Brandon's Word: Percy Jackson and the Olympians is a Shame
by Brandon Lee Tenney
February 12, 2010
If there's one thing I hate above all else, it's wasted potential. Unfortunately, Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief is just that: wasted potential. The film has a stunning cast, home to the likes of Pierce Brosnan, Sean Bean, Uma Thurman, Catherine Keener, Kevin McKidd, Joe Pantoliano, Rosario Dawson, and Steve Coogan. Of course, the actors above are but the trimmings on a film starring Alexandra Daddario (as Annabeth), Brandon T. Jackson (as Grover), and, as the titular character, Logan Lerman. It's these three we are meant to follow and grow with. Unfortunately, though, these three are the film's least interesting components. Them and the script, that is.
My heart aches for Chris Columbus. Between his writing and directing credits, he informed my childhood with films such as Home Alone, The Goonies, Gremlins, Mrs. Doubtfire, and, later, the first two Harry Potter films. Unfortunately, Columbus ultimately fails with his adaptation of Percy Jackson. Characters are left to run wild -- the satyr Grover, mostly -- and ultimately fail to grow at all. But it's the film's script that is its biggest problem. The writing just isn't compelling. Almost every line of dialog is so on-the-nose that each character might have been better off holding up a color-coded cue card to let the audience know their emotion during any given scene. That sure would have been easier on my ears.
And Percy Jackson, who we're meant to follow, quite literally, into the depths of Hades, is a static, bland vacuum. You'd think as a demigod he'd be instantly interesting. At least, I imagine that's what the screenwriter thought. Oh, how wrong. Percy is more often than not -- literally and figuratively -- handed everything he needs to complete a task. He doesn't have to earn anything. He instantly acquires skills when he needs them, then masters them on a whim when the story deems it necessary. He's a character being tugged through the quest by the writer's invisible rope instead of finding the way himself. The former just isn't interesting.
As for the ridiculously long title: it's not even apropos. The title should actually be: Percy Jackson and His Brief Encounter with the Olympians: The Search for Persephone's Pearls. Lightning thievery is barely a factor at all. The film promises an A-story, then serves up a B-story that lasts for well over ninety percent of its running time. And at the end, Percy is ostensibly unchanged. Annabeth, daughter of Athena and touted as a master strategist, is useless when some actual strategy may be needed, but she's great when it comes to capture the flag. That's useful, I suppose. But hey, the film does use Lady Gaga's "Poker Face" really well. So, there's that.
When all's said and done, this film will undoubtedly be compared to Columbus's work on Harry Potter. For all their flaws, those two films are so far above this one that even the elevator to Mount Olympus can't reach them. And what a shame that is. There's such potential beneath the surface of Percy Jackson's world. Though, if it continues to be played as a greatest hits of Greek mythology for kids without a dynamic group of characters who I can actually care about and not just laugh at while they trip on Sirens's hors d'oeuvres, then we're never going to see that potential realized. And that's simply a godsdamned shame.
Brandon's Rating: 5 out of 10