Based on the ever popular book, Percy Jackson And The Lightning Thief is the latest franchise opener hoping to take up the slack when Harry Potter departs our screens later this year. Trading in witchcraft for Greek mythology, the film is set amongst a world where the gods of old still secretly overlook our everyday life, though when they travel down to earth from time to time, one thing leads to another and you find yourself with little old Percy Jackson.
One day discovering he is the son Poseidon (McKidd), god of the sea, the mundane life of Percy Jackson (Lerman) is turned upside down, and after being attacked by a demonic Fury in the local museum, is whisked off to a safe haven camp to get a breath of fresh air and find out the true potential of the unexpected revelation.
While he might learn a thing or two about his new powers with the water, it’s not all good news for Percy. Accused by Zeus (Bean) of stealing the lightning from the sky and finding out his mother (Keener) is being held capture by Hades (Coogan) in the underworld, Percy must save his loved one, before protesting his innocence, and so sets out on a quest to gain entry into Hades’ lair and fine the real perpetrator behind the stolen lightning.
Mixing the child-friendly fantasy of the aforementioned Harry Potter with the treasure hunting nature of National Treasure (Jackson and his two similarly mythologically-geneticised buddies must find track down a special pearl each to teleport them out of the underworld), Percy Jackson And The Lightning Thief certainly has a lot of potential as a romping adventure film
Sadly the story can’t entirely follow through and as Jackson and friend head out on the road, the film turns into the classic video game faux pas of scour the land to find and object, get the object, and repeat, only here the scouring is done with four wheels and a GPS. Given the linear structure it’s tough for the characters to come out of their shell, and from start to finish there certainly isn’t enough development in the leading trio to have you hooked just yet. That said, the actors all still do a decent job, especially the leads, although Uma Thurman as Medusa, doesn’t work at all; a blend of her hokey acting and the off-putting style to her character.
After previously directing the first two Harry Potter films, Chris Columbus was a safe choice behind the lens, and he doesn’t throw up any surprises. Columbus brings a measured approach that works on the whole, delivering the expected mix of set-ups, set-pieces and edge of your seat showdowns.
Percy Jackson And The Lightning Thief certainly isn’t a boring film and I wouldn’t be unhappy to see the sequels plough full steam ahead into production as Fox surely already have the pipeline. The franchise debut is the usual origin story fodder and the three main characters all adequately find their feet for what the re-emerging studio is hoping becomes their opposite number to the witchcraft and wizardry at Warner Bros.
As the pace picks up, there’s a lot of fun to be had with Percy Jackson And The Lightning Thief and though ironically the one thing that really holds the film back is a lack of real spark or imagination, it’s 119 minutes of your life just about worth the trade.