Instead of seeing “Valentine’s Day” on that holiday, we instead went to “Percy Jackson & the Lightning Thief.” That’s what happens when you let the kids vote.
The #1 son had read the Rick Riordan fantasy and was keen to see how it played out on the big screen. I had been intrigued by the trailer (“It’s just a pen!”), hoping that all the good parts hadn’t been revealed in it.
Good news: They weren’t!
For those of you who haven’t heard of the book or the movie, Percy Jackson is surprised to find out that he’s a demigod, the son of Poseidon. Yes, even though he can sit on the bottom of a swimming pool for seven minutes! Apparently, Olympus gods (not to be confused with Olympics gods) mate with mortals but aren’t allowed to help raise their kids. Sounds like the kind of daddy issues we see all the time on “Lost!”
Percy goes on an adventure (helping to save the world, natch) with two other demigods. The movie is action-packed; I was on the edge of my seat for most of the computer-generated scenes (which were terrific). It’s well-acted and leads nicely into what surely will be yet another movie, because there are five books in the series. What’s great about the novels is that they teach kids Greek mythology (Riordan was an English and history teacher) in an entertaining, unforgettable way.
After seeing the movie and recommending it to others, I thought I’d check out Rotten Tomatoes and see what the people who get paid to watch films thought. Apparently, half agreed with me.
The half that didn’t see things my way (so, of course, they’re wrong) seemed fixated on something that never occurred to me while I was sitting next to the Mister rooting on Percy: The book/movie is similar to those featuring one Harry Potter, a literary favorite of the #1 son and myself. Here’s what some of those cranky reviewers had to say:
“So trite and ludicrous it is no threat to the Harry Potter franchise.”—Jackie K. Cooper
“. . . an attempt to replicate the phenomenon that is Harry Potter.”—Robin Clifford
“Very American, very crass and very underwhelming.”—Allan Hunter
“Maybe if you’re aged between eight and 12, or exceptionally dim-witted, you may not notice that this is a tenth-rate rip-off of Harry Potter, with Greek mythology taking the place of magic.”—Christopher Tookey
Double ouch! That one stung. Because if I’m not between the ages of 8 and 12 (which, of course, I am not), then I guess I’m exceptionally dim-witted. But then I noticed that Tookey writes for Britain’s “Daily Mail” (who can name the Beatles song that references that publication?). He might opine that being a Texan would make me even dimmer-witted than most Americans. Good thing I still consider myself to be a Midwesterner!
By the way, it can’t rip off Harry, because Riordan wrote his tale in 1994 (though it wasn’t published until 2005); J.K. Rowling’s first book, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” was published in 1997.
“A slab of market research in search of an actual movie.”—Tim Robey
What? I guess I’m too dim-witted to understand this sentence.
“While the Hogwarts saga may be getting long in the tooth, at least it has decent characters and a sense of humour. This has neither.”—David Edwards (yet another British reviewer)
No decent characters? Two words: Pierce Brosnan. Who played a centaur, for goodness sakes!
Here’s my take on Percy vs. Harry: Of course, both main characters are going to have two good friends. And one key similarity that most people might miss is that in order to stay safe, both Percy and Harry have had to live with disgusting people (for Percy, it’s his stepfather; for Harry, it’s the Dursleys).
But Percy was a mama’s boy, which I loved, of course. Poor Harry didn’t really know his parents. And the “Lightning Thief” movie had such a clever use of a shiny iPod—no magical iPods in Harry’s world.
The universal themes of friendship, loyalty, and love that both films espouse aren’t copyrighted by HP and Rowling. Any writer can explore and present them in their own way. I think Percy and Harry can stand both on their own and side by side as wonderful characters.
If you want to be transported to a different, mythological world, go see Percy Jackson (especially with kids). It’s a great ride! Oh, and be sure to stay for the credits.