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Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief(2010)
It's the 21st century, but the gods of Mount Olympus and assorted monsters have walked out of the pages of high school student Percy Jackson's Greek mythology texts and into his life. And they're not happy: Zeus' lightning bolt has been stolen, and Percy is the prime suspect. Even more troubling is the sudden disappearance of Percy's mother. As Percy finds himself caught between angry and battling gods, he and his friends embark on a cross-country adventure to catch the true lightning thief, save Percy's mom, and unravel a mystery more powerful than the gods themselves.
For more about Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief and the Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief Blu-ray release, see the Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief Blu-ray Review
Starring: Logan Lerman, Brandon T. Jackson, Alexandra Daddario, Pierce Brosnan, Rosario Dawson
Director: Chris Columbus
» See full cast & crew
Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief Blu-ray Review
Percy J. takes a swing at Harry P. and misses.
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, July 1, 2010
Who dares to stand up and have a pop at Harry Potter, reigning young adult fantasy film champ? Eragon fell under one white-hot riff from Potter's wand and The Golden Compass, which came out swinging, got K.O.'ed after a single round. The Spiderwick Chronicles will never reach its final chapter, Lemony Snicket suffered a series of unfortunate events, and The Seeker, well, that one got tangled in the ropes before it could even enter the ring. The Narnia films are currently having a go, but they're still in the welterweight division. Undefeated after six bouts—and now having raked in a combined five and half billion worldwide box office dollars—it doesn't look like anyone can even land a punch on the Potter series. Nonethelesss, fresh-faced new fighters, cherry-picked from the ranks of the New York Times young adult bestseller list, keep emerging. The latest contender was Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightening Thief, which had better odds than most. Based on an extraordinarily successful series of books and directed by Chris Columbus—who helmed the first two Harry Potter films—Percy Jackson actually seemed to have a chance. Note the past tense. Percy fought a good fight, but I don't think we'll be seeing a rematch.
Based on the first novel in a five-volume series by author and middle school teacher Rick Riordan, The Lightening Thief—like the first Harry Potter—is about a boy awakening to his supernatural powers. Right off the bat, though, the film takes some liberties with the story, presumably to appeal to an older audience. In the book, Percy Jackson is a 12-year-old tweener. Here, he's 17, played by up-and-coming teen heartthrob Logan Lerman. While this age change makes box-office sense—widen the demographic, fatten the profits—it doesn't bode well for the future of the series. Quite literally, there's no room to grow. Where could Harry Potter have gone if it started with a hero who's practically an adult? Brush aside the wizards, dragons, and magic and these young adult fantasy novels are all essentially coming-of-age stories, so it seems somewhat misguided to start the potential Percy Jackson franchise, age-wise, where the Potter series is just now ending. I mean, if they did make five PJ films—and they won't—Percy would look about 26 by the finale.
Anyway, rant over. The film begins with a bang as brothers Zeus (Sean Bean) and Poseidon (Kevin McKidd) meet for a tête-à-tête atop the Empire State Building. Zeus is practically frothing because his lightening bolt was stolen, and—for some reason—he thinks Poseidon's son is the culprit. If he doesn't get his bolt back in 14 days, there's going to be an all-out war o' the gods. Of course, Poseidon's son is Percy Jackson, a high-schooler with ADHD and dyslexia who has no freaking idea that he's actually a demigod. (Meaning, if your mythology is a bit dusty, that a deity knocked up his mortal mom.) When word gets out that Percy might have Zeus' bolt, every mythological creature from the Underworld to Olympus wants a piece of our unwitting hero, whose mind, for the first act of the film, is being continuously blown in a series of WTF-style reveals. His mom (Catherine Keener) is kidnapped by Hades himself, his best friend Grover (Brandon T. Jackson) turns out to be a furry-legged satyr, his wheelchair-bound teacher is actually Chiron (Pierce Brosnan), a badass centaur, and he's whisked away to the secluded Camp Half Blood, a kind of Hogwarts for demigods. Here, he meets Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario), the sword-wielding daughter of Athena, and together with Grover they set off for the Underworld to confront Hades, rescue Percy's mom, and hopefully find the whereabouts of Zeus' bolt.
As with Neil Gaiman's novel American Gods, the premise of mythological characters secretly inhabiting a modern world is rife with potential, and The Lightening Thief is at its best when it unexpectedly juxtaposes the ancient with the commonplace. A trip to "Auntie Em's" garden store—the kind of shack that sells stone statues—gets creepier by the minute as we realize that it's actually Medusa's lair. (Uma Thurman plays the snake-haired seductress with appropriately slithery panache.) Our heroes confront the five-headed Hydra at Nashville's replica of the Parthenon, and get foiled by the opiate-doling Lotus Eaters, who now run a casino in Vegas. In a sly jab, the entrance to the Underworld is found beneath the Hollywood sign. Here, the film takes an oddly comedic turn as Hades—previously seen as a hulking CGI demon made of molten lava—is revealed to be Steve Coogan, clad in leather and looking a bit like a Spinal Tap reject or, perhaps, the late Ronnie James Dio. His consort, Persephone, is played by the fabulous Rosario Dawson, wearing an off-the-shoulder dress and a perpetual come-hither stare.
The mythological characters are fun, the special effects are decent, and the pace moves at a brisk clip, but The Lightening Thief lacks the cinematic wizardry—the sense of awe and wonder at each new scene—that made the early Harry Potter films such instant successes with audiences of all ages. Try through he might, director Chris Columbus—whose last movie, I Love You Beth Cooper, was a total flop—can't quite recapture the magic. This is partly because in the wake of Harry Potter and the Lord of the Rings trilogy, all other fantasy films have started to feel like me-too productions, blatant attempts to cash in on a trend. The Lightening Thief is pure Hollywood cookie-cutter product, more of a feature-length ad campaign than a creative, risk-taking film. It's enjoyable while it lasts—and fans of the books will at least want to give it a chance—but I don't think Percy Jackson has the staying power to support a franchise.
Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief Blu-ray, Video Quality
I was really wowed by the technical presentation of this disc, starting with the film's 1080p/AVC- encoded transfer, which runs at a high bit rate (31 MBPS average), displays a striking amount of detail, and features great color and depth. The daylight scenes at Camp Half Blood are the richest and most vibrant in the film—with tight contrast, strong forest greens, and bold splashes of red and blue—but even the darker sequences later in the movie have a wide tonal range thanks to good shadow delineation and mostly consistent black levels. As you'd expect, the scenes at the Lotus Land Casino are especially vivid—bright, flashing neon lights, sultry skin tones—and the film's hellish vision of the underworld is just as impressive, all orange fire and brimstone. Clarity is finely resolved throughout, revealing facial texture and the intricate detailing of leather armor and battle-ready weaponry. While the CGI in the film falls somewhat behind the cutting edge of visual effects, the digital creations are nicely integrated into the 35mm film image, which features just enough grain to give the movie a warm, cinematic texture. Finally, there's no overt edge enhancement or DNR, and compression artifacts seem entirely absent.
Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief Blu-ray, Audio Quality
If the film's picture quality is striking, then its DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track is like repeated blows to the head. This is a full-bodied, energetic mix, with earthquake-inducing LFE response— seriously, don't leave anything fragile sitting on your subwoofer—and lots of engaging, cross-channel interaction. The film is immersive from the very first frames, as a thunderstorm rips and tears at the air around us. Just about every battle scene is a sonic showpiece. The Fury flaps about madly, breaking a window and sending glass shattering every which way, swinging swords cut with a circular woosh though the soundfield, Medusa's snakes hiss all around, the Hydra breathes a wide swath of raging fire that cuts from left to right, and electricity snaps, crackles and pops. Sound design-wise, one of the best moments in the film is when Percy takes control of the water from four rooftop water towers; it rages and swirls throughout the soundstage, a maelstrom suspended in the air. All of the effects have palpable heft, but there's also a crystalline clarity to the high-end. The same could be said for Christophe Beck's noble, propulsive score, filled with open harmonies in the low brass. Throughout all the sonic chaos, dialogue stays clean, clear, and easy to understand. Turn this one up loud.
Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Deleted Scenes (1080p, 14:03)
There are ten deleted scenes here, some of which containing material that might have bumped the film up to a PG-13 rating.
Secrets of the Gods (1080p)
Clicking on this tab will take you to a separate menu—a model of Olympus—where you can select brief video profiles of some of the characters in the film. Includes segments for Zeus, Athena, Hades, Persephone, Hermes, Poseidon, the Minotaur, Grover, Chiron, Percy, the Hydra, Annabeth, Luke, and Medusa. There's probably about 15 minutes worth of material here.
Discover Your Powers Quiz (1080p)
Answer a couple of questions and this quiz will tell you which mythological figure you most resemble.
The Book Comes to Life (1080p, 4:24)
A brief EPK promo featuring interviews with author Rick Riordan and several of the actors.
Inside Camp Half Blood (1080p, 5:09)
Here, we go behind-the-scenes at Camp Half Blood, with on-set footage and interviews with the actors.
On Set with Brandon T. Jackson (1080p, 5:56)
The cameras follow Jackson during a typical day on set.
Meet the Demigods (1080p, 3:49)
More interviews with the actors, who explain the plot of the film.
Composing for the Gods: A Conversation with Christophe Beck (SD, 3:29)
Cristophe Beck gives an audio-only interview, set to images of the film and some behind-the-scenes footage of the recording process.
Theatrical Trailer (1080p, 2:26)
With the release of Percy Jackson, 20th Century Fox is expanding its BD-Live presence and functionality. If you click on "Live Extras" and then the "What's New" tab, you'll be taken to an interface where you can access exclusive content for Fox releases. Currently, you can stream or download the Demigods at Work and Play: Inside the Lotus Land Casino featurette (2:38), a short clip that seems like it should've been included on the physical disc. You can also watch deleted scenes from Alvin and the Chipmunks 2, a red carpet interview with Jason Schwartzman for Fantastic Mr. Fox, featurettes for Ice Age 3 and Night at the Museum 2, a mock behind-the-scenes piece for Tooth Fairy, and theatrical trailers for a number of new and upcoming releases.
Obtain instant access to up-to-date actor filmographies and information related to Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightening Thief via the Internet Movie Database.
Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Percy Jackson is solid young adult entertainment—it's got gods, heroes, and a great premise— but I don't think it will start a franchise, let alone go head to head with Harry Potter. While the action is intense and the characters are likeable, the magic just isn't there. Still, The Lightening Thief works well as a standalone movie, which is good considering that we probably won't be returning to this cinematic world. A rental is probably in order for most fantasy fans, but some might by swayed to a purchase by the disc's stunning audio/video presentation.
Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Blu-ray News, June 28-July 4: Percy Jackson Is #1 (Update) - July 8, 2010
A family movie outselling an R-rated comedy and a horror film isn't unheard of on DVD, but it definitely is news on Blu-ray. Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief was the top-selling title on Blu-ray during the week ended July 4, according to Nielsen ...
• Fox Launches Live Extras with Percy Jackson Blu-ray - June 29, 2010
Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment will expand its use of BD-Live with the Live Extras program, with the release of Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, which streets today. Consumers that purchase the disc will be able to access exclusive ...
• Live Web Chat with Percy Jackson Star - June 25, 2010
To tie in with the Blu-ray release of Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, which comes out on June 29 in the US and July 5 in the UK, young actor Logan Lerman (who plays Percy) will be participating in an hour-long web chat in a Percy Jackson-themed ...
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