Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (2010)

Rated: PG for action violence and peril, some scary images and suggestive material, and mild language.
Length: 118 minutes
Grade: AC+BB=B+
Budget: $95 million
Box Office: $43 million in its opening weekend

Written by: Craig Titley (Star Wars Clone Wars, Cheaper by the Dozen 1+2, Scooby-Doo), based on the novel by Rick Riordan
Directed by: Chris Columbus (I Love You Beth Cooper, Rent, Harry Potter 1+2, Bicentennial Man, Nine Months, Mrs. Doubtfire, Home Alone 1+2, Heartbreak Hotel, and Adventures in Babysitting.)
Starring: Logan Lerman, Brandon T. Jackson, and Alexandra Daddario
With: Sean Bean, Pierce Brosnan, Steve Coogan, Rosario Dawson, Catherine Keener, Joe Pantoliano, and Uma Thurman.

In a world where the Greek gods are real and still in charge, Zeus has had his lightning bolt stolen and he will start a world war with Poseidon if he doesn’t get it back. Percy, the demigod son of Poseidon who doesn’t know his own identity, must learn how to use his powers, find the lightning bolt, and return it before war breaks out.

Entertainment Value: A
I was taught the Greek pantheon in junior high school and I always had a soft spot for these characters and stories, so I was loving it. Not only did they manage to stay faithful to the original identities, but they also managed to write an entirely new and interesting plot in modern times with those characters. This is a fun 21st Century update to Clash of the Titans, both in context and production value.

Superficial Content: C+
Drugs/Alcohol B, Sex/Nudity B, Violence C, Language B
One adult character drinks beer. There is some very mild language (hell and ass). A couple of scenes have sexual allusions (Aphrodite’s daughters, Persephone’s lovers). But the most likely concern here will be violence, killing (people turned to stone, Medusa beheaded, battling a Hydra), and scary images, (A woman turning into a fury, Hades as a giant flaming demon and tortured souls on fire coming out of a fireplace). I covered the boys’ eyes once or twice, so I’d give it a PG-8, although otherwise it was fine for them. Spencer (5) loved it.

Significant Content: B
Although I think some Christians will be bothered by the polytheistic Greek pantheon, if you look a little deeper there are some pretty interesting messages. Both the offspring of Athena and Poseidon believe they have been helped by their parents (who are forbidden by Zeus from interacting with them directly) in times of trouble. The message is that “even though you didn’t see me, that doesn’t mean I wasn’t there.” Also, the absence of fathers is a clear source of trouble for all the characters, so broken families and deadbeat dads are shown as problems. Loyalty to friends is praised. Courage in the face of danger and vanquishing opponents through guile or strength is a major theme. Hollywood is the entrance to Hades, which seemed fitting. A Las Vegas casino is allegorized as the home of the Lotus-Eaters from the Odyssey, which is terribly well done. If there’s a problem message here it’s the assertion that “all lives end in misery.”

Artistic/Thought Value: B
One key thing to consider in making any movie is whether your target audience is bringing any expectations or history to the experience of this film. Since you can’t ignore this, you have to somehow honor the tradition your film fits within and also the preexisting affections of a viewer familiar with the territory you’re covering. Whereas some movies seem to really grasp this concept of homage, others seem to sound false note after false note. This was the good sort, where a fantasy world you already know is being brought to life in a whole new way. And just as so much of the Greek stories are psychologically and morally intriguing because of character flaws in humans and gods alike, this film gives those themes the honor they deserve. I actually hope to reread my Edith Hamilton before watching this again.

Discussion Questions:
~At what age do you think children should be exposed to things like Greek mythology? Do you think these stories have the capacity to confuse children who are also learning Bible stories? If you think they do, how much concern do you have for cartoons and superheroes?
~Presuming that it’s more important for people to know Biblical stories and their own country’s history, how useful is it to also have literature knowledge such as of the Greek gods? Would you prefer someone to know these stories or the movies of the last 10 years?
~Greece had their myths, Britain has its royalty, and America has celebrities. Is this a fair statement? What about comic books?
~How are Bible stories different from Greek mythology stories? What is the purpose of each?
~Does all life end in misery? Why might someone have this view of the world? If that was your view, what would it entail for the importance of achieving fame and glory now? What is the Christian view, and how is it related to the willingness to live without rewards right now?
~How are casinos similar to the lotus fields?
~What do you make of a Hollywood movie making Hollywood the entrance to Hades? How do you think Hollywood people might react to this?
~What are some ways in which the Christian concept of God is similar and different to the Greek ideas about their gods? In particular, do you think God is self-indulgent and insecure the way Zeus is? Why do so many people have this view of God? How would you answer their criticisms?

Poignant or memorable scenes:
~Percy interacting with Hades and Persephone. Why does Hades find his lot in life so intolerable? Why does his treatment of Persephone cause him so many troubles?
~Percy’s confrontation with Luke.
~The discovery of Olympus at the top of the Empire State Building. What does this particular choice of symbolism mean?
~Percy deriving his strength from the water. As a Christian, how might you use this to illustrate a Biblical concept?
Overall Grade: B+
I enjoyed it a lot. I’ll definitely watch it again on DVD.

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