Ever since the success of Harry Potter being adapted from book to movie form, it has become a trend to delve into further book series that deal with an unlikely kid, ignorant to his origin’s reality, becoming the champion of a mystical world. The most common stories that follow this setup are generally set within the fantasy realm of medieval magic and sorcery. Percy Jackson, however, is a series that delves even further back in history to the days of the complicated mythology of the Greek Gods. Although I wasn’t expecting much from the movie, mostly since I had never heard of the book series until this film’s release, I was still somewhat eager to see this based on the use of Greek mythology. My eagerness was further sparked by learning that Chris Columbus was the director, whose directorial career includes childhood favorites such as “Home Alone” 1 & 2, “Mrs. Doubtfire,” along with the first two Harry Potter films.
Based on the popular book series by Rick Riordan, the film follows trouble-prone Percy Jackson who finds himself having problems in high school… but that’s the least of his challenge. It’s the 21st century, but the gods of Mount Olympus have walked out of the pages of his Greek mythology texts and into his life, and they’re not happy – Zeus’ lightning bolt has been stolen, and Percy is the prime suspect. Learning he is the son of Poseidon, the young teen finds himself caught between angry and battling gods, and embarks on a cross-country adventure to catch the true lightning thief and unravel a mystery more powerful than the gods themselves.
The most common problem with adapting a book into a movie is that a book has no time constraint as a chapter can either be a highly detailed hour, or a vaguely explained week. This means that you will inevitably be cutting out most of what the source material has to offer as the main plot becomes a solid focus, with a healthy dose of subplots to expand on the characters and build up the climax of the movie. Having not read any of the Percy Jackson books, I can only assume that the source material differs greatly from what this movie attempted to accomplish. With that said, the movie didn’t accomplish much. The titular premise of stolen lightning from Zeus is so weakly presented as any actual significance, and the consequences are so loosely established that you never feel any sort of dramatic urgency from the plot. The characters don’t either, apparently, as they just kind of clumsily stumble around, with only contrived convenience being the reason they accomplish anything.
Our main characters are a trio, made up of Harry, the kid with a depressing past that becomes the unexpected hero; Hermione, the know-it-all elitist of this mystical reality; and Ron, the laidback best friend that is Harry’s realist anchor to his new world. I mean, Percy, the kid with a depressing past that becomes the unexpected hero; Annabeth, the know-it-all elitist of the mystical reality; and Grover, the laidback best friend that is Harry’s realist anchor to his new world. Okay, honestly, I tried to shy away from thinking of this movie as a wannabe Harry Potter, but it’s difficult to ignore the drop-in fit similarities. Admittedly, I have no idea if the book versions of the characters are that comparable to Harry Potter, or if this might be Chris Columbus’ poor decision. Either way, it was very distracting throughout the movie. There is praise to be had, however, in that the actors chosen to play the lead trio did a decent job with what they had to work with. Their performances were only hindered by sloppy writing, and I look forward to seeing them in future roles.
Back to the writing, despite a plot that attempts to be incredibly dramatic, the only real consequences that crop up in the film are in the form of massive plot holes. One of the most glaring even manages to completely slaughter the little bit of air of suspense; supposedly Percy is in danger in the human world as he’s being hunted and is even nearly killed by a creature disguising itself to get close to him. However, the trio manages to spend a week in a Casino drugged out of coherency and vulnerable to attack, but somehow not a single thing comes after them, and no explanation is given. The movie is thoroughly plagued with plot holes such as that, and frequently kills any enjoyment that you begin to develop throughout it.
Overall, I have trouble recommending this even for a Rental. It has so little to really offer, even if you’re interested in Greek mythology. There are a few decent jokes here and there, and the special effects are generally well done, but overall it’s a forgettable disappointment.
Fox releases Percy Jackson in the greatest combination pack ever to be invented: Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital Copy. Yes, it’s kind of a waste that Fox put the digital copy on a separate disc so you end up with a three-disc set, but it’s still nice that they’re following the trend that Disney started (and a trend that Warner has gone full-bore with, doing it with all of their films and not just with children’s movies). The set boasts the usual amount of inserts inside the packed case and no exterior slipcover.
The films 2.35:1 AVC encoded transfer is absolutely spectacular and really as close to flawless as a Blu-ray can get. Not only are scenes full of rich detail that boast a whole array of colors (especially the camp sequences—the daytime bits with the green foliage everywhere make for a real series of eye-candy segments). I found myself re-watching the “Capture the Flag” sequence purely for the transfer—not only did the audio step up its game in that piece of the film but the video was just absolutely stunning. The rest of the film looked spectacular as well (except maybe Medusa—that whole sequence was kind of embarrassing for everyone involved) and as un-thrilling as the film itself was, the transfer definitely wasn’t a reason to be bored.
Nor was the audio mix, which boasted Fox’s usual DTS-HD MA 5.1 as the mix of choice. As simple as the film was, whenever a big action piece would come into play you were immediately given goosebumps as the surrounds lit up and the subwoofer began thumping out a copious amount of sound effects. Everything from clashing metal to barfing balls of fire, the sound field was everywhere with this film and anytime I found myself truly enjoying what was on screen, it was often a by-product of the A/V presentation because it is just absolutely killer.
Included with this release in the extras department are:
Deleted Scenes (14:03, 1080p)
Secret of the Gods – character profiles
Discover Your Powers – a quiz that tells you what mythological figure you are most like
The Books Comes to Life (4:24, 1080p) – making of EPK fluff piece
Inside Camp Half Blood (5:09, 1080p)
On Set with Brandon T. Jackson (5:56, 1080p)
Meet the Demigods (3:49, 1080p)
Composing for the Gods (3:29, SD) – composer Christophe Beck discusses scoring the film
Theatrical Trailer (2:25, 1080p)
There are also a few BD-Live extras, but they’re only a few minutes long and seem kind of like a strange addition. Why can’t you just put the content on the disc so I don’t have to buffer it? I get that it gives some kind of illusion that its bonus content, but it just seems like more work for the end user to go through to get what they paid for. This is definitely not a terrible set of extras for the film by any means, however, but it also doesn’t really wow me either. Then again neither did the film, so perhaps this is a perfect amount of extras to sit through.
While the film is by no means as disappointing to watch as Fox’s previous children’s novel adaptations (Eragon, I’m looking at you), it still just a very mediocre and cookie cutter film. The A/V presentation is definitely spectacular enough to warrant a Rental if you want to see what your home theater setup is capable of.
Percy Jackson and the Olympians – The Lightning Thief is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.
Film review by Andrew
Blu-ray review by Zach Demeter