First off, let me say that we are HUGE Lightning Thief fans. We don’t love it quite as much as the Harry Potter books, but we are the family that spent the summer creating our own Camp Half-Blood and we really, really enjoy the books. Rick Riordan tells a great story, and my kids have thrown themselves into the fantasy world he created. It was only natural that they wanted to see this movie as soon as it came out. Happily, the movie came out the week before Michael’s birthday, so we made plans to take one of his friends and go see it opening day.
I am very, very glad we bought Michael other birthday gifts.
Now, I am not naive. I know that movie adaptations deviate from the books they are based on. I’ve seen all the Harry Potter movies after all. However, I was completely unprepared for the underwhelming mess they made of The Lightning Thief.
Rick Riordan is very skilled at taking a topic that has the potential to be rather sordid– Greek gods and goddesses consorting with humans and getting them with child– in a manner that is both tasteful and innocent. Tasteful and innocent are the last words I would use to describe this movie. Vulgar and crass would be more on the mark.
They completely tarted up the book. All the innocence and intelligence was sucked out of it and instead we’re left with a hormone-ridden parody. For reasons I cannot begin to comprehend, they aged everyone up from 12 to 15 or 16. Instead of good-natured rivalry and “Seaweed Brain” between Anabeth and Percy, we instead got heaving bosoms and unrequited (thank goodness) sexual tension. I’m not sure why they felt the need to do this. The main characters in the book are 12, the books are aimed at the 9-11 year old set. But sex sells, I suppose, so Hollywood felt the need to give us skimpy, skin-tight outfits and lots of double entendres. Actually, I take that back. There wasn’t anything nearly as sophisticated as a double entendre in this film. Just coarse, immature joking.
Let’s look at the character of Grover, while we’re at it. In the book, he’s a slightly bumbling nature-loving satyr on the cusp of growing into himself. In the movie, he’s a wisecracking horndog. Yuck. And of course, where there’s sex, foul language for the sake of foul language follows. And the Lotus Hotel… oh, excuse me, it’s now the Lotus Casino… now has wonderful drugged lotuses that appear to intoxicate the heroes.
Even if I had not read the books, this still would just not have been a good movie. The script was poorly written, with bad god voiceovers and plot holes you could drive a truck through. The fight scenes were choreographed in such a way that left me wondering if they had hired a dance coach from West Side Story. The acting was sub-par. The ending is dumbed down, with a Persephone ex machina plot device that even my 10-year-old thought was contrived. The entire movie played like a bad fan fiction that made it to the big screen. They took out the history. They took out most of the mythology. They took out all the fun.
The CGI was scary, scary stuff. I don’t understand how this movie walked away with a PG rating, because the graphics were enough to scare even me, and I am a mother of 4. I don’t scare easily.
In the end, the movie tarnishes everything good and golden about the books. This little gem– “All lives end in suffering and tragedy”– leads me to question whether the writers of the script even read the book. As my son said, “It’s as if someone handed them a list of characters, a picture of the cover art, and told them it had something to do with Greek mythology, and they wrote the script based on that.” Throughout the movie, I found myself asking “Who needs gods and heroes like this? Petty and ineffectual, there was very little redeeming in the supposed protagonists.
The good news? You can still read the books. Seriously, they’re awesome books. Skip the movie.