Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief (2010)

(In theatres, February 2010) The trailer for this film was unremarkable, so it’s a small surprise that the film itself proves just fine.  No in terms of plotting, which blends “kid with a fantastic origin” with “quest!” and explicitly takes on the good old plot-coupon approach to second-act plotting.  Not in terms of verisimilitude, when some of the dumbest material actually makes it on-screen in what looks like a summer camp that no one would enjoy.  No, the chief saving grace of this adaptation of the first Percy Jackson & The Olympians book is in the way it adapts Greek mythology to a modern-day context.  Part of this package are seeing a bunch of known actors in small roles: While Pierce Brosnan is OK as centaur Chiron and Sean Bean is credible as Zeus, it’s Uma Thurman as a leathery Medusa and Rosario Dawson as luscious Persephone that get all the attention.  They are barely enough to make us ignore more fundamental details about the film’s world-building, and how it doesn’t exactly hang together gracefully.  It’s a good thing that it’s Chris Columbus who directs the film, because it makes the clunky first-act plot similarities with Harry Potter easier to dismiss.  But then again, the fun of the film is in the details, not the overall plot.  A few good action sequences, complete with top-of-the-line special effects, finish off a package that is, all things considered, a bit better and more fun than anyone would have thought.

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