For this film review, I watched the film Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief. It tells the story of Percy, son of Poseidon, and his quest to discover both who he is and who stole the mighty lightning bolt of Zeus. The film is aimed at families, and generally shows an accurate representation of the Greek myths. There are a few key differences though, which are mostly used to present the Greek Gods in a better, more likable tone for the movie. The first differences between the film and classic mythology surround the premise. The film explains that the Gods would occasionally fall in love with mortals and have children.
The children were sometimes bestowed special powers, similar to those of their parents. In classical myths, it was a common occurrence for the Gods (especially Zeus) to travel to Earth and have children with mortal women. This was not because they loved mortal women; it was often because they just wanted to have a good time. But not all of the Gods did this. One of the main characters in the film is the daughter of Athena, a Goddess who never had any children in classical mythology. This is not a large issue, and it provides a central female character to the plot.
The film also changes the relationships between the Gods and their children. In classical mythology, the mortal children of Gods sometimes display increased bravery or strength, but it would be almost impossible to know who their parents were based solely on their abilities. In the film, the children display attributes identical to that of their parents; the daughters of Aphrodite are hypnotically beautiful, the daughter of Athena is a great warrior and strategist, and Percy, being the son of Poseidon, can use water as both a weapon and a healing agent.
The change is appropriate for a family film, because it keeps the movie entertaining. The final major change to the premise is Zeus’ ‘Master Lightning Bolt’ itself, and the idea that any of the Gods can have their powers stolen. The film presents the idea that Zeus made a law forbidding Gods (but not their offspring) from stealing each others’ powers, as if it would be a common occurrence otherwise. This has no truth to it in accordance to classic myths, but it provides a plot for the movie and remains entertaining.
Aside from these general changes, the film does a good job of portraying the Gods, and keeps their personalities and histories very close to their stories while still maintaining a family-friendly attitude. The character of Percy is named after Perseus, and shares many traits with him. As mentioned before, the film depicts Percy as the son of a mortal woman and Poseidon, which gives him some power over water. In the mythology, Perseus is the son of Zeus and Danae, and has no special powers. This is the largest difference between Percy and Perseus.
Many of the similarities lie within his actions and beliefs. Like Perseus, Percy completes his mission for the sake of, and with assistance from, women. Early in the film, Percy’s mother is abducted by Hades, and a large part of Percy’s journey is to rescue her, with the assistance of the daughter of Athena. Percy’s passion towards saving his mother aligns perfectly with the mythology, since Perseus frequently worked with and saved the women in his travels. Percy and Perseus share some overlap in their quests as well. During his travels, Percy encounters, and eventually beheads, the gorgon Medusa.
Much like the original tale, he uses a reflection to avoid looking at Medusa directly. However, to keep up with the modern feel of the film, he uses the reflective side of an iPhone rather than a shield. Later on, Percy uses Medusa’s head to turn a hydra to stone, which is identical to Perseus’ defeat of Cetus. These are examples of very similar stories, but some pieces of Percy’s journey are different from Perseus’. The biggest difference is Percy’s descent into the Underworld. In classic mythology, Perseus is one of the famous heroes that never travels to the Underworld.
In the film, however, the majority of Percy’s journey is to locate and enter the Underworld in order to rescue his mother from Hades. Once again, the changes contribute to the plot of the story and remain entertaining for audiences. The film does a good job of accurately representing some of the minor characters from mythology as well. Percy’s friend Grover is a satyr, and displays a strong interest in many of the females in the film. Chiron, leader of the centaurs makes an appearance as well, disguised as one of Percy’s teachers. He later reveals himself to be a centaur and the leader of the Demigod Camp that Percy travels to.
Charon also makes an appearance, and only allows Percy and his friends to travel to the Underworld once they have paid him. As mentioned before, Medusa appears in the film, and expresses her anger towards Athena for transforming her into a monster. She also tells Percy that she ‘used to date [Poseidon],’ which is a more family-friendly version of the Roman story where Poseidon rapes her in Athena’s temple. All in all, Percy Jackson does a good job of representing the Greek Gods in a present day story that is entertaining and appropriate for families.
Most of the characters are presented very accurately, and even the changes are not terribly drastic. The director balances entertaining audiences with informing them, and the new material doesn’t ruin any characters or storylines from the original myths. I think the movie did a good job of portraying ancient Gods in a present day setting while still retaining their distinct personalities. Additionally, Percy’s story closely follows those of Perseus, which shows the dedication and appreciation of the source material. Overall, I quite enjoyed Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief.