Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief
High school isn't shaping up to be a great time for Percy Jackson. Dyslexic and suffering from ADHD, he feels most comfortable in swimming pools—away from classrooms. When he's wet he feels like he can think.
Percy lives in New York City with his mom, Sally, and his sleazy, foul-smelling, beer-guzzling stepdad, Gabe. He's struggling to study, get along at home and make sense of his life. But forget about puberty for a minute. That's cake compared to what Percy's about to discover. His long-gone birth father is actually Poseidon, Greek god of the sea.
So that explains this kid's seven-minute siestas at the bottom of the deep end!
One of the first things newbie demigod Percy learns is that his Uncle Zeus' lightning bolt has been stolen. And that he's the prime suspect—and therefore immediately under brutal attack.
Suddenly, horrible Greek monsters are trying to kill Percy and his friends Grover (a half-human-half-goat guardian called a satyr) and Annabeth, daughter of Athena. Worse, his mom has been abducted by his Uncle Hades, god of the underworld—otherwise known as hell.
And we think we have weird families.
Percy loves and tries to protect his mom, demanding that others respect her. She loves him, too, sacrificing a great deal to help and shelter him. He can't see this protection at first, but grows to recognize it and appreciate her even more.
Poseidon loves Percy, too, and has tried to provide for him. But he was forced to abandon his son as a baby when Zeus forbade contact between the gods and their children. Should Poseidon have stood up to Zeus and stayed with Percy anyway? Maybe so. And I'm hoping nobody reads license into the sentimental moment near the end when Percy's father tells him that he's always looking out for him—and just because it's from a distance, Percy shouldn't think of it as any less significant.
At first, Percy is a self-proclaimed loser. But in a happy twist, disabilities are abilities to demigods and mythical beasts. Grover's crutches, for example, are to divert humans' attention away from his goat legs. Mr. Brunner, Percy's teacher at school and a centaur leader at a training camp for the gods' children, sits in a wheelchair that masks his horse half. Dyslexia simply means Percy is hardwired to read ancient Greek. And his ADHD is a sign of great battle instincts.
Grover, Annabeth and Percy risk their lives to protect one another. The dangers of an inflated ego are hinted at.
The Olympians are the 12 Greek gods of the pantheon. The "big three"—brothers Zeus, Hades and Poseidon—are constantly bickering and occasionally wreaking havoc on earth when they go to war.
Water gives Percy power, and he summons its life-giving force from natural sources, water fountains and even tanks on NYC rooftops. He uses its power to heal himself and Annabeth when they're wounded. And he uses it to vanquish enemies by engulfing them in swirling torrents.
The gods often talk to their demigod children through thoughts, offering on-the-fly advice. Medusa turns unwary adversaries into stone statues with a glance. Zeus' lightning bolt is deemed the most powerful weapon in the world. Hades can morph from human form to fiery dragon.
Percy, Grover and Annabeth seek Hades in the underworld, which is guarded by a sign that reads, "Woe to all depraved souls" and is said to contain "scraps of human misery." Tortured screams of the dead are heard amid the flames. Hades orders the hounds of hell to feed Percy's posse to "the souls" we see writhing in torment. And when Persephone, Hades' bullied wife, works up the nerve to defy her abusive god-husband, she yells, "What? What will you do? I'm already in hell!"
Oh, and by the way, Hollywood is the portal to hell.
Mortals and gods are said to "hook up." Gabe slaps Sally's bottom. Grover—who appears to be a teenager—leans toward lechery, getting excited when Aphrodite's bikini-wearing daughters flirtatiously invite him to a party. He tells Percy that their mother is the goddess of love, slyly adding, "You know where that leads."
In Las Vegas, Grover is fawned over by doting females wearing short lingerie-like dresses or revealing shirts. And they aren't the only ones dressed to seduce at the casino Percy and his pals visit. In the underworld, Persephone gets all "come hither" with Grover. She's wearing a tight, cleavage-revealing gown, so the randy satyr happily follows the promiscuous goddess.
Partially nude statues, both male and female, get screen time.
Bloody cuts and a strangely bloodless decapitation are mixed in with monster attacks and hand-to-hand combat.
It's the decapitation that deserves the most attention here: After Percy slashes Medusa's head off (offscreen), he decides they'd better take her noggin with them. So Grover picks it up (onscreen) and carries it around.
One of Percy's teachers morphs into a fury (a flying, dragon-like creature) and grabs him, trying to bite out his heart. Demonic beasts chase and attack the boy and his friends. And when the teens fight back, they slice off several monster heads. Medusa turns a woman to stone with her icy stare. A minotaur attacks, throwing a car and slamming Percy into a tree. It picks up Percy's mom, who then disappears in a flash of fire before Percy can stab the beastie to death with its own horn.
Swordfights are commonplace—and sometimes draw blood—with faces, arms, hands and other body parts getting sliced. Kicking, punching, chasing, falling from great heights and getting shot with arrows are also par for the course. Grover proves that even crutches can become weapons. A game of capture the flag among demigods looks more like a medieval war zone.
In the film's climax, Percy throws a trident at another demigod's throat, knocking him off a skyscraper.
Gabe grabs Percy's hair and threatens him, backing him against a wall. A speeding car hits a cow and flips over it.
Crude or Profane Language
God's name is abused three or four times. A centaur jokes that he has a "real horse's a‑‑." A demigod who despises his father asks Percy to kick the man's "a‑‑" if he sees him. The underworld is called a "h‑‑‑hole." "Flippin'" stands in for the f-word. Name-calling includes "loser," "bald-headed freak" and "cripple."
Drug and Alcohol Content
Casino servers offer lotus blossoms that mentally incapacitate those who eat them. When Percy, Grover and Annabeth indulge, they go on what appears to be an acid trip. This vignette could be, if greatly stretched, a lesson about improper drug use and self-indulgence. But it's mostly just an excuse to lengthen the trio's time in Sin City.
Gabe orders Sally to get him beer from the fridge.
Other Negative Elements
Percy is disrespectful to Gabe and, at first, Poseidon. He wears headphones during a school lecture. And when it comes to listening to advice, Percy stinks. He ignores Chiron's instructions and goes his own way instead—only to be rewarded and called a "favorite" in the end. Impulsivity—even when it's reckless—should be rewarded, according to this film.
Among problematic songs played are Lady Gaga's "Poker Face," Ke$ha's "TiK ToK" and AC/DC's "Highway to Hell." Grover says he's dying to gamble when they get to Vegas. And we do indeed see a lot of people gambling. The teens steal a car that's on display in the casino, racing it through closed doors and speeding off to Hollywood.
Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson & the Olympians books have taken millions of young readers on an epic Greek journey. Now they're being lured to the land of big screens and expensive popcorn to see it all come to life.
Directed by Chris Columbus, who helmed two of the Harry Potter films, this very Harry tale attempts to dispense courage, wisdom and independent thought along with a few giggles and gags. What it ends up being, though, is "loud, scary, oversexed and really unfun." That's according to Slate reviewer David Plotz. I'll add ridiculously violent for a kids flick, pointless and dull.
If there's anything we all can take away from Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, it's that God (with a capital G) is nothing like the silly Greek gods who play havoc with human life, jealously accuse one another and then savagely attack. Their neglected demigod kids must study and train to tackle their preternatural parents' pettiness. God's children don't have to. In fact, He fights for them.
But that's not in the movie; it's in the Bible. All this flimsy flick does on its own is clobber kids with polytheism, severed heads, Vegas excess and lame dialogue. A simpering satyr who's a junior protector trying to earn his horns? Really?