Culture > Movies
Michael Muller/20th Century Fox

Of gods and men

Movies | Percy Jackson is a fun blend of modern day and ancient myth

Issue: "Ghost streets," Feb. 27, 2010

It's not easy growing up for a kid with daddy issues. Especially for Percy in the new movie Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief.

Not only did Percy's dad leave when he was a baby, but his mom married a beer-guzzling lout. Percy has been in trouble, and a teacher at his school can't stand the sight of him. Life just doesn't add up for Percy.

That is, until he learns that his dad is a Greek god. The Greek/Roman pantheon of selfish, bickering gods didn't die with the Roman Empire. They continued to exist even as the world switched to other belief systems. Pulling up stakes, the whole lot relocated Olympus from Greece to New York City.

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The gods kept up their former ways, including their habit of dating mortals. Percy is a demigod, half human, half god. Someone has stolen Zeus' lightning bolt and suspicion falls on Percy (Logan Lerman). With a faithful satyr (Brandon T. Jackson) and a fierce half-daughter of Athena (Alexandra Daddario), Percy sets off to prove his innocence and save his mother from the clutches of Hades, god of the underworld.

The fun in the film comes from the blending of modern day with the ancient myths. Medusa runs a kitschy garden statuary shop, Percy's mean teacher turns out to be an underworld Harpy, and the entrance to Hades is, well, exactly right.

The film deviates quite a bit from the book series of the same name, but it retains the fun tone of the books. (Some of the sequences in the PG-rated film may be too intense for younger viewers as the three friends battle a series of mythical creatures.)

Most importantly, the film respects the essence of the ancient stories. The den of the lotus eaters may have morphed from the beautiful island of Odysseus to a hip casino in Las Vegas, but the allure of giving oneself over to pleasure and forgetting one's purpose in life is just as dangerous. And the kids just want some attention and respect from their absent parents. They don't care if mom or dad is a god. They just want them around. That is a very modern emotion indeed.


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