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August 2010

Percy Jackson and The Lightning Thief

cast: Logan Lerman, Brandon T. Jackson, Alexandria Daddario, Pierce Brosnan, and Uma Thurman

director: Chris Columbus

115 minutes (PG) 2009
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
20th Century Fox DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 6/10
review by J.C. Hartley

Percy Jackson & The Lightning Thief

This is an odd sort of peculiarity, presumably aimed at the Harry Potter audience, sharing director Chris Columbus who helmed the first two Potter films, and causing a little bit of controversy with the similarity of some of the publicity graphics for this to that other franchise´┐Ż It's a little hipper, a little bit more grown-up, more street, and with palpable names among the adult members of the cast, but altogether too much of a muchness.

The film opens with Zeus (Sean Bean, LOTR) in glowering mood confronting his brother Poseidon (Kevin McKidd) over the theft of the royal thunderbolt. Zeus suspects Poseidon's son, and failure to return the bolt will mean war. We cut to Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman, Gamer, 3:10 To Yuma), dyslexic under-achiever, living with his single-mum and her odorous boyfriend. On a school trip to the local museum Percy suddenly finds he is able to answer questions on the Greek myths and interpret some short Greek texts.

He is immediately attacked by a supply teacher horribly transformed into a flying hag or fury, whereupon his best friend the disabled Grover (Brandon T. Jackson, The Day The Earth Stood Still) and wheelchair-bound teacher Mr Brunner (Pierce Brosnan, ex-James Bond), are revealed to be his protectors. Grover is charged with the task of transporting Percy and his mum to a place of safety, Camp Half-Blood, but Percy's mother is unable to enter and subsequently kidnapped by a giant Minotaur which Percy succeeds in killing.

Camp Half-Blood is revealed to be a training camp for demigods, those children of mixed parentage, the offspring of the unions between humans and the Greek gods. Grover is revealed to be an apprentice satyr, Mr Brunner is a centaur and in charge of the camp. Percy's father was Poseidon, one of the big three, with Zeus and Hades - lord of the Underworld. Hades makes an appearance, demanding that Percy brings him the stolen lightning bolt in exchange for his mother who is being held in the Underworld.

Percy has made an uneasy connection with Annabeth (Alexandria Daddario), daughter of Athena, and a friendship with Luke (Jake Abel) a son of Hermes. Percy determines to travel to the Underworld to rescue his mum and, inevitably, Grover and Annabeth tag along. Luke supplies flying baseball boots, belonging to his dad the messenger of the gods, and an enchanted shield, as well as a map which will enable the kids to track down pearls with which Persephone manages to escape the Underworld for R&R.

So begins the meat of the film and some excellent sequences in which the trio encounter Medusa (Uma Thurman), and the Hydra, lose time in Las Vegas as stoned lotus eaters, and finally are ferried across the transparent Styx with a fine view of Tartarus below.

My teenage daughter quite enjoyed this movie and my wife figured out early who had pinched the bolt. The action sequences and CGI were quite well accomplished. The Medusa sequence is excellent and the Vegas routine very creative, although as soon as you see the prize sports car you know that's how they are going to make their escape. Some of the stuff is obviously aimed at an older audience or probably just older kids, Persephone (Rosario Dawson) comes on to Grover, and our very own Steve Coogan plays Hades as a louche ageing rock star.

The film is fine for all the family but it's not going to make a series and no one's going to end up on the Hollywood rich list, except maybe the author Rick Riordan so hurray for that!

The extras disc has the usual range of off-cuts shuffled into an extras package. There are deleted scenes, Secrets Of The Gods - basically background information on characters and featured monsters, a quiz to work out what sort of demigod you might be, and three featurettes with on-set access, Inside Camp Half-Blood, on set with Brandon T. Jackson, and Meet The Demigods.



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