Friday, August 2, 2013

The Lightning Thief

Books to Movies is a feature where I review movies based off books! These reviews are for people who have read the book, so spoilers are definitely within.

Rated: PG

Is it worth watching?

If you like the books, no. It will only tick you off. Unless you don't mind a lot of poetic license. If you're just looking for a fun, original idea that is good for the family and don't know anything about the books, you might. However, it could also be confusing, because as a movie it's mediocre.

Is it clean?

Yes. Obviously, Percy and his friends are demigods, which means that they are the result of a Greek god getting together with a mortal. But this is in no way visually illustrated. The violence isn't bloody and there is no language. Demigods have powers, but it is more akin to superpowers rather than magic.

How is the cast?

For the most part, I actually liked the people they cast for the gods and other Greek mythological characters. As much as I dislike Pierce Brosnan, I thought he was a very good Chiron. Likewise, Sean Bean was a good Zeus and Kevin McKidd an excellent Poseidon. However, the principle characters - Percy, Annabeth, and Grover - were all wrong. Logan Lerman, Alexandra Daddario, and Brandon T. Jackson are all too old! Percy and Annabeth are twelve in The Lightning Thief; not almost into their twenties. And while it's stated that Grover is older, Brandon T. Jackson is still way too old. On top of that, Logan Lerman just didn't do a good job portraying Percy. I didn't dislike him, but I definitely didn't see him as the Percy Jackson I know and love. There was none of his sarcastic humor, none of his wanting to be a normal kid, but still always wanting to help his friends. He also didn't come across as even a little bit ADHD. Alexandra Daddario didn't have curly blonde hair, and she almost made Annabeth seem like she had an Attitude, which she totally doesn't. And Brandon T. Jackson actually made me dislike Grover pretty intensely. There was just something about his portrayal that irritated me. Luke was all wrong, too. Whereas he was awesome and big-brother-like in the book, he was just . . . annoying in the movie. I also did not like how they did Hades and Persephone. For one thing, Persephone doesn't appear until a later book (she wouldn't be in the Underworld, since this story takes place in the summer, which is when Persephone was allowed to visit her mom), and Hades was never described as a rocker. Since they cut Ares out entirely (which ticked me off), it's almost like they tried to combine his style and personality with Hades, and that didn't work. Hades was cool in the book; not so much in the movie.

Did the story stay close to the book?

No. Not even a little bit. They change it to where the events in The Lightning Thief are really entirely irrelevant to the rest of the series. Zeus' master bolt is stolen, so that's the same. Luke stole it, so that is also the same. But that's where the similarities end. Percy and his friends aren't given a quest; they sneak out of Camp Half-Blood when Hades appears one night to demand that Percy bring him the master bolt, if he ever wants to see his mother again. They then more or less go on a side quest to find the three pearls that will transport them out of the Underworld, which have for some odd reason been scattered all over the place. One is to be found in Medusa's lair, the other on a statue of Athena (which is an entire little episode that isn't even in the book at all, where they battle a hydra), and the third is in the Lotus Casino. So great - the makers give these events more of a purpose than they had in the book. I'm usually all right with that, because one can't really have "this happens for happening's sake" in a movie as much as in a book. But here's the thing: those things didn't just happen in the book for happening's sake; they all had a purpose to the bigger plot. But since the movie makers completely obliterated the bigger plot, they had to give things more of a purpose, and it just failed. What happened to monsters appearing in Camp Half-Blood, which betrayed the fact that there was a spy in their midst? What happened to the majority of the monsters they encountered were in fact either serving Hades or Zeus? What happened to Hades' Helm of Darkness being stolen? What happened to Percy's dreams of the evil voice in the pit? What happened to the feud that's begun between Percy and Ares? Oh yeah - they got rid of all of that! 

Did they even get the little things right?

I did not picture Camp Half-Blood looking the way they presented it, but I did actually like it. The overall look of the movie worked. Some of the visuals from the book - the Minotaur wearing Fruit of the Loom underwear, Poseidon in a Hawaiian shirt - might have been too silly for the big screen. Their choice to have the gods dressed traditionally while they were on Olympus, and to have traditional thrones, worked. They didn't have to change Charon or the Underworld, but I was all right with their portrayal as well (except they took out Cerberus, which also ticked me off). But they got Riptide wrong. They made Riptide a clicky pen rather than a capped pen, which logically actually makes more sense, but that's not how it was in the book! And while that seems like a small complaint, purist fans will understand why this bothered me so much. One does not simply make Riptide a clicky pen. Luke also gives Percy a shield that makes absolutely no appearance in the book, Grover has no horns, Chiron is a brown horse rather than white (I have a thing about changing horse colors), Mrs. Dodds isn't a math teacher, and they took out Clarisse and Mr. D and the Oracle. I understand they make an appearance in the second movie, but it just made The Lightning Thief that much more irrelevant to the rest of the stories. They also completely changed the god and demigod relationships. In the movie, there's this stupid rule where gods cannot interact with their children. This completely obliterates the claiming ceremony, and the people at Camp Half-Blood somehow magically know right off that Percy is the son of Poseidon. Don't even get me started on their version of Percy and Annabeth's introduction - or even the beginning itself. There is no reason  in the world why the beginning could not have been practically identical to the book. They destroyed the mystery aspect of the story, and Percy and Annabeth's introduction made it seem like Annabeth had an Attitude.

But the ending is good, right?

Well, since they destroyed Luke's real motivation for betraying the demigods - and the close camaderie him and Annabeth formed because they both came to Camp Half-Blood at the same time, - the end is pretty disappointing. Luke's betrayal doesn't have the same shock factor, because there's no closeness between him and any of the characters; he's not betraying anyone's particular trust. Percy also isn't made to make the hard decision of leaving his mother behind in the Underworld to save Olympus and his friends. Grover bravely volunteers to stay behind, and then he's just let go, which makes a lot of sense. Luke and Percy naturally have this big face-off, where Percy uses the flying shoes Luke gave him (by the way, the shoes are not cursed; Luke was just being helpful). And it all ends with no hint of future events to come.

So if I absolutely adore the book, will I like the movie?

If you are a purist, you'll hate the movie. If you are all right with severe "poetic license" it won't bother you as much. If you dislike the book, I don't think the movie will change your mind. Because if you dislike the book, chances are you dislike it because you just don't care for the idea.

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