"The Lightning Thief"- robbed of its story
Just buy the book
As the mother of a demi-god, I can say I have been responsible for his discovery of the Percy Jackson series. I read the Lightning Thief before he did, suggested it for about 2 months. When he finally tried it, he was hooked. Like many other Percy Jackson fans, he already was well versed in Greek mythology and the mythological creations came alive through Rick Riordan’s well-written settings of current life. At the Last Olympians’ book signing, Rick Riordan mentioned that he was getting ready to visit the set of the Lightning Thief in Vancouver and the attending demi-gods and camp half-blood regulars cheered with the excitement and expectations of seeing the story on the big screen.
We saw the movie in advance because of the work of a very loyal mythology teacher who rented a movie theater space for her many students; we were ready for the big reveal. As the film unfolded, it was clear to me from the very beginning. This seemed like Chris Columbus’ film version of attempting to make Basil Fawlty’s famous waldorf salad and it truly was, full of ‘waldorfs’.
You can always expect parts to be excluded from a film version of any book, but this treatment only kept the title, a few characters, and added a lot of action in an attempt to dazzle. It did not. The key ingredient; the story with its built-in protagonists and antagonists, was missing. The film seemed to be made for a one-time only audience. It certainly cannot have been made for building up a successful adaptation series as the Harry Potter films have been. What was the point? The Percy Jackson series have plenty in it to make it useable for script content. Sure you’ll need to leave things out, but the basic story line is easy enough. A dyslexic and ADHD 12 year old discovers that he is the product of a liaison between a mortal and an immortal god, in Percy Jackson’s case, Poseidon, god of the sea. He discovers that mythological creatures are after him for some reason unknown to him and he soon finds himself at Camp-Half blood, the only protected spot on the planet for many other illegitimate mortal/immortal off-spring whom (the Greek) monsters are after. In the first book, Percy ends up on the quest to not only prove his innocence, but to find Zeus’ lightning bolt that he’s been accused of stealing. The readers of the book encounter many mythological creatures, a few who even make it to the screen; Medusa, the Hydra and the Fates.
Uma Thurman as Medusa...one of the film's highlights
But there are plenty of others missing. Also missing is Ares, god of war and father of Percy’s main antagonist at camp Half-blood, Clarisse. Both characters are very important for the rest of the series. Instead of learning more about mythology, we learn that this is a basic road film as the kids (Percy, Grover and Annabeth) drive themselves. They, the characters and the actors are at least 17/18 years old. There is quite some action but the action misses the point. Percy is actually 12 years old and he finds out over the course of the first two books, that there is a prophecy. This prophecy suggests that he, Percy Jackson, will become a dangerous weapon at the age of 16. So where are we to go with this film?
Alas, another kid lit book bites the dust at the hands of the director and the studio whose own myth is that children’s books fans are really not that important and that just filming one book out of a series is good enough. My suggestion is to blow off the movie and read the books instead. At least you’ll know there’s another one coming when you’re done with the first. “A gin and orange, a lemon squash, and a scotch and water, please!” –snaps fingers- , “and someone please order Mr. Columbus a real waldorf salad”.