To say that I “like” the modern mythical world that Rick Riordan created for Percy Jackson and The Olympians series and then continued in The Heroes of Olympus and expanded in The Kane Chronicles would be kind of an understatement. A more accurate one would be that I am wholeheartedly obsessed and love every bit of these series. I’ve written about them before, here if you want my primer on the subject, and here, talking about The Mark of Athena, the most recent installment. I was hugely disappointed in The Lightning Thief, the film adaptation of the first book.
It wasn’t that the movie wasn’t good. It was. It was funny and cute, and the action was great. The problem was that these stories are meant to be in a series and The Lightning Thief is really only supposed to be part 1. So it’s hard to make it stand on it’s own as a narrative, and to do so, you have to take away a lot of stuff and make characters that are deep and complicated into 2 dimensional cut outs.
I’m referring of course, to the villain of Percy Jackson and The Olympians, Luke Castellan. Luke is an incredibly well drawn character in the books, filled with rage, confusion, split loyalties and of course some evil.
In The Lightning Thief the movie, he’s just kind of a whiny douche bag.
Sea of Monsters does a slightly better job with Luke and with the epic narative of the story in general. It also manages to capture the fun kid friendly tone of the books, without the pandering silliness that sometimes gets confused. It’s visually beautiful and Logan Lerman continues to lead a perfectly cast group.
I love the way Lerman plays Percy, as slightly cocky and always in just a little bit over his head. The script does a wonderful job of showing Percy’s angst and loneliness as the only child of Poseidon. Rather than relying on voice over, which is only used as book ends. Most of it is shown by Percy sitting on the beach and talking in vain to the Long Island Sound, trying to reach out to his father with no response.
Hooray for good casting!
He gets a response, just not quite the one he was looking for. Poseidon sends Percy a half brother, in the form of Tyson, a young cyclops. Tyson’s origins are played with a little bit. In the books he’s a homeless kid who attends school with Percy. Here he’s been living on his own in the woods of upstate New York. But in intent, he’s the same. Tyson is an innocent, is absurdly strong and it takes Percy a while to come around to the idea that they’re brothers. Tyson is played by Douglas Smith, who I’ve never seen before, but who I liked a lot.
Back were Alexandra Daddario and Brandon T. Jackson as Annabeth Chase and Grover Underwood. One of my big problems with the movies is that they don’t really do Annabeth justice. Annabeth is fierce, intelligent and driven. In the movies, she’s just kind of Percy’s girlfriend. This time they did a little bit of a better job, dealing with her guilt over her friend Talia Grace’s death and her rage at Luke for turning against them. I was disappointed that they skipped over Percy and Annabeth discussing their fatal flaws. Annabeth thinks she can fix everything and Percy would burn the world down to save the people he loves. But Daddario does a really good job with her and infuses her with feelings and nuance that the script doesn’t really give her.
Brandon T. Jackson plays Grover very differently from how I interpret the character when I read, but I still like it. I think of Grover as a kind of nerd, until he comes into his own in book 4. But Jackson plays him more like that guy in middle school who was really cool, but wasn’t like the other guys so he was kind of a misfit, and then when everyone grows up a little they realize how cool that guy was. It’s an interesting take and I really enjoy it.
Also back, Jake Abel as Luke. Luke’s motivation to serve the Titan Kronos and that he’s being manipulated are brought in here, so he becomes a more complex villain, which was all I really wanted from him. Yay!
New to the game is Leven Rambin as Clarisse LaRue, a daughter of Ares. Rambin does a great job with Clarisse’s stubbornness and arrogance, and I like the way that her and Percy’s rivalry is portrayed, but annoyed that again it loses a layer. Here it’s playful and fun, in the books it’s a blood feud caused by Percy’s insult to her father. Also Rambin is too pretty, but that’s another fight entirely.
We also get a quick cameo by Nathan Fillion as Hermes. I was so excited for this scene, it was really the main reason I went out of my way to see the movie today. Hermes is running OPS (Olympic Parcel Service). Generally I loved the way that they brought the larger Greek world into this story. We see the special ATM cards the demi gods carry that allow them to get drachmas. We met the Fates, and we saw OPS. Fillion is funny and witty, has no time for Annabeth and tell Percy not to give up on his family. Also he makes a Firefly joke that I laughed way too hard at.
Hermes: This is a collectible from Hercules Bashes Heads.
Tyson: Hercules Bashes Heads?
Hermes: Best show ever! But of course they cancelled it after one season.
Remember last week when I had a totally inappropriate weepy reaction to The Wolverine? I laughed wayyyy too hard at that joke. It’s not even a great joke.
Anyway, Anthony Head took over for Pierce Brosnan as Chiron, the centaur that trains the heroes of Camp Half Blood and it was a welcome change. I do love Brosnan, but seeing Head teaching teenagers about magic and fighting again was a great joy. He and Lerman was particularly great together as the discussed The Great Prophecy and Percy’s destiny.
As for the Great Prophecy itself, in the book it reads:
A half blood of the eldest gods
Shall reach 16 against all odds
And see the world in endless sleep
The hero’s soul, a cursed soul shall reap
A single choice shall end his days
Olympus to preserve or raze.
The prophecy is gently changed, since in the movies, Percy is already past 16. Basically, it says it will come true when he turns 20.
The ending gets a tweak, to again allow the movie to be a stand alone sequel but I hope it isn’t. Mostly because after seeing Paloma Kwiatkowski as Talia Grace, even just for a moment, I really very badly want to see her become a Hunter of Artemis, and I really, really want to see Nico and Bianca DiAngelo.
Missed most of them, due to a long snack line. But saw Frozen teaser again.
Also, the Rio 2 trailer is super cute. Rio is an underrated little gem of a movie, and I’m interested in what the sequel will do.
Movie Season Rankings:
1. Pacific Rim
2. The Great Gatsby
3. Man of Steel
4. The Wolverine
5. Iron Man 3
6. Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters
7. Star Trek Into Darkness
8. Monsters University
9. After Earth