Sunday, 6 February 2011

Heaven Help Us - the demise of story and myth thanks to 'Percy Jackson & The Lightning Thief' and Hollywood

Do not ask why I watched 'Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief'. I came into the TV room to see that my father had it on and I usually sit for ten minutes in 'Vajraasan' to help with digestion after dinner and so was committed to watching whatever Dad was viewing at the time. Then through exhaustion, I slumped on the sofa and had no will to protest at Dad's choice, which I usually always do, and thought I would let it be and spare my father some grief.

The grief fell upon me though. Alas, what a pile of terrible, terrible goodness-knows-what that film was. There was so much wrong with this film, I could write an essay on it but I shall *try* to be a little more concise for this blog post.

1. The story itself is absolutely abysmal. The fact that this is a children's book is fine or whatever but it's still a terrible story. Why, do you ask? Well because it wouldn't be so awful if it was original material but no, it's based on Ancient Greek Mythology. All those people close to me, know how much I value mythology - particularly Greece's - and how I absolutely abhor  mainstream cinema or Hollywood (and the American author of the books) constantly rape these ancient tales that so many of our ancestors cherished and from which so many of our cultures' identities springs from - thank you very much, Wolfgang Petersen for 'Troy'. Prepare yourselves for a little of my thinking on this:

2. Ok, so the original books are written by an American author. *shudder* So it's set where? USA, of course.  God, they are obsessed with adopting culture that isn't in their own, aren't they? Why else do you think they have The Senate? USA fancies itself to be a Roman Empire. There's something a little naughty about this culture that has sprung out of America. The thing is, they have done away with the native culture of the land that actually has meaning and context in terms of how old it is. Modern America does not have it's own ancient mythology and a culture that understands who it is because of it (Joseph Campbell claims that mythology helped our ancestors to understand life and our place in existence).  Instead they poach others' myths and legends and think they can 'redress' them in their own back yard. All the demi-gods in the film were bloody American. What the hell? Have the gods jumped ship and set up in USA now? It was the most ridiculous thing ever and rather insulting. I mean, the ancient Greeks were all about poetry and metaphor. The whole Olympian pantheon was just that but no, they have to make everything literal and stupid because of it.

For example, the journey to the Underworld was a joke. What happened to the River Styx? This smacks of such a lack of creativity on the writers' part - you could have done something really interesting with the original material. No one is saying you can't reinvent legendary tales but at least TRY to be creative with it - don't just slap it together like some terrible child's model of the solar system that is stuck together with rubbish glue and does the job but fails to impress.

3. 'Daddy issues' - the dilemma of being half mortal, half god. Boo hoo, daddy left me and doesn't love me. Now. I do not make light of father's abandoning their children at all. But in this tale, it's just so ridiculous - Percy is son of Poseidon. Now once you figured out you were Poseidon's son, a) you would think that was most awesome thing EVER, b) you would begin to understand why he wasn't around, I mean he is a GOD, for god's sake! He's pretty damn busy on running the world and all that? Not to mention having to deal with Zeus and brother rivalry yada yada. At the end, when Poseidon talks and says Zeus commanded that no gods see their children because it means they will forget their responsibilities, I nearly collapsed with laughter. 'Yeah, I'm a god and everything - the whole oceans, rivers and fish are my domain and such, and like I totally forgot all about that, or I was in danger of doing that, but now I know my place - as if I could forget before, right? How silly! I thought I could play mums and dads in a suburban home and then my brother had to remind me that the sea is like what I need to look after. Whoops! Nearly let the ball fall there! Sorry kid, I love you and all but we're gods. We like live on a different plane of existence. You got my cool powers though!'

4. Individual aspects of this 'film' that are so abhorrent (I must use this word continually):

- The pronunciations of Greek words - what the hell? Are the cast unable to get their heads around simple, well known words like 'Minotaur' and 'Satyr', that they have to go even further with their insufferable American-ness and use 'special' pronunciations of these words. Sort it out - it made the film even more ridiculous, as if the film makers were blatantly trying to say, 'Oh yes, this is a complete piss take, look, we cannot even say the Greek words properly! Haha, we're so silly!'

- Pierce Brosnan and Uma Thurman - for shame, for shame! Former 007 reduced to having a horse's ass. Enough said on him. Uma, seriously, what the hell?! 

- ABUSING Athene part 1- Athena has a DAUGHTER??? Since when??!! Who the hell did she get off with? She's the Virgin Goddess, for Christ's sake (and no, I don't think there was such thing as immaculate conception to the Greeks, even if Athene popped out of Zeus' head - correct me if I am wrong). The great thing about Athene was that she was removed from the world of the over-sexed gods like Aphrodite and her father - she was all about *wisdom* and *strategy*. Totally asexual in that respect. Why would she have a DAUGHTER??! (This is a gripe against the author of the books, who I shan't name because if I do, a cute kitten dies somewhere). Better to have this girl (who was too stupid to be Athene's daughter, even if the goddess had 'adopted' here) be Artemis's daughter - she had a bow and all that, so that would have made MORE SENSE. Instead, she was just created to be Athene's daughter so they could be this stupid 'enemy' dynamic between her and Percy, because Athene and Poseidon are not BFFs.

-ABUSING Athene part 2 - let's educate some ignorant buffoons out there: Athene is goddess of war in a totally different way than Aries, who is also god of war. The difference? Aries represents the brutal battle element of war, the savageness of the fight, etc etc. Athene represents war strategy and the thinking needed to overcome your enemy etc etc. HUGE difference. So why make out that her daughter is this brutal warrior? Better to have her as daughter of Aries in that respect. Come on!

- The 'CAMP' - what was that all about? This place where they fight in Greek armour and crap? Ur, hello, I think the world has moved on from the bronze age people - how about training with some more up to date weapons? The Minotaur would be floored with some automatic machinery. Oh no, wait, sorry, it's a kid's book (on that note, is it acceptable to have violent sword fights while violent gun fights are a no-no? Is the antiquated use of swords just quaint and not at all dangerous for kids? Considering a teenage boy was set upon by knives recently in London). Still, though, it hardly prepares you for real life skills, learning to cook a suckling pig or sword fighting Gladiator-style. Stuff that was better thought out was the Converses with wings. See, that's where the author was a little creative. More of that please! Or did you use your creative quota on that one alone? *tut*

- Hades and the Underworld. Steve Coogan. Really?? This is the god of the Underworld!! He would be intimidating as hell! And no, I don't mean having him as some demonic being with bat wings and raging fire. He would be some chilling kick ass god of death and everything, the kind of awful god that could steal Persephone away and trap her. There is so much you could have done, instead you had this camp Mick Jagger hybrid thing? I can't bear to write anything more about it.

- Zeus does not have any power in the Underworld. So when he says he can get that stupid Satyr back, that was another convenient piece of crap. Sorry, Zeus, you're king of the gods, but you gave the Underworld to your brother. Nah-uh-uh, no touchy! If it were that easy, do you think Orpheus would have risked all and tried to get his precious Eurydice if all he needed to do was ask Zeus?

I actually didn't have problems with the monsters, though shooting the scene with Medusa would have been ten times better if it was in the dark, i.e. night time. Also, if you insist on having a daughter of Athene, then at least they got her 'eyes' right, i.e. Pallas Athene, Goddess of the Flashing Eyes. I think that is the ONLY things I liked. And I haven't written about the terrible script and the bad, bad acting.

VERDICT - 2/10 as a film.

The book has only ONE thing going for it - that it's probably getting wee little ones interested in Classics and mythology, which is cool. So little ones, when you're a little older and can handle Virgil and Homer, pick them up  and read them and be blown away about how damn amazing the ancients were at telling stories. Oh yes, they exceed us even now, so much so that this American dude tried to take all that greatness and repackage it without any imagination.


  1. hahah very funny! I like the kittens dying bit! good review and I agree totally

  2. OMG so couldn't agree more, from what you've written this movie seems like its just taking the piss out of greek mythology.... really, with a big Hollywood budget, could they not have just gone on GOOGLE and done some RESEARCH?! great review