Percy Jackson asks who your parents are
by Dr. phil. Michael Stierstorfer
What are the gods of the ancient Greeks doing in the 21st century? Director Chris Columbus gives an answer to this question in his film adaptation of the first volume in the successful Percy Jackson series by US star writer Rick Riordan. Percy Jackson - Thieves in Olympus offers an adventurous and varied hero's journey through the ancient world of legends.
The teenager Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman), who lives with his mother Sally with his unfriendly stepfather Gabe (Joe Pantoliano) in a small apartment, usually attracts negative attention at his school because he suffers from ADHD and dyslexia. One day he and his class visit a museum of antiquities, where his mathematics assistant attacks him in the form of a fury. At the last moment, his best friend Grover (Brandon T. Jackson) and his director Mr. Brunner (Pierce Brosnan) come to his aid.
It turns out that Percy is a demigod who is threatened by archaic beings because he is suspected of having stolen Zeus' ruler's bolt. Therefore it is only safe in Camp 'Halfblood', a special training camp and refuge for demigods. On the way, his mother Sally (Catherine Keener) is transported to the underworld by the Minotaur, a hybrid of man and bull. Percy can defeat this monster with the last of his strength and is admired in the camp by the other demigods. There Grover reveal himself as a satyr who stands by Percy as a protector, and Mr. Brunner as a centaur who trains and instructs the demigods. Because the ruler's lightning has to be back on Olympus by the summer solstice, Percy sets out with Grover and his newly acquired companion Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario) to prevent a war between the gods that would devastate the existence of the earth. As helpful items, Luke (Jake Abel), the son of Hermes, the messenger of the gods, gives them wing shoes and a shield.
In addition to returning the ruler's lightning bolt, the journey of the three demigods has another goal: Percy wants to free his mother from the underworld and therefore contact Hades. On their dangerous journey, the three friends take on the fatal Medusa, the fire-breathing hydra and the lotophages, who cloud the protagonists' senses with their lotus blossoms.
After the trio arrives in the underworld, Percy can save his mother, but it turns out that he was betrayed by Luke. He stole the ruler's lightning so that Percy could bring it to Hades without his knowledge. The god of the underworld is supposed to discover the lightning and thereby believe Percy for the thief. This is also how it happens. Hades takes the Corpus Delicti and wants to kill Percy and his companions with it. With the help of Hades ’frustrated wife Persephone, they escape this at the last moment and climb Mount Olympus, which is located on the top of the Empire State Building. Shortly before their goal, they are attacked by Luke, whom Percy can defeat using his power over the element of water.
On Mount Olympus, Percy gives Zeus (Sean Bean) lightning and meets his biological father Poseidon, who apologizes for the neglect of his family and promises him constant mental support in the future. In the end, Percy returns to camp as a respected hero and savior of the earth and dedicates himself to fighting training for demigods.
The film Percy Jackson - Thieves in Olympus faithfully implements the literary model by Rick Riordan in most of the scenes and uses the latest technology to create an impressive saga for young and old (FSK 12). Percy, who at the beginning of the story is a classic outsider according to the tried and tested concept of the "monomyth" by Campbell (1953), becomes a powerful hero in the course of his trials, who gradually acquires the ability to gain control over the element of water. With great attention to detail, the mythical creatures were also brought to life through digital artifacts. For example, while the Medusa is out battle of the titans (1981, Desmond Davis) still looks quite wooden due to the stop-motion technique and her snake hairs look like clumsy modeling clay, is in the film adaptation of Medusa (Uma Thurman) The Lightning Thief every single snake on the head animates and moves with what appears to be its own will, independently of the others. The mentor Chiron (Pierce Brosnan), who owns the lower abdomen of a horse, or the protector Grover (Brandon T. Jackson), who has hairy goat feet as a satyr, are convincingly staged.
The plot of the film largely follows the style of the novel, but makes unnecessary modifications in some places: For example, the Procrustes episode ironically conceived by Rick Riordan, in which the criminal "Crusty", known in ancient mythology as a limb stretcher, is attempted , Grover and Annabeth forcibly resizing the waterbed, replaced with an action-packed confrontation with the Hydra. In it, the multi-headed monster is brought to life in front of the setting of a Greek columned hall and spits conflagrations on the heroes in dragon style. The parodistic and at the same time playfully intelligent reference to the standard versions of the Hercules myth is also lost. Because the hero does not defeat the hydra by burning out the necks with a torch - as is the case in the standard versions of the myth - but petrifies them with the help of the head of Medusa. The film music underlines the actions with varied, calm or hectic sounds, but in some places it seems a bit too bombastic, which is typical for the genre.
All in all, the film builds up a consistent arc of suspense, which leads to a brilliant final battle between Percy and the antagonist Luke on the top of the Empire State Building after completing several quests. Of course, divine special weapons such as a Deucalionic flood or a lightning thunderstorm are used. Because of this, and also because of the fast tracking shots, the final scenario unfortunately seems very overloaded.
In the novel as in the film, the supernatural finds its way into the world represented as real, based on the model of the implied world of Maria Nikolajeva (1988). By and large, the film would therefore be classified in the currently very popular genre of fantasy. In this case, the mythological-fantastic element finds its way into the big city of New York, which forms a popular setting for magical-mystical processes in countless other novels and films, as was recently the case with the example of the unsuccessful and globally flopped film adaptation of Chronicles of the Underworld (2013, Harald Zwart) became evident. The Lightning Thief secured a top position in the annual cinema charts, which ensured the temporary continuation of the film series. On the side, in-depth and thought-provoking topics flow into the film, such as environmental protection, further development of modern culture, problems of blended families and how to deal with the loss of a parent. These exciting questions concerning the intended recipients could, however, have been deepened, as is the case in the novel.
The overall successful handling of the Greek legends is particularly appreciated. So Perseus defeats Medusa, who turns everyone to stone when she sees her, not by looking into his famous mirror shield, but by looking into his iPod, in which the gruesome face of the monster dominating the snake is reflected. In the novel, Rick Riordan only gives his protagonist a glass ball, which is rather bland compared to the funny iPod variation. This ironic modernization of the myth meets both the intention of the novel and that of the film.
The acting performances of the mostly established Hollywood greats like Pierce Brosnan (Chiron), Sean Bean (Zeus), Rosario Dawson (Persephone) and Uma Thurman as Medusa are very convincing within the scope of the possibilities available in a blockbuster film.
With the help of an interactive myth glossary, the recipients are introduced to the ancient legends in the ambience of a venerable statue hall and can even find out from which god they theoretically descend, depending on the preferences of the recipients. They also get to know the twelve Olympians better. This game of fiction and reality is another successful trick of the novel, which is only adopted in the film in the additional material. As a result, this interesting level is unfortunately almost completely lost.
The film adaptation of Percy Jackson is overall successful. It is suitable for young people from the age of 12, but adults and lovers of Roman antiquity and the world of gods should also have fun. Despite a coherent overall conception, the film would have done less action in some places to leave more space for the modernizing presentation of the world of gods and legends and the accompanying increase in learning for adolescents with regard to their knowledge of ancient mythology. Because of the myths crash course given by Latin teacher Chiron in the museum, recipients who are not familiar with myths should also get their money's worth.
It is therefore not understandable that the film was received rather negatively by many critics. Because only because of the fact that Percy Jackson by one of the directors of theHarry PotterSeries was filmed, it is by no means a cheap copy - as some critics accuse the film and the novel - but goes its own way, which is based on the inexhaustible Greco-Roman legends as a fund of desiderata and prototypical motifs for postmodern fantasy and fantasy is based.
Campbell, Joseph: The hero in a thousand shapes, Frankfurt am Main 1953
Nikolajeva, Maria: The Magic Code. The use of magical patterns in fantasy for children, Göteborg 1988
First publication: April 24, 2014
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