Tuesday, February 23, 2010
But hey, some of my favorite movies are rip-offs. Spielberg’s Jaws is a classic, but I’m just as happy to watch Joe Dante’s cheap knock-off Piranha. Star Wars (aka Episode IV: A New Hope) steals most of its plot and characters from Akira Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress, but knowing that doesn’t lessen my enjoyment of George Lucas’ space opera. Similarly, I found myself enjoying The Lightning Thief just as much, if not more, than most of the Potter films. Yes, Percy Jackson is clearly following a tried and true formula, but it modifies the ingredients enough that it takes on its own distinctive flavor.
One of the key differences between the two franchises is that The Lightning Thief feels considerably less cluttered. My biggest issue with the Harry Potter films is that they all feel stuffed to bursting in an effort to cram as much of the books on screen as possible, without any real regard for how that might flow cinematically. That’s not an issue here. Neither does The Lightning Thief seek to constantly distract us with multiple little special effects gags in the corners of every shot. There’s even a real honest to goodness ending that makes it possible to enjoy the film on its own, even if the sequels never get made.
It also helps that The Lightning Thief has a strong supporting cast, including Catherine Keener as Percy’s mother, Joe Pantoliona as Percy’s wicked step-father, Pierece Brosnan as a centaur who teaches the young demigods and goddesses, and Uma Thurman as Medusa. Plus it has some cool monsters, which is always a good thing in my book. By no means is this a great movie, but it was a lot more entertaining than I expected. 3 out of 4 stars.