Some directors probably don’t mind being under strict supervision by studio heads when trying to adapt a beloved book series to screen. But there are also times when a director needs to be allowed to take some liberties with the material in order to help keep things from being too bogged down. The first two Harry Potter films instantly spring to mind in this case when compared to director Chris Columbus’s latest, Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief.
When given the task of bringing The Sorcerer’s Stone and The Chamber of Secrets to life one can only imagine the guidelines set forth by the studio, let alone the fact that audiences across the entire globe would have such high expectations. By making these films feel like a sluggish film version of every single page, they have turned out to be the most boring of the film series.
While Chamber of Secrets was an improvement upon Sorcerer’s Stone, they both still pale in comparison to the best of the lot, Prisoner of Azkaban. The secret is to give a director the freedom to find a way to condense things to keep the plot moving along so the general audiences who are not avid readers of the novels don’t feel like they have to plod through the filler to get to the interesting stuff.
Screenwriter Craig Titley is no Steve Kloves and I have not read any of the Percy Jackson novels by Rick Riordan, but one thing appeared to be clear – get the audience in and out and show them a grand time. You can tell that were possibly scenes trimmed here and there (as is the case with every film) but in this case it was a good thing as the film throws you into the midst of things and sets you forth on an epic adventure of mythological proportions.
One evening Zeus (Sean Bean) meets with his brother Poseidon (Kevin McKidd) to discuss the disappearance of Zeus’ lightning bolt. It must be returned in 14 days or there will be a war between humans and gods. We quickly learn that Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman) is a demi-god born to his human mother, Sally (Catherine Keener) who has shacked up with the intolerable yet appropriately named Gabe Ugliano (Joe Pantoliano).
After Percy learns of his demi-god status he is whisked away to Camp Half Blood where he must learn the rules of the trade and strengthen his powers in order to get on with the task of finding his now kidnapped mother who is being held by Hades (Steve Coogan) while he makes life literal Hell for his against-her-will lover Persephone (Rosario Dawson, reteaming with director Columbus after starring in his atrocious Rent debacle). Percy is joined on his adventure by Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario), who happens to be Athena’s (Melina Kanakaredes) daughter, and his best friend, Grover (Tropic Thunder’s Brandon T. Jackson), who is really a faun.