Percy Jackson and The Olympians
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Percy Jackson and The Olympians



One of the oldest forms of storytelling is mythology. The need to manufacture a variety of gods and goddess is universal existing in just about every human culture ever founded. These deities populate a frequently elaborate framework of events and relationships used to explain the mysteries of nature and provide a stage for the morality plays that define their society. This aspect of human nature is so powerful and engrained in our psychological construction that even after science has explained the fundamentals of the natural world some form of mythology is retained. In modern times comic book super heroes and villains has taken the place of the super natural beings of myths. Superman and Lex Luthor are as much a part of our mythology as Thor and Loki were to the ancient Norse folk. Mythology in all its varied forms makes the perfect basis for translation into other types of entertainment including, naturally literature and film. There is another axiom from physics that tends to apply to the entertainment industry; nature abhors a vacuum. Now when you combine these two factors it is a small step to realize that one of the most popular film and literary franchises has recently come to an end; the Harry Potter saga. This set of books and their cinematic counterparts have enthralled audiences of all ages for quite some time and a potential replacement. One contender for this position is the novels of Rick Riordan; the Percy Jackson and the Olympians stories. As the franchise title indicates the basis of the characters is rooted in already established mythologies and the combination of kids with magic targets the same demographic once served by Harry and his friends. So far there are five books to the series which began in 2005. This kicks off the film franchise with ample opportunity to grow. The first book launches the film series with ‘Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief’.

Charged with the task of transforming a bestselling novel into a film fell to Craig Titley. Adding to the usual difficulty inherent in making a screenplay from such a source this case requires laying the ground work for a potential franchise. This entails a delicate balance in relating the required exposition with making the story exciting. Traditionally origins stories are slower in pacing than subsequent films because the audience has to be indoctrinated to the all important back stories. I’ve heard some talk of the series continuing but nothing concrete as of now, hopefully this series will thrive enough to be given a chance to reach its potential. The film reportedly cost about $95 million with a return of almost $250 million back so a lot is riding on the success of the DVD and Blu-ray to put icing on the possibility of a sequel. One aspect of most major mythological systems forms the foundation for this series; gods and goddesses have a predilection for sex with mere mortals. Myths are full of illegitimate offspring by such parings and this film just brings the trend into modern times. Things really haven’t changed much over the millennium for the royalty of Olympus. The ruling triad of Zeus (Sean Bean) and his brothers Hades (Steve Coogan) and Poseidon (Kevin McKidd) are still in a constant state of animosity with each other. As the story begins Zeus informs Poseidon that is main lightning bolt has been stolen and he suspects the Sea god’s son. A deadline of two weeks is given before al out war breaks out. Back in the mortal realm we get our first look a seventeen year old Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman) who happens to be on a field trip with school visiting an exhibition of Greco-Roman art. A substitute teacher, Mrs. Dodds (Maria Olsen) is actually a Fury in disguise. She isolates the young man from the group in order to interrogate him about the missing bolt. After being saved by his Latin professor, Mr. Brunner (Pierce Brosnan) Percy receives a magic sword disguised as an ordinary pen. Along with his best friend Grover Underwood (Brandon T. Jackson) are dispatched to Camp Half-Blood, a special training ground for like Percy. As the son of Poseidon Percy have magical abilities that manifest around water. At camp his world view is shaken to its core when he discovers he is part of a vast supernatural community including his new friends, Annabeth Chase (Alexandra Daddario), a daughter of Athena (Melina Kanakaredes) and Luke Castellan (Jake Abel), a son of Hermes. It also turns out that Grover is a satyr and Mr. Bruner happens to be a centaur. Before he can full process the truth about his heritage Percy is tossed headlong into a supernatural scavenger hunt for enchanted pearls required to recue is human mother Sally (Catherine Keener) who is being held captive.

The film was aptly directed by a veteran of working with supernatural teens; Chris Columbus who helmed a number of the ‘Harry Potter’ movies. One reason why this film received less than stellar acceptance from the critical community is the fact that it is an origin story. As previously mention there is significant amount of foundation to lay down that breaks up the overall pacing. The producers also peppered the movie with a large number of fairly high profile cameo appearances perhaps to lend a touch of acceptability to a broader audience base. It is fun to a point but does border on the annoying as recognizable faces parade through the frame. To his credit Columbus knows how to deal with a franchise particularly at this delicate stage of development. There is a very successful blend of special effects and real performances especially in scenes that showcase the upcoming young stars. Speaking of the effects this is a film that will show off a high definition system. The color palette is spectacular holding up in even the quickest changes maintain a great picture throughout. The lossless audio gives the feel of being right in the middle of the action with all the speakers getting a real workout. This is one you can watch with the famil and enjoy together.

Posted 06/01/2010

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