Starring: Logan Lerman, Pierce Brosnan, Uma Thurman, Sean Bean, Steve Coogan, Rosario Dawson
Director: Chris Columbus
Writer: Craig Titley, Rick Riordan (Novel)
Cinematography: Stephen Goldblatt
Original Score: Christophe Beck
Running Time: 118 Mins.
With a repertoire that includes Bicentennial Man, I Love You Beth Cooper, Rent and Nine Months it’s safe to say that I never really have high hopes upon approaching a new Chris Columbus film, so given that Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief is the latest attempt at a franchise to fill the soon to be empty Harry Potter void it is unsurprising to find the film is not so much lacking but nigh on redundant, and left me begging the question as to why it was made at all, beyond the obvious reason of cold hard cash!
What is less surprising is that Columbus was also the man responsible for the two first, and by far worst, Harry Potter films, in fact losing Columbus from the franchise is probably the finest thing Warner’s ever did, something which makes the choice to have hired him to make Percy Jackson both financially sound while at once being the worst creative decision ever. Meaning not only are comparisons to the more recent, and largely excellent, Potter films bound be unfavourably drawn but also you are kick starting yet another franchise which the kind of paint by numbers slap-dash approach at direction that plagued Columbus’ Potter efforts.
As with all the pretenders to the Potter throne before it, The Golden Compass, The Vampires Assistant and Eragon, among tens of others, Percy Jackson can’t help but feel a simple rehash albeit in a different mythical world, so here we have the Olympians, Zeus, Hades, Poseidon et al bickering among themselves about a stolen lightning bolt, something which sets the demigod sons of said Olympians off on a quest. Hopping from one set piece to another, this is lazy film-making at its worst, star names pop up in cameo-roles shrouded, usually, in beards and fake looking armour or CGI snakes or a horses arse. Thankfully the big names give a little respite from the lacklustre acting of Lerman and the rest of the youngsters, all of whom fall into either bad acting or poor stereotype categories and can’t convey any kind of emotion or feeling leaving any hope of empathy stilted from the off.
Pierce Brosnan, Uma Thurman, Sean Bean, Steve Coogan to name but a few of the big names appear looking either embarrassed or spouting the script, which takes itself far too seriously for this kind of subject matter, as if it were Shakespearean prose (Sean Bean, guilty as charged!) and when you hire Steve Coogan to play Hades, Lord of the Underworld no less!, why don’t you use him, I don’t think I have seen a more cringe-worthy performance all year! Thankfully they are wise enough not to stick around for more than five minutes apiece and leave the bulk of the film for us to “enjoy” as many CGI beasties wreak havoc, normally to very little avail, though at least the CGI is more capably realised than the costumes throwing hydras, hell hounds and minotaurs at the screen to at least engage your eyes a little!
It’s a shame that there seems to be such a problem in recapturing the magical and more importantly good tone that Harry Potter has set the precedent for, following the weak early efforts, but when Chris Columbus keeps getting handed the reigns, what do you expect. Though all the blame cannot be layed at his door, the script is equally as risible which means any hope of good performances was all but lost meaning the best time spent during the film is to spot the similarity to a certain boy-wizard, pfft camp half-blood indeed, though if you’re craving some Olympian God action save yourself for April, Clash of the Titans HAS to be better than this!
The search for the next Harry Potter continues because thanks once again to Chris Columbus and his cack-handedness, among a great many other problems, Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief is NOT it!