Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief Review

Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman) is an ordinary kid. He doesn’t like his stepfather, and is suddenly whisked away to a mystical, secluded school for “gifted” students. Roaming the lands are mystical creatures he must battle in an effort to save the world.

Huh…

It’s about this point where you expect one of the main characters to pop on screen and state (with a slight British accent), “You’re a demigod Percy!”

It wouldn’t be so bad if this Fox effort were not the most blatant attempt yet at seizing a few dollars out of the Harry Potter franchise. Yes, Percy Jackson is based on a series of books, just like our fellow wizard, and in every sense, Percy might as well be Potter. The difference? Instead of a wand, Percy can control water; he is the son of Greek god Poseidon. Awesome. Playing out like a version of Clash of the Titans for tweens, Percy fends off Medusa, a hydra, and one of his fellow demi-gods… sort of like fighting off giant birds and fellow wizards, no? The only thing missing is some weird sport played with his special abilities.

It’s impossible to shake the sense that if Potter was never around in filmland, Percy Jackson never would have happened. All of these stars, including Pierce Brosnan, Uma Thurman, and Sean Bean are simply thinking of residual payments should these films become a success. It’s a knock-off, and should be regarded as nothing more.

The Lightning Thief is far from terrible to be fair. The lavish visual effects are constant, the creature designs fun, and the battle sequences have some merit. It’s not very logical, with Grover Underwood (Brandon T. Jackson) playing a Sader, half-man, half-goat. He walks around with crutches to disguise himself in public, yet only sporadically uses them once he reveals his true form. Why bother carrying them around at all if you look perfectly human without them anyway? Plus, don’t even ask how a Centuar hides himself in a wheel chair.

All of the Greek mythology is standard fare for Hollywood, the real pull being how the visual effects can entice the target audience. They do a fine job, which is all that matters. Fantasy is hot right now, that is understood, but if the mythology behind it carries no originality, then it doesn’t take any imagination to process either.

Movie ★★★☆☆ 

Fox delivers a wonderful, bright, saturated AVC transfer for Percy Jackson’s HD debut. Immediately apparent are the deep blacks, generating the necessary depth and dimensionality expected from modern releases. Generally sharp, detail remains high, the forest area that serves as the school for these demigods especially impressive. At 24:06, individual blades of grass are well within view, helped by a substantial clarity and well resolved grain structure.

Trees and other plants are equally outstanding at 24:42, continuing an onslaught of impressive visuals. The rocks at the river are rendered flawlessly at 34:32, the striking image delivering a sense of reality to otherwise fantastical elements. The transfer handles itself well in darker situations as well, facial detail notable at 43:48 despite the limited light source. Uma Thurman’s close-ups at 51:39 produce distinct pores and make each snake on her head defined. A trip to Vegas produces some gorgeous lights, the slightly elevated color combining with the overall definition at 1:11:35 to create a marvelous establishing shot.

This transfer is consistent. Whereas facial detail is almost always exceptional in close, at a distance it tends not to hold. It retains a natural feel however, never processed or digital. Even the effects sequences, with rapid editing or camera sways, hold without any artifacting. This disc is noise free, and aside from the general lack of facial definition in the mid-range, is hard to complain about. The deeply rich color scheme (keeping flesh tones accurate) and bright contrast are pleasing to the eye. All of the high fidelity detail is simply a bonus.

Video ★★★★☆ 

When the credits impress, you can generally believe you’re in for a treat. This DTS-HD effort is wonderfully powerful, the opening text greeted by thunder that moves from the left rear, to the right, and then into the front. The swirling effect is great, and this mix only gets better from there.

The first attack sequence, a flying Fury zipping about an open museum, generates immersion with precision placement in each channel. The crisp audio continues during a Minotaur assault around 19:40, heavy footsteps generating powerful bass. The constant low-end assault reaches what seems to be a peak during the Hydra battle around 1:06:50, the flames jetting from its mouth, accompanied by some mesmerizing bass. Likewise, as the creature moves around, its motion is precise through the stereo and surround channels.

The disc still has more to offer in addition to appropriately mixed dialogue. When Zeus’ lightning bolt comes into play around 1:36:24, the subwoofer generates tremendous jolts, suitable for a god’s weapon. As it electrifies the interior of a building around a minute later, crackling electricity creates a generous level of immersion. The finale, involving countless gallons of water swirling about, is audio bliss, the clarity remarkable and the amount of directionality staggering. Awesome material.

Audio ★★★★★ 

Extras begin with a series of deleted scenes, running about 14-minutes. A short look at how the book made it to the screen, including an interview with author Rick Riordan, is promotional in nature. A set tour with Brandon T. Jackson is fine and marginally amusing. Composing for the Gods is a whopping three-minute long featurette on the music, followed by Meet the Demigods, a promo piece on the kids. Two interactive featurettes, one a marginally educational piece on the Greek gods, and a quiz are left.

Extras ★★☆☆☆ 

  • Smalberts22

    See that picture should have a caption stating “the trick to fooling a three headed behemoth is to stand against a pillar, everyone knows hydras have terrible peripheral vision.”

  • Smalberts22

    See that picture should have a caption stating “the trick to fooling a three headed behemoth is to stand against a pillar, everyone knows hydras have terrible peripheral vision.”

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