The cover on my copy of The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan has a quote at the bottom calling it “riotously paced,” and boy, is that ever accurate. The Lightning Thief is almost as ADHD as its hero, Percy Jackson, but when it comes to quick and light reading, it definitely hits the mark. Riordan flips through mythological characters and storylines like a fly jumping from one piece of fruit to another, and each little morsel of mythology is presented in a way that’s both fun and educational—no worries that you’re missing out on a good joke or something just because you’re not a scholar on Greek myths.
But let me back up a little bit. Percy Jackson is kind of the Harry Potter of the Greek mythology world. He’s not an orphan, but he is a misfit who’s been kicked out of a lot of schools for learning and behavioral problems. And then one day his math teacher tries to kill him—literally. He then learns that not only is his best friend actually a satyr, but his Latin teacher isn’t exactly as meets the eye, either. Soon he’s headed to Half Blood Camp, and claimed as Poseidon’s son. Not long after that, though, it’s learned that Zeus’ object of power—his master lightning bolt, has been stolen, and someone has framed Percy as the thief. With a couple of friends along for the ride, Percy has to recover the stolen item and return it to Mt. Olympus before the Summer Solstice. A big enough task as is—considering who everyone thinks the real thief probably was—but things are made that much worse by the fact that monsters are chasing them down at every turn.
I have to admit, the writing in this book isn’t the highest-quality stuff that I’ve ever read. Most of the side characters are little more than cardboard cut-outs that talk, and if there weren’t so much mythology to draw from, these might not be very good books. But the fact is, there is a ton of mythology to draw from, and Riordan weaves it so entertainingly into Percy’s trials and troubles that these books are really out-and-out fun. I’m already a quarter of the way through the second one, and the action and reading doesn’t slow down at all.
The Lightning Thief is kind of a formulaic book, but the formula works. Well. And I’m honestly flying through these book. Well, as fast as a crazy, full-to-the-tilt schedule allows me to, at least. A- for The Lightning Thief.
I broke one of my cardinal rules with the new Percy Jackson movie—namely: I didn’t finish the book before watching the film. As it turned out, though, that was kind of okay, because I’d read enough to know that the movie was not remotely like the book. Oh the beginning is the same, and (I’m presuming) the ending is probably not all that far off, and there’s an echo or two of major scenes… but that’s about it. The film swerves off-path of the book early on—in vital, plot-moving ways.
I have to confess, I was a little disappointed. After all, the advertising campaign told you as many times as they could that this movie was from the same man who’d given us Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone, and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Personally, I would have thought that someone who’d ever been involved with the Potter franchise would realize how much fans appreciate when a film is as faithful to a book as it can manage—but Chris Columbus did not follow through here. Now, I don’t really blame him with messing with the plot a little bit. The fact is, Percy and his friends have run into more monsters in the first half of the book that I’ve read than in the whole movie, so understandably budget and time had to be considered in which parts to keep in and which to leave out. The problem I had was that even the characters were fiddled with a little too much for my opinion.
Let’s ignore the fact that Percy and Annabeth are supposed to be about twelve in the first novel (and that girl in the movie is far from twelve years old), but all three characters were made to be… I guess you could simply say “cooler” than they are in the books. All their endearing foibles in the books have been overlooked entirely and glamorized in the true Hollywood style. Annabeth has over-inflated mommy-issues that don’t appear in the book at all, and is too confident overall for kids to have much of a connection with her. Grover the satyr is the cool, funny guy, instead of what he is in the book—a nervous wreck who has trouble getting things right when put under pressure. Percy is… well, a lot angrier than he is in the book, and he’s given a lot of shining moments in the movie that didn’t belong to him in the book—while having a lot of his cooler accomplishments in the book taken away from him.
Basically, I don’t know what Columbus was trying to do with this film. Why take an already best-selling book series and flatten it out into a mass-market-appeal cliché? I’m sorry that Columbus made such a point of his Harry Potter credits in the advertising for this film, because why ring a bell for something that you did really well, in the name of something that came off (at least to the novel-readers… even the in-progress ones) as being halfway-done. In my opinion, the most enjoyable thing about this film was the actors chosen to portray the Greek gods – especially Kevin McKidd and Sean Bean. A little bit of eye-candy and earnest acting in a sadly over-Hollywoodized film.
I have to give it a C+.
I’ve been sick for about the past week. A couple of those days I was sick to the point that all I could stand to do was listen to music, or read. Thankfully, those are two of my favorite things to do. Instead of being locked inside my boring, everyday bedroom, looking at wallpaper decor that is far, far older than myself, I spent hours locked inside the living prison of Catherine Fisher’s Incarceron, and watching Percy Jackson eviscerate math teachers and minotaurs in Rick Riordan’s The Lightning Thief.
While I’m reading, I forget about my current inability to breathe without coughing, my complete lack of control over my voice (what little is left of it) and the fact that I can’t sleep for congestion. I’m going to keep today’s post nice and short, because to be honest I’m still not feeling anywhere near 100%, but at least I can read, and that’s more than I need to keep me entertained.
*Photo credits to Ally Tippett on Flickr.