14 February 2010

Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief

Rick Riordan's first installment in the "Percy Jackson" series, The Lightning Thief, is the February pick for my store bookclub (we agreed that we would all read it, then go see the movie on February 12 with Kat's two boys).  Being a kids' book, do you want a guess at how fast I read this?  Not only is Percy an engaging character, the plot is compelling, and the reading, being aimed at the 3rd-6th grade reading level, is a breeze.

Now, I have heard that some people call Percy Jackson the "Harry Potter rip-off" and I don't think that's true.  Outside of the make-up of the trio of kids - Percy, Annabeth, and Grover - and the "trouble-brewing-amongst-the-supernatural-characters" there isn't a lot of similarity.  Trios aren't that unusual in YA literature (even A Wrinkle in Time has a trio of two boys and a girl) and it works well in this setting.

I love how Rick Riordan is able to use Greek mythology to add all the side plots and what may even be the master plot running under the series (I haven't read the last four, yet).  He even lets kids with dyslexia and ADHD dream that they, too, are special like Percy and have special powers.  One element of The Lightning Thief has to do with fate and that is a tremendous part of Greek epic and drama.  Percy visits the Oracle and, like Oedipus and other tragic heroes, is given a cryptic prophesy that must come true even though it is open to interpretation.  It's a great plot element that keeps Percy on his toes.

However, the motion picture adaptation loses many of the Greek side-plots including the idea of fate and prophecy.  We had a great time watching the movie (except for some family that brought a very young, very loud child who didn't know what was happening and got scared) and after, a friend's son treated us to a run-down of all the changes made to the movie (I remember being totally possessive of the stuff I read when I was ten, so it was pretty cute).  The cuts and changes were extensive and, in my opinion, largely unnecessary because the nuance of the book was lost.  The plot deviation removes a major character and scene from The Lightning Thief while adding another and curtails avenues for adaptation of the remaining books in Rick Riordan's series.  Spectacular CGI effects can only get you so far so Logan Lerman does a great job as Percy (he has gorgeous eyes) and works well with Alexandra Daddario and Brandon Jackson - essential because the three of them must hold the thinner plot together.  Percy Jackson is a bit like Harry Potter in this respect - great chemistry between the three main actors and you are warned that if you see it as a fan of the book be prepared to miss your favorite scenes.  But all-in-all it was entertaining and when I pay my nine bucks I better be entertained.

Preview goodies:
1.  Despicable Me - a teaser trailer with little yellow dudes playing with a tilt-the-can-to-make-it-moo toy until the tall yellow dude plays a mean trick on the short yellow dude....huh?
2.  Letters to God - cute, based on a true story, reminds me of the trailers for The Blind Side
3.  Marmaduke - my note to myself only reads "srsly?"...yeah, I'm pretty uninterested in a live-action movie about a comic that ceased to be funny once I hit puberty; did I mention it's a talking Great Dane voiced by Owen Wilson? *blech* (scratch that I saw the casting...there are a lot of talking dogs...double *blech* )
4.  The Karate Kid - omg, wtf??!???! Hollywood is destroying my childhood; there is no way in hell that Jackie Chan will make this better than the original...the clip from the trailer had take-your-jacket-off-put-your-jacket-on...nope, Pat Morita and wax-on-wax-off will live forever
5.  Alice in Wonderland - almost. peed. my. pants.  The trailer makes this look more like The Looking Glass Wars so I'm pretty jazzed about this one now (I don't care if Johnny Depp looks like a crack-head with a make-up problem...I'm so on board with this one)
6.  Diary of a Wimpy Kid - another adaptation of a popular kids series; this one looks soooo cute, very much in line with the books

[I really want to spoil the pants out of this book/movie combo so I can talk about differences but I don't want to be mean...so sorry if I'm being a little vague.]

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