Harry says that PERCY JACKSON AND THE OLYMPIANS: THE LIGHTNING THIEF just sort of lays there...
This really pains me. I spent the whole day with my wife catching up on some titles that I had missed press screenings for. We started the day with Martin Campbell's EDGE OF DARKNESS with Mel Gibson... Had a blast with it. Then we left the Alamo Village for Alamo South to watch the future director of DUNE have a mad romp with a domed Travolta in FROM PARIS WITH LOVE. The film is utterly insane, but in a way I had a lot of fun with.
But when I got up, I put on my shoes covered in Lightning Bolts... And I left the house excited because a friend that I absolutely love was excited by this film. You see, Mr Beaks interviewed Craig Titley for the site - and during the day, I read that interview on my phone. I've known Craig for years, in particular, I was quite fond of his SCOOBY DOO script that never came close to being what wound up on the screen. But Craig asked me a few months ago why AICN wasn't going gaga on PERCY JACKSON, and I told him that the trailers just didn't do anything for me. Craig had seen the film and felt it was the best translation of one of his scripts yet. That got me jazzed. When we got to the Alamo around 6:30pm tonight... There were crazy elaborate PERCY JACKSON decorations everywhere. That the ALAMO put forth that effort... it got me jazzed. When we came out of FROM PARIS WITH LOVE with 2 hours to kill, we turned and looked at the lobby and there were all these grown-ups dressed as Gods. Kids in various garb, a man in Minotaur gear and ladies in togas.
Yoko and I were giddy. It felt like the beginning of a magical evening. The menu had special Percy Jackson Blue Milkshakes and some cookies of the Gods. Again. Kinda fucking cool. I learned from the exceptionally awesome Topher Bradfield of BOOK PEOPLE, that all the kids in the bright orange shirts that said, CAMP HALFBLOOD on them... They're the hardcore kids that went through 5 weeks of essentially LARPing. That really made me giggle. I love that.
Well, once the movie took over, the dream ended.
I just felt that none of it worked. Uma seemed embarrassingly awful as Medusa (who I guess had her head reattached at some point, so she could continue to get people stoned). Sean Bean, an actor I love, was oddly detached - and in some of his latter scenes, I swear he's just staring right through the kids. The eyelines just didn't work. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
We begin the film in the clouds, teeming with lightning. Then it stops. We drop out of the clouds to a waterfront that an enormous Poseidon is emerging. When I realized that Kevin McKidd was POSEIDON... I was very excited. I literally just devoured HBO's ROME, in which he's amazing. And of everyone, save Hades, he survived the best. But he just had nothing to do. Occasionally Percy hears McKidd in his head... But other than his voice telling him what to do to triumph, and about 3 scenes... we get nothing. I longed for some sort of establishing of how that connection works. I imagined a furious Poseidon looking into a pool, following his son's actions, frustrated that he couldn't physically help him or protect him. And when he touched his son's reflection and spoke - perhaps that's how his thoughts were transferred... but frankly, as my brain was wandering - I realized...
Logan Lerman, Brandon T Jackson and Alexandra Daddario just didn't do a thing for me. Logan is the best of the three, but I found Alexandra actually grating on screen. I get that she's the daughter of ATHENA, but I didn't get the feeling she knew shit about anything. I got no sense of a power or quality that seemed like anything DEMI-GOD-like. She could swing a sword around and give people paper cuts with it, but wisdom? I wouldn't say that. Battle planning, not at all. And don't even get me started on Brandon T Jackson's Satyr pimp best buddy. Yes, I'm well aware of the decadent reputation of a Satyr - but this guy couldn't shine the horns on Tony Curtis' head.
I thought, maybe the movie will get real good once he goes to CAMP HALFBLOOD. The bastard son of Hermes refers to the place as a Renaissance Faire - and folks... that's an insult to Ren Faires. I spent the better part of my childhood at the one outside of Magnolia, Tx. This place is out in the woods. Everyone is play swordfighting, practicing archery or sunbathing. Classroom instruction essentially consists of playing CAPTURE THE FLAG in full LARPing gear minus the duct tape.
Percy gets introduced to his living quarters there... which is essentially a large dock with a roof on it. There's all these decorations and we don't really get to see any of it. Percy spends about 2 minutes in this pad that a "gift from Poseidon." Yeah, his Dad apparently played with Lincoln Logs as a little tadpole.
God, I hate that. I'm being snarky and I don't want to be. I don't want to be a smartass about this film. I want to say that it blew Harry Potter away, but it didn't. I want to say, "It's a great kids movie," but even though these kids were so freaking excited they were bouncing off the walls... We heard kids use the following phrases coming out, "that was cheesy" and "I didn't expect it to be perfect" and one kid told his Dad "I don't think we're going to see the other books." Lastly, there was a young boy in the bathroom standing facing the corner, crying alone. Maybe he was beaten. I've no idea why he was crying, but the CAMP HALFBLOOD headband was what he used to wipe his tears.
I'm not exaggerating. The film was filled with sexual innuendo, a trip sequence after eating some dosed "magic" cookies... and yes, that's all very much a part of Greek Mythology. It just all clashed with the audience there, the modern day didn't feel right with the Greek influence.
And I didn't like the creatures. I thought the design was uninspired. With one exception...
Hades. The fiery demonic visage of HADES was killer, but when he presents himself as Steve Coogan via SLASH... I kinda loved it. Coogan had fun with the part, you could see it on him. He was having a blast. But that was far too little... too late.
There's zero emotional connection in the film. After the Minotaur turns his mother to fairy dust, and he wakes up THREE DAYS later, he seems unaffected by her loss in the least. Which makes his desire to venture forth into the belly of Hades to save her... unsold. I'm sorry, there wasn't a fucking tear. Not a regret. Nothing. Instead, it was like, Mom turned to sparkly ash, but hey, I'm a demi-god!
What a prick, right?
Ordinarily, I'd just say, "Maybe this wasn't for me. I'm old fashioned. I want my Greek Mythology presented in the glory of it's past." But all those disappointed kids. The frowns coming out of the theater, rather than smiles? This was a big deal to these kids. They have been playing in this universe at multiple camps. Before the movie, this one 7 year old incredibly enthusiastic girl was interrogating a guy dressed as Poseidon, and the Alamo's Poseidon played along like a proud Papa whose son was going to finally get his day in the sun. When suddenly, the little girl says, "You're son is pretty hot!" and he went blank. My wife and I howled - it was absolutely precious.
Dammit. I really really hate that my day ended on such a foul note.
Now perhaps it was the hour. Perhaps it was the product of a long frigid rain & sleet filled day. But I was not impressed in the least. One very small supporting performance from the great Steve Coogan wasn't enough.
The performances never sold the peril. They never sold the awe or majesty of these amazing things. Percy just accepts it all, but we never know what he thinks of any of it. They're literally on a cross country hunt for magic pearls in places like Nashville and Las Vegas. And the search for the entrance to Hades, which cutely enough lies in Hollywood.
I'm going to introduce my nephew to the books, try to get him signed up for this CAMP HALF-BLOOD this summer and let him experience the LARPing and greater glory of the written word in book form. And if he still wants to see the movie afterwards - I'll show it to him, but I'm not expecting a positive reaction. There's nothing more solemn than the look of disappointment on a kid's face.
All I could think was nearly 30 years ago, I first saw CLASH OF THE TITANS at a midnight showing here in Austin the night before it opened. I had devoured the original Greek Myths at the library and it absolutely came to life with that film. I came out delirious. So gobsmackingly happy that for that whole weekend, I was running around with my Prince Valiant sword and shield, acting like I was fighting Medusa.
Here... you kinda want to make out with Medusa. Oh - btw. Medusa can't turn you to stone if she's wearing shades.
Craig - buddy, let's just agree to disagree on this. Wish I felt differently.