Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (Blu-ray Combo Pack)
Directed by Chris Columbus
Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 118 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish, French, Portuguese
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish, Portuguese, others
MSRP: $ 39.99
Release Date: June 29, 2010
Review Date: June 29, 2010
A supernatural family adventure film that bases its magical wonders on Greek mythology rather than the sorcery and wizards of the Harry Potter series, Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief is a moderately interesting and reasonably involving fantasy. The stories of Greek mythology are as imaginative and thrilling as anything that can spring from the minds of modern writers, and novelist Rick Riordan has let the ancient Greeks do some of the work for him in borrowing their base mythology which he has subsequently fashioned into a modern framework of adventures for his teenaged hero. The first story in a series such as this is always tough since so much backstory has to be established before adventuring can get underway. This first film based on Riordan’s initial book in the five-book series makes a relatively smooth introduction of the premise and characters for those who are unfamiliar with the world of the novels.
Teenager Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman) has always felt like an outsider, saddled with dyslexia and burdened with an unhappy home life with an unloving and boorish stepfather (Joe Pantoliano). On a school field trip, he’s finally made aware that he’s actually a demigod, the son of the god Poseidon (Kevin McKidd) and his mortal mother Sally (Catherine Keener). He’s scooped up by school mentor (actually the centaur Chiron) Mr. Brunner (Pierce Brosnan) and taken to Camp Half-Blood, a training facility for children of immortals. Percy is here because he’s been accused by Zeus (Sean Bean) of stealing his lightning bolt, and he’s been given a deadline of fourteen days in which to return it. Even though he’s innocent, Percy along with his sidekick satyr Grover (Brandon T. Jackson) and the combative daughter of Athena, Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario), decide they must somehow persuade the gods of his innocence. In order to do that and to rescue Percy’s mother who’s been kidnapped by Hades (Steve Coogan) and is now in the Underworld, the trio embarks on a series of quests to find three pearls which will allow them to escape from the Underworld once they can find their way there.
Having introduced the world of Harry Potter to moviegoers with the first two Harry Potter movies, director Chris Columbus seems the right choice to steer this initial venture into this new-to-cinema mythological creation. Truth be told, Craig Titley’s screenplay manages to work in quite a few of the major Greek mythological gods (Zeus, Poseidon, Hades, Athena, Hermes) and monsters (the Hydra, the Minotaur, Medusa, lotus eaters) and uses them with some entertaining facility. The adventures of the trio take them across the country and back (literally from New York City to Hollywood and then back), all without the use of Hogwarts’ broomsticks or flue powder, quite a feat in just a truck and later a fancy sports car. There have been changes to the book such as Percy's becoming an experienced teen to a different ending that is the film’s one real letdown, a predictable climactic showdown on the Empire State Building between Percy and the character who proves to be his nemesis (not too hard to figure out who it is very early on). Otherwise, though, the special effects throughout are beautifully managed, and the film can certainly be a helpful gateway to introducing new generations to the wonders of Greek mythology. Rather than the propriety of most of the Potter films, Percy Jackson has definitely a hipper, livelier vibe to it, another aspect that will likely make younger American viewers more appreciative of its charms.
As the title hero, Logan Lerman is stalwart enough, but he doesn’t seem to quite have the charisma to pull off the heroics, and Brandon T. Jackson’s garbage-eating satyr has the jive-talking Eddie Murphy motormouth going full blast to somewhat tiresome effect. Alexandra Daddario’s Annabeth is the real deal, an Amazonian warrior in the bud who commands the screen when she’s the focus of a shot. Jake Abel as Hermes’ son Luke doesn’t get many opportunities to establish his character, but he does what he can with the screen time he’s given. Of the adults, one wishes the parts of Zeus, Poseidon, Hades, and Athena (Melina Kanakaredes) could have been further developed since the quartet of very interesting actors who play them also have very limited screen time. Pierce Brosnan brings quiet authority to Chiron while Uma Thurman is a hoot as Medusa.
The film’s 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio is presented in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. This is a joyous, colorful, and detailed high definition image with superb attention given to facial features, clothing fabrics, and the natural environs of the campsite. Saturation is beautifully rich and full-bodied (Las Vegas especially pops), and flesh tones are natural and appealing. The flaws are few, mostly with varying quality of black levels and shadow detail, often very good but sometimes just average. The film has been divided into 28 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix will likely find no one complaining with its rich, full-bodied, immersive and expansive soundfield which is almost constantly active in both fronts and rears with split surrounds being especially impressive. Deep bass is outstandingly delivered (when Zeus’ lightning bolt is stolen in the opening lightning storm, you’ll swear you’ve just blown one of your speakers; that’s exactly the effect the sound engineers have achieved), and dialogue is well recorded and placed firmly in the center channel.
Unless otherwise mentioned, all of the bonus features are presented in 1080p.
There are ten deleted/extended scenes which can be viewed individually or in one 14-minute grouping.
“Secrets of the Gods” is an interactive walk-through of the main temple on Mount Olympus where the viewer can click to receive background information on all of the major deities, their offspring, and the other characters who inhabit the movie.
“Discover Your Powers Quiz” is a family friendly activity in which each viewer answers a series of questions to see which god he is most like.
“The Book Comes to Life” is a 4 ½-minute interview with author Rick Riordan about how he came to write the Percy Jackson series and how he feels about Greek myths in the modern world.
“Inside Camp Half-Blood” is the closest item in this section to an EPK: 5 ¼ minutes with the screenwriter, director, the major young actors, and the production designer discussing their work on the film and their impressions of the story for modern audiences.
“On Set with Brandon T. Jackson” is a forgettable 6 minutes as the actor takes us on talky tours of the New York City and Nashville locations for the movie.
“Meet the Demigods” features interviews with Logan Lerman, Brandon T. Jackson, Alexandra Daddario, and Jake Abel about their characters and how they fit into the story. This runs for 3 ¾ minutes.
“Composing for the Gods” is an interview with composer Christophe Beck who wrote the background score for the film. He talks about his work process and his enthusiasm for doing more movie work. It runs 3 ½ minutes and is in 480i.
The theatrical trailer runs for 2 ½ minutes. It is different from the teaser trailer which is placed at the front of the Blu-ray disc upon loading.
Live Extras, the BD-Live section, features three items, two of which are already on this Blu-ray: the trailer and “Secrets of the Gods.” The third is the featurette “Demigods at Work and Play.”
Trailers at the start of the Blu-ray disc include The A-Team, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Marley & Me 2, Tooth Fairy, and the teaser trailer for Percy Jackson & the Olympians. All are in 1080p.
The second disc in the set is a DVD copy of the movie.
The third disc in the set is a digital copy of the movie. Instructions are enclosed for loading onto PC and Mac devices.
3.5/5 (not an average)
A family-friendly fantasy which does a good job introducing children to the enchantment of the Greek myths, Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief may not quite have the same magic and majesty of the Harry Potter films, but it’s a reasonably entertaining adventure that the whole family can enjoy.