Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief

Book adaptations from a popular source are always tricky to pull off. The film needs to keep the readers’ favorite parts of a book, while maintaining a story in a much smaller time frame. Often this is done well enough – like in the Harry Potter movies; sometimes it’s done amazingly – like in “Jaws”; and other times, the resultant movie barely resembles the book, such as in “Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief.”

The Percy Jackson book series is one of the best middle-grade series to come out in recent years. While it’s not nearly as popular as the Harry Potter series, it’s at least as good and usually much more humorous, which makes for a fun read. That’s why it came as a surprise that the filmmakers would take such a light-hearted book and make it into a semi-serious movie.

Sure, humor is there, but it’s not there often, almost like it was added as an afterthought. On top of that, the movie makes some major plot changes, ages the characters so that it takes place in more of a young adult environment, eliminates much of the character development that made the novels so charming, and therefore creates a very different story.

That’s not to say “Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief” was a bad movie. The action sequences looked nice and some of the monsters were great – so it was often fun, despite lacking depth. It was eye candy that felt quicker than its two-hour time frame.

“Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief” stars Logan Lerman as Percy – a demigod son of Poseidon who has the power to control water. He’s spent his life up until high school with no knowledge of this, but at the opening of the film, he is accused by Zeus of stealing the god’s master lightning bolt. Things get worse for Percy when Hades kidnaps his mom. Percy must travel with demigod Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario) and the half man/half goat Satyr Grover (Brandon T. Jackson, who adds the little humor to the movie that does exist) to save his mother and find the stolen lightning bolt before war erupts.

Even for those who haven’t read the book, they would notice that the movie is lacking in many ways. There is very little character development – and very little development of this modern world of Greek mythology that made the novels so much intriguing. The action starts almost from the beginning and the movie jumps from one action set piece to another, with random characters appearing out of nowhere just to fall victim to monsters in unusual ways.

Compared to the book, “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” is a letdown. There are a number of missed opportunities that could have led to the start of a great series. On its own it’s a fun enough movie that should at least keep a younger audience interested – though some of the more adult subject matter may confuse some of the book’s original fans. The visuals are strong, and the performances work, even if the story is choppy. While that may not enough to make a good movie, it is enough to keep the film enjoyable – and perhaps it will be enough to encourage those who have not read the books to get out there and read them.

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