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'Percy Jackson' Filled With Classical Mythology


It is a proven movie formula: Take a popular series of kids books, turn them into movies, and watch the dollars roll in. Its worked for "Harry Potter" and "Twilight." Now, Percy Jackson and the Olympians gets its turn.

Critic Kenneth Turan hopes there wont be a sequel.

KENNETH TURAN: Here we go again. A boy goes to a prep school, and a teacher tells him he has magical powers.

(Soundbite of "Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lighting Thief")

Mr. PIERCE BROSNAN (Actor): (As Mr. Brunner/Chiron) There are 12 Olympian gods. The big three are the brothers Zeus, Poseidon and Hades. On several occasions, they would come down to our Earth and...

Unidentified Man: (As character) Hook up?

Mr. BROSNAN: (As Mr. Brunner/Chiron) They would hook up with mortals.

TURAN: Once Percy realizes hes a demigod - the son of Poseidon, one of the Olympians, and a mortal woman - he sets off on a quest to rescue his mother. She's somehow became trapped in the underworld. Along the way, he eats of the lotus, fights the many-headed hydra, and meets up with Uma Thurmans chilly Medusa.

(Soundbite of "Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lighting Thief")

Ms. UMA THURMAN (Actress): (As Medusa) Well this is a fabulous surprise. You have such beautiful hair. I once had hair like that. I was courted, desired by many suitors. But that all changed because of your mother, the woman who cursed you.

TURAN: Because The Lightning Thief is about a young hero with parental issues, who is marked as the chosen one by his peers, it inevitably reads like a Harry Potter knock-off. But unlike the Potter novels, this book has been unable to expand beyond its core fan base of 10-year-old boys. So the filmmakers have changed Percys age from 12 to 17. And theyve restructured the plot to emphasize the action and the grotesqueness of mythological beings, all with an eye towards attracting an older male demographic. And theyve done it without any particular grace or skill. This is generic filmmaking at its most banal, a simple-minded simplification of a not overwhelmingly complex book.

Theres a lot of classical mythology that can be learned from The Lighting Thief, but thats the best that can be said about it. Dante put "abandon all hope, ye who enter here" on the gates of the underworld. Thats a message that anyone tempted to see this film should take very much to heart.

(Soundbite of music)

MONTAGNE: Kenneth Turan reviews movies for MORNING EDITION and the Los Angeles Times. Youre listening to MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Kenneth Turan
Kenneth Turan is the film critic for the Los Angeles Times and NPR's Morning Edition, as well as the director of the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes. He has been a staff writer for the Washington Post and TV Guide, and served as the Times' book review editor.