Many fantasy books in the last decade or so have been turned into movies. Suffice to say, some worked (i.e. the Harry Potter saga) and some didn’t (i.e. the first Percy Jackson movie). Let me start by saying I loved the books. There are five and each one is as enjoyable and addictive as the one that came before. This review may come off as a book purist seeing the movie adaptation as a failure, but this is far from true. There are reasons why I didn’t like the movie compared to the book and it being a movie adaptation is not the only reason.
When it comes to bringing a book to life on the big screen, screen writers and directors may take a different approach; creative liberties, if you will. These creative liberties are only acceptable if it makes sense within the scope of the book’s mythology, knowing that a lot of viewers have not necessarily read the books before going to see the movie.
For example, The Notebook is nothing like the book. And yes, I realize it’s not fantasy either, but go with me on this. With the exception of character names and a certain plot point, the movie focuses on the two main characters meeting and falling in love. The book really only mentions the summer they met and focuses more on the latter part of their life.
I mention The Notebook because in its case taking extreme creative liberties worked in the scope of the movie and made it more entertaining. The Lightning Thief was butchered when it came to creative liberty and below I’ll explain why.
Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief is a story about the title character that’s twelve years old and finds out he’s a demi-god (half god, half human). Sent to a demi-god summer camp to learn about himself and his powers, he sets off on an amazing journey.
Now, don’t get me wrong, the movie had several elements the book carried. And as mentioned above, I don’t mind creative liberties, but the movie as a whole fell flat. It was rushed and I couldn’t quite get myself to care about the movie character versions. I like action, but this had too much of it and didn’t stop to give much time to anything else. The pacing seemed too fast and I was bored during parts of the film. Also, changing Percy Jackson’s age was a major fail for me. There are five books and they’re currently working on the second movie. The story is about Percy’s journey and growing up to realize who he is as a person. I don’t think that works as well when he starts off as a sixteen year old versus a twelve year old. A journey at the two separate ages would mean different meanings to his experiences.
To explain further why I believe the movie failed was because I saw it before I read the book - and by the end I wasn’t impressed or even remotely aware of what had really gone on and why. There wasn’t enough care to the movie, which is a shame because Chris Columbus has directed great movies before. Mrs. Doubtfire, Stepmom, The Goonies, Home Alone, and the first two Harry Potter films come immediately to mind.
Overall, the movie didn’t quite do its job – which is to take the viewer on a journey through the character’s eyes, entertain, and set up foundations for future movies within the same universe. If you are or aren’t a fan of the books, don’t waste two hours of your time on this film. It wouldn’t be worth it.