This snappy, if soft action adventure has fun with the Greek immortals in a way similar to Harry Potter, but may not appease fans of the Rick Riordan books.
In time for the Winter Olympics to capitalize on its title, Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief almost seems like the start of a new franchise; but one should remember The Golden Compass.
The director of the first two Harry Potter installments, Chris Columbus, puts his stamp on what is visually eventful but hardly deep as it loses the focus of its lauded source. It stars Logan Lerman, Catherine Keener, Pierce Brosnan and Sean Bean.
New York surly teen Percy (Lerman of My One and Only) hasn't been told by his mother (Keener) about his dad (Kevin McKidd) being Poseidon, god of the sea.
His best friend Grover (Brandon. T. Jackson) happens to be a protected satyr, and this adaptation by Craig Titley puts the onus Percy to be a mercurial presence after Zeus (Bean) realizes his lightning bolt has been snatched. What unfolds is rather intense when not played for laughs, as the film's rating may not entirely be justified.
So, here's another case of the cinema embracing the alternate universe to coincide with the conflicts of a boy like Percy who begins to understand his new vital prominence from his alienated earthbound position.
The Lightning Thief has a certain zippy quality as obvious and preposterous right up through its denouement with a little scene-stealing from Steve Coogan as Hades, as well as enticing flashes by Rosario Dawson and Uma Thurman, as Persephone and Medusa, respectively. Also, in addition to Jackson, the culpable Percy has allies like Brosnan's centaur of a professor and a peer (like a Hermione Granger) in Alexandra Daddario's Annabeth.
The characters are subservient to the effects and sonorous bombast as the music really keys in to some edgy, odd moments as our young heroes are facing the hydra or at a Sin City hotel with a drugged lotus flower. Columbus brings a demonstrable sense of what propels this kind of teen adventure, but breathtakingly robbing the complexity of its premise in un-godlike fashion.