This week, a lot of my friends have asked me what I thought of the movie Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief because they know how much I adore the books. I hope not to inundate everyone with movie reviews on my *book review* blog, but Percy Jackson is special. I’ve championed the series ever since picking it up in the winter of 2008. I remember first hearing about the series in October (I think it was October; it was whatever month Cornelia Funke’s Inkdeath came out) while standing in line waiting for Funke’s autograph after attending her lecture. I was discussing books with someone standing near me and they mentioned The Lightning Thief. It sounded interesting, but I soon forgot about it. Later that month, I started working seasonally at my local Barnes and Noble and kept seeing the book on display on an endcap near the break room. The book came back to haunt me again one day at the library, so I decided to check it out. I wound up tearing through it and buying all three paperbacks, then running around looking for the fourth book, which was still in hardback. The funny thing is that I waited until April when book four came out in paperback to decide that I wanted to own all of the books in hardback. >.<
Working in the Children's Department, I've handsold the series to a lot of people and watched as it went from something semi-obscure to a huge success. Because I loved the series so much, I was asked to lead and prepare a special bi-weekly discussion group for our summer reading program as well as a special one-night event last month the night before the movie came out.
For those who still haven't read/discovered Percy Jackson, I'll give a brief synopsis here, though warn you that there are some spoilers in the movie discussion below. For those of you just wanting my opinion on the movie, you can skip this next paragraph. ^.~
In brief, the series is an action/adventure journey that places mythological characters, places, and monsters in today's world. As the focus of culture shifted from Greece to the Western Hemisphere, the Greek Gods moved too. For example, today, Mt. Olympus is on top of the Empire State Building, Cyclops can be found by journeying through the mysterious Bermuda Triangle, etc. The gods are still having relationships with mortal beings much as they did in the past, siring offspring that come to be known as "demigods." Percy Jackson is one of these half-human, half-god hybrid children, finding himself in mortal danger because the Greek monsters can "smell" demigods and think they're mighty tasty morsels for them to enjoy. Percy manages to escape to Camp Half-Blood, a place with others like himself. There, he finds out that his father was a Greek Olympian and is framed for stealing the master lightning bolt belonging to Zeus. He goes on a quest with a satyr named Grover and a demigod named Annabeth (daughter of Athena), hoping to find the true lightning thief before a war breaks out on Mt. Olympus. I won't get into the overarching story that connects all five books since it's involved and spoilery, but it's definitely worth checking out, especially if you're a fan of mythology.
Okay, now what you've all been waiting for: What were my thoughts on the movie? Ultimately, this movie has been a wonderful thing for the book series and its author, Rick Riordan. It has become so much more popular and so many more kids have discovered a love of reading thanks to these books. For that alone, Riordan is amazing. Between PJ and the other series he created, The 39 Clues (he only wrote the first one, but fully outlined all ten in the series), he has the Second and Third bestselling series for children in the department (behind only Jeff Kinney's Diary of a Wimpy Kid, also about to be a movie), which is sort of amazing. I even have my eighth-grade neighbor with Asperger's who hates reading in love with this series, and that's a feat in and of itself.
As for the movie itself, I thought it was good. Yes, there are parts that disappointed or annoyed me, but overall, the movie was pretty decent. Much better than some of the trainwrecks that were once good books. I won't even see the movie of my favorite novel, My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult, because they changed something fundamental that makes the book *matter.* My favorite children's book (and #5 on my All-Time Top Five list), Ella Enchanted, is another one that's very hard to watch because it's so different from its source material. The Lightning Thief as a movie, on the other hand, still holds the essence of the book it came from. You don't walk away feeling fundamentally different things about the story itself.
Yes, the secret surrounding the identity of Percy's father takes up a lot of the book and doesn't exist in the movie, but I can sort of understand why they did that. After all, you have two hours to make a movie. If we want to see more of later parts of the story, this part has to go, sad as it is to say. Yes, Clarisse and Ares and Thalia aren't mentioned in the movie and Luke's character hasn't been explored thoroughly or properly. We have to remember that when the movie was being filmed, the book series was still semi-obscure. It didn't explode in popularity until last summer. If the movie tanked, there would be no sequel, so for this movie, there could be no loose ends. Look at the way Philip Pullman's Dark Materials trilogy was handled. Only The Golden Compass ever saw the light of day. With the second Percy Jackson movie (based on The Sea of Monsters) now scheduled for release, I can see them working in more backstory. Plus, maybe the next movie will be a little longer a la Harry Potter or something. If they don't, the rest of the movies will be too different from the books and I may not be as lenient as I am now, lol.
A lot of people were annoyed by the fact that Luke gave Percy and Co. a map that lead to three pearls they needed on the way to their encounter with Hades. In the book, a sea nymph gave them the pearls and there was no map. Each of the places the group wound up was just a rest stop, etc. (and there were more than three in the book). To tell you the truth, it had been a while since I had re-read the book and I ddin't remember the pearls or how they wound up at each stop. It sound wrong, but plausible, so I tried to recall and went in and re-read the book again, so it didn't really bother me. Plus, again, the movie was two hours long. You need a reason to go from Point A to Point B to Point C. The spirit of the books was there and they DID make pit stops.
Personally, what annoyed me the most about the movie was the age of the actors. When I first saw the trailer, I went, "Wow, Percy looks older than he should." I found a really informative article (that I luckily bookmarked at the time!) talking about why Chris Columbus chose to use older kids based on his experience with younger actors in the Harry Potter titles he directed. I wish he hadn't done this because age is really important in the series and all of the actors are already older than they are in the final book (around sixteen), and they're only going to age further as the movies continue.
Overall, I enjoyed the movie. I had fun. They did a good job with it. Granted, they could have done an even better job with it and made the movie fabulous, but with the two hours they had to work with, I was relatively satisfied with the movie. Coming from me, that's a lot; a lot of people often say I'm too harsh. If you haven't read the books, I still encourage you to do so because they're pretty amazing, but also check out the movie. It's visually spectacular and does the spirit of the book justice.