interested in is setting in motion a plot to update Greek myths and have Percy become a Homeric hero who shields himself from Medusa's (a deliciously slimy Thurman) stare with his iPod and escapes the evil lotus-eaters from a Las Vegas casino where Lady GaGa is the musical artist of choice.
The fact that it's easy to see how the whole movie worries on ways to introduce possible situations for a sequel is not half as annoying as Columbus' aesthetic choices and direction.
You can practically hum Potter's musical theme from the notes Percy's composer Christophe Beck chooses for this movie.
The whole thing is more preoccupied with becoming the next Harry Potter than to carve out its own identity or take advantage of the richness within Greek mythology and its repercussions on our daily life (which happen to be more than anything crafted in Hogwarts...).
If to that you add the inane nature with which Columbus orchestrates the action sequences and the visual effects which seem to have been made circa 2001 and you will realize there's nothing much that sounds too appealing about this hero.
If it weren't for the rather impressive supporting cast (Bean and McKidd quarrel with such authority that you won't dare to laugh at their cheesy dialogues) which turns into a "who's next?" sort of guessing game, there would be little to enjoy in this film.
The younger leads seem to have been told to act as if they lacked any charm and were playing action figures while the somewhat dark humor (that must come from the novel it's based on) is killed by Columbus' need to chew, digest and throw up everything for us.
When we learn that Hades is located in Hollywood, our chuckles are killed by the awful Columbus who decides to set the road trip there to a certain AC/DC track.
At least he's faithful to the movie's mythical spirit, for every time the film is about to do something good, Columbus pulls off a Sisyphus, dragging us down with him.

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