By Stephen Compall
Jul 08, 2010 09:59 AM EST

Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief Blu-ray Review

Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief Blu-ray Review
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Let us say that, like Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman, Jack & Bobby, Gamer), you find yourself in great need of a quick education in ancient Greek mythology, despite a preternatural understanding of the written language.  Then, perhaps, rather than returning to primary school for the parts you seem to have missed, you could watch Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief, in which the elements of said mythology, come to life, could provide you with a guided, interactive lecture series.

No doubt, though, this is not the case, but for a film so entrenched in Western culture, The Lightning Thief refuses to accept that, like all other films, it exists within a cultural context.  That context provides metaphors, archetypes, and other shorthand means of communicating concepts that otherwise would take much longer than a film’s short allotment of time to express, so it is unfortunate that this particular film has in mind an audience far removed from us, perhaps one thousands of years into the future, when it will no doubt be all the rage to explore the very early history of film.

The worst example of this is perhaps the uninspired interpretation of Medusa (Uma Thurman, Pulp Fiction, Gattaca), who has here added to her classical repertoire a penchant for explaining her mythological history to her victims before turning them to stone.  But most of the characters are guilty of this sort of thing, including paint-by-numbers love interest Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario, White Collar).

This is not to say that the plot of the film does not, as a whole, rely on the tropes of modern Western storytelling.  Indeed, the training scene reminded me of none so much as the “reindeer games” sequence of Rankin-Bass’s classic adaptation of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.  Thankfully we have Chiron (Pierce Brosnan, Die Another Day, Mamma Mia!), a touch too clever for his role, saving us from complete madness with an oblique reference to another Rankin-Bass production.  Joining him in this regard is otherwise placeholder friend-of-hero Grover (Brandon T. Jackson, Tropic Thunder, Tooth Fairy), who seems alone in realizing how silly this whole charade really is.

Quite clever is the deconstruction of the relationship of Hades (Steve Coogan, Night at the Museum, Tropic Thunder) and Persephone (Rosario Dawson, Sin City, Clerks II), who fill their brief roles marvelously, and an effective clash-of-worlds final scene between Percy and father Perseus (Kevin McKidd, Rome, Journeyman).  These talents, along with a very bored Zeus (Sean Bean, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Equilibrium), are criminally underused.  No doubt we could have expected these characters, in a better place at a better time, to be able to tell the difference between three and four.

Blu-ray transfer: Quality is perfectly acceptable, including at the final frontier of dynamic range.  Honestly, everyone should be just getting this right by now.

Special features: I would say that one or two of the deleted scenes might have added to the film, had I wanted the film to be any longer.  In addition, if you were unclear about any of the mythological figure expositions, you can get bite-sized summaries from a very grave narrator, and as usual these days you also get a DVD copy of the film + a digital copy to put on your favorite mobile device.

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