Rated PG. Our ratings: V-4; L -0; S/N -1. Running time: 1 hour 46 Min.
I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.’
Do not seek your own advantage, but that of others.
1 Corinthians 10.24
This film version of Rick Riordan’s book, second in the Percy Jackson series, is much better than the critics would have us believe. True, the series is far beneath the quality of the revered Harry Potter, but there are plenty of neat touches that, as I walked out of the theater, made me feel good. There is plenty of action for children (mid school age I would recommend because some knowledge of Greek mythology is a must to understand the story and characters) and a lot of wit in the dialogue for adults. A good example of the latter is what the camp manager Mr. D. (Stanley Tucci) says. The D stands for Dionysus, Greek god of wine, who in a twist of irony was put under a curse by Zeus, king of gods, so that D’s wine turns into water when he drinks it. He says to a centaur, “You know the Christians have a guy who can do this in reverse.” You gotta like a film that includes such comments!
To go back to the beginning of the story, Percy and three other half bloods (as the children of a god and a mortal are called) were being chased through the forest as they attempted to make their way to the safety of Camp Half Blood. As their pursuers gain on them, Thalia stops, telling the others that she will hold off their enemies while they get away. Percy (Leven Rambin), son of the sea god Poseidon, and his two friends, Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario), daughter of Athena, and Grover (Brandon T. Jackson), a satyr, reluctantly press on to the camp. Thalia is killed in the fight, but even in death she serves her friends by turning into a mighty tree that sheds a barrier around the camp, protecting it from intruders. (One advantage fantasy has over science fiction is there is no need to try to explain the process!)
Seven years go by, and the self appointed leader among the young demigods is Clarisse La Rue (Leven Rambin) who enjoys taunting Percy, especially when unexpectedly his previously unknown half brother Tyson (Douglas Smith) shows up. It’s hard to tell whether Percy is more shocked by discovering he has a sibling or that Tyson is a Cyclops. In the outer world these one-eyed creatures are regarded as vicious monsters, so Clarisse and her friends ostracize and taunt Tyson whenever they can.
There are lots of adventures ahead for them all, including a quest for the famous Golden Fleece, to be found somewhere in the Sea of Monsters, a.k.a The Bermuda Triangle. This is reached by a long taxi ride driven by three hags. There is a stop over in Washington D.C. where the UPS store is really the Olympus Parcel Service run by the messenger god Hermes. He asks them to speak with his estranged son Luke who is on the opposing side of the Quest. It seems that with the Fleece Luke, angry that his father had always neglected him, can awaken from his tomb the Father of the Gods Kronos, and…well, it all gets complicated, but lots of excitement, with the fate of the universe hanging in the balance.
Going into the film I was not too keen on the idea of glorifying old pagan gods and their offspring, but when it became obvious early on that these demigods had values—beginning with Thalia’s sacrificing her life, and then Percy during a training game making a smaller but similar sacrifice for the sake of another–I was won over. The characters might be pagans, but their values and deeds are very much like those taught by Christ. With its emphasis upon teamwork and friendship, as well as toleration of those who are different, this is a good film for
The full review with a set of 5 questions for reflection or discussion appears in the Sep/Oct issue of Visual Parables, which will be available on Sep. 23 when VP’s new site is launched.