Thursday, February 18, 2010

How does Percy Jackson stack up against Peter Parker, Clark Kent, etc?

We’ve had a litany of role model teens as superheroes in the movies and television series, so it’s natural to wonder where Percy Jackson will fit. That is, we see the rather geeky Logan Lerman (17 when the film was shot) as the son of a Greek god, in a story that transports the battle of theHellenistic, pre-Christian Gods into the present day.

The opening scene, of "Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief", shows Lerman underwater, literally. He’s probably not as focused or sacrificial as Michael Phelps; he has the personality of a computer person, but he has dyslexia and ADHD. A substitute teacher takes more authority than usual in class and asks him about a line from Othello, but his brain scrambles the words. But soon we find out the dyslexia is a gift, enabling him to see the steganographic Greek code in things.

There’s something odd about his home life in a New York brownstone. His mother (Catherine Keener) has gotten him a stepfather with mysterious B.O., which will be explained. But suddenly, at a field trip to a museum, Percy is “conscripted” into his desting, with the help of the centaur (Pierce Brosnan) and protector (Brandon Jackson) with goat’s legs (and no desire for Nair).

Christopher Columbus (from one of the Harry Potter movies, as well as “Home Alone”, with his company 1492 Films) directed this adaptation of a children’s novel by Rick Rioardan. Now, somehow this admixture of Greek mythology on present day New York, Nashville, Las Vegas, and of course Vancouver doesn’t work as well as spectacles set in ancient times, or, as with the Potter movies, set in a parallel but alternate universe. It has the mangled effect rather like the National Treasure movies. Nevertheless, the movie has a lot of interesting ideas: the treasure hunt across the country for the pearls, and kids in a Las Vegas bar listening to “Poker Face”, in fact one of the most often played songs in gay discos. Later, there is a vivid creation of Hades the Underworld under modern Los Angeles (or maybe Vancouver). Percy, by the way, has to find his mom, who has disappeared in the process. Logan Lerman, remember, was quite protective of his mother as the character “Bobby” in “Jack and Bobby”. The compound world has some interesting rules: the gods are not allowed to meet their own children.

The official site from 20th Century Fox for the film is here.

I wonder how these kids -- not just Macaulay Culkin, but many others including Gregory Smith, Taylor Lautner, Shia LaBeouf, Zac Efron, and now Logan Lerman, can roll off these movies and TV series. I know the movie companies have to hire studio teachers; but acting in productions on this scale sounds like a full time job for any adult. I don’t see how these kids do it. By the way, Jake Abel makes a good contemporary of Percy as the quasi-adversary Luke.

Here’s the Disney-Hyperion book trailer on YouTube.

Percy Jackson can fly, it seems. He is not superman and not spiderman. Nevertheless, he has powers. With great power comes great responsibility.

There will surely be sequels and a "franchise." But it doesn't seem as fresh as some of its precedessors.

Wikipedia attribution link for Parthenon in Nashville. I've been in Nashville only twice, in 1988 and 1992.

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