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Thursday, August 29, 2013

In Awe of Percy Jackson

I never planned on seeing “Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters.”  After all, I had seen the first movie in the cinema, “Percy Jackson and the Olympians: the Lightning Thief,” and not been overly impressed by it.  Don’t get me wrong.  It wasn’t as if the film was bad.  It had featured a lot of actors I admire.  Sean Bean (Think Boromir from “The Lord of the Rings”) had played Zeus; Kevin McKidd (Lucius Vorenus in the HBO miniseries “Rome”) had played Poseidon, Percy’s father; Uma Thurman (She’s been in too many good movies to count) had played the snake-haired Medusa, and Pierce Brosnan (“Remington Steele” and James Bond, James Bond, James Bond!) had played the centaur instructor Chiron.  Any movie featuring the above names would be worth watching.  Still, I hadn’t been overly impressed with the first movie, and as Hollywood hurls so many good movies at us during the summer months, I just figured that I’d skip the second.

Then I recalled that my wife had gotten into Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson novels, that she had read four of them, and that she had seemed to enjoy them.  I remembered a conversation from a few years previous with my speech therapist, during which he had said that the books were infinitely better than the first movie, and that he and his children had spent many happy evenings reading them together.  And finally, I saw the Blu-ray for the first movie in the store, with an offer for free movie cash to watch the second one in cinemas, if only I purchased the first.  Well, twist my arm, Hollywood, why don’t you? 

What I can report is that I really enjoyed “Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters.”  I mean, I was really overwhelmed by it.  Now don’t misunderstand me.  I’m not saying that the special effects will compare with “Iron Man 3” or “Star Trek Into Darkness.”  Nor am I saying that the second film featured any of my favorite actors from the above list (although Nathan Fillion has a small role, and as with most things he does, he’s awesome in it).  What I’m saying is that I really liked the story.  I bonded with Percy and his friends.  I enjoyed his struggle to prove that his first quest wasn’t a fluke, and that he deserved to be a demigod.  I loved how he found out, suddenly, that he had a half-brother, that it wasn’t someone whom he and his friends could readily accept, but at least, in human familial terms, it meant that he wasn’t alone any more.  And along with and above all that, I really enjoyed how Rick Riordan’s knowledge of (and love for) Greek mythology undergirded the entire story. 

Greek myths and legends have been retold and reinvented endlessly.  The recent “Clash of the Titans,” and “Wrath of the Titans,” serve as two contemporary examples.  But there’s something infectious about a person who has fallen in love with a particular field of knowledge or storytelling, and desperately wants to share it with you in any way he (or she) can.  That’s what I got out of “Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters.”  The film not only made me want to read Rick Riordan’s novels, but also to delve into the old myths, legends, plays, and stories that had informed them.  Why?  They were powerful stories that connected strongly with people for hundreds of years.  In the ancient world, nation frequently fought against nation.  Empires rose and fell.  But Hellenism (Greek culture, religion, and outlook) became a dominant force that influenced cultures all over the world.  So okay, Zeus, Poseidon, and all the rest of you up on Mount Olympus: I’m amazed by your enduring impact on humanity.  Okay, Rick Riordan, I’ll read your novels.  Okay Olympians, I’ll make it a priority to read more of your ancient myths, legends, plays, and stories.  I know I’ve made similar vows in the past, but really, I mean it this time.  Just give me one more chance!

Dragon Dave

P.S.  In Greek mythology, Zeus was the god associated with lightning and thunder.  In Norse mythology, Thor was the god associated with lightning and thunder.  Has anyone noticed that the director of “Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters” is someone named Thor Freudenthal?  I mean, that’s got to be just a coincidence.  Right?   

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