It’s easy to imagine the thought processes of the studio bosses. Here’s a book about a 12 year old with a difficult home life and some special powers…so let’s sign up that Chris Columbus fellow who directed the first two Harry Potter films.
So yes, the the film of (take a deep breath) Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief comes across as a rip-off of Harry Potter. But don’t assume that the books are the same. Rick Riordan deserves credit for using Greek mythology as the basis for his tales, and with considerably more subtly and wit than Mr Columbus can manage.
In the book, we learn early on that Percy’s father is absent, and there hints about what the real story might be. In the opening shot of the film, Poseidon strides through the water and on to the land. Then it’s off to the top of the Empire State building for a quite chat with Zeus, who accuses Poseidon's son of being the lightning thief. So that’s the plot all sorted out then – and yes, there’s plenty more clunky exposition to come over the next 2 hours.
Bizarrely, Percy Jackson is 16 years old in the film, whereas he was 12 in the first book. It seems that the money men may have been worried that his age would frighten off adults, so he has consciously been made older and Grover Underwood (his best friend) seems inappropriately leery for what is supposed to be a kids movie.
The lead actors are unknown, but there are plenty of star names - Steve Coogan, Uma Thurman, Sean Bean and Pierce Brosnan (amongst others), and the first two are fine but Brosnan really needs to stop trying to do comedy.
Is it really so difficult to turn childrens’ books into movies? Prince Caspian was stupid, the Golden Compass was poor, and now this.