Being a fan of the books, I've been pretty excited for this movie for a while. It's been an interesting little journey, however. First the casting was announced, and there was an uproar. Annabeth not blonde (and/or being played by AnnaSophia Robb)? Grover is black (and/or being played by Brandon T. Jackson)? Percy is 16 and not 12? Really... Pierce Brosnan as a Centaur? Uma Thurman playing a minor character that's supposed to be a elderly middle eastern woman? Ares is uncredited in the credits? Where the hell is Clarisse? There was just one thing after the other. But I pushed it all aside because the trailers actually looked decent. Then I started hearing how the movie is nothing like the book, and I started to worry a little bit. So what did I think about all these things? Annabeth still should be blonde (and/or played by AnnaSophia Robb). Brandon T. Jackson proved himself worthy of Grover. Apparently it doesn't matter if Percy is 16 or 12, because the prophecy isn't even hinted at. Pierce Brosnan... pretty good. Uma Thurman is a bit cheesy, but OK. Ares and Clarisse were sorely missed. And the movie is almost nothing like the book. But it kinda works in its own weird way.
The plot of the film is as follows: Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman) and his friend Grover (Brandon T. Jackson) are students at Yancy Academy. But after a skirmish on a field trip, Percy discovers via his teacher Mr. Brunner (Pierce Brosnan) that 'they' have found him and that he's in trouble ('they' being the Greek gods and goddesses, who are real and whatnot). So Grover, his protector, is forced to take Percy home to grab his mother Sally (Catherine Keener) and run off to Camp Half-Blood where he'll be safe. But Sally is kidnapped by a minotaur sent by Hades (Steve Coogan), leaving Percy officially parentless. At camp, he meets Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario), daughter of Athena, as well as Luke (Jake Abel), son of Hermes, and learns to fight. But when he discovers his mother is still alive and being held in Hades (the place, not the person), he must go on a road trip, along with Grover and Annabeth, to find the pearls of Persephone (Rosario Dawson), which will help them escape Hades after getting her back. Oh, and they gotta do all this because Percy has been accused of stealing Zeus' master bolt, and they only have about 2 weeks to get it back (after they find it and the real thief, of course).
If you've read the book, you'll probably have given a double take at that second-to-last sentence. Yes, they change the plot almost completely after the first act. But strangely, a lot of it seems to work. I actually really enjoyed the idea of traveling across the country to find the pearls rather than them just being randomly given the pearls during a much less interesting plot of them traveling to L.A. to get to Hades (which was the book's plot).
However, one upsetting factor because of this change is that some of the big fight scenes in the book were cut (like the chimera). But these were replaced with other bits not in the book (like the hydra... at least, I don't remember that in the book). And the fight scenes in the movie are really cool. And the few things they left the same, such as the Lotus Hotel, are really brilliant, not to mentioned better explained in the film than in the book.
I could drone on and on about the changes and cuts from book to film, but I don't want to put all my focus on every little detail, or we'd be here all night. Instead, I want to focus on two different types of changes/cuts: the ones that might seem to screw over future movies, and one change that just annoyed the crap out of me. Let's look at the first type first.
The first issue I noticed was that Camp Half-Blood isn't guarded by Thalia's tree, but by a large gateway. This is really gonna mess up the second+ films. In fact, Thalia isn't even mentioned, which means none of Annabeth's backstory is mentioned, which means there's no real crush on or connection with Luke, which will really affect the later books in more ways than one. There's also no mention of Mist, which will kinda affect the character of Rachel Elizabeth Dare in future books... as well as Luke's mother, if and when they ever decide to go into his backstory. On a similar note, they also completely cut out the Oracle, so Percy instead finds out about his quest when Hades himself appears via fire in the middle of dinner (and I'll get to Hades later). But the lack of Oracle intro causes so many future issues, it's not even funny. Then there's the lack of Ares and Clarisse, which is similar to cutting out Lucius and Draco Malfoy from Harry Potter--it just shouldn't be done (they actually gave a couple Clarisse scenes to Annabeth, which was odd). Dionysus was cut out of the camp scenes, as well... and that mixed with no Annabeth background, that means there's no Grover background. Therefore, there's no mention of Pan; because of this, I have no idea how they're gonna do the next few movies. Finally, the last major "issue" change that I can think of right now is no mention of Kronos. At all. Let's put this into perspective, people. To do another Harry Potter comparison, cutting Kronos is like cutting Voldemort. I mean, imagine the first Harry Potter with Quirrel, but no Voldemort, so the reasoning behind the villainy is much more selfish and less grand-scale.
The other major change that isn't really a plot problem, but much more of a personal problem, is basically the whole third act. Once they start heading into Hades, they threw out all of Riordan's mythology research out the window. I first noticed a problem earlier on when they showed Hades (the god) as a demon-like creature. Then they continually referenced Hades as Hell. Then they get to the Hades entrance (which is different than the book, but I digress). Once they start going in, it's all fire and brimstone and, well, Hell. Charon the Ferryman even describes it like Hell. And that's just not true. Hades was the underworld, but it was by no means all fire and pain. There were different places in Hades, like Elysium, where good people went, as well. So they were mixing Greek myth with Christianity here, and it really irked me. But a big 'argh' moment was when they had Persephone living with Hades. In June. That completely negates the entire myth of Persephone. Persephone is not held hostage by Hades, as is described in the movie. She in fact does not even hate him. She is allowed to leave during the spring and summer to be with her mother, Demeter (the goddess of grain), but must stay in Hades with her husband during the fall and winter, which upsets Demeter and makes her lonely, which brings the 'dead' seasons of fall and winter. So to have Persephone in Hades during the middle of summer is ludicrous.
But anyway, that's enough ranting. I need to talk about some good points--and there were many, as long as you don't compare it to the book. One of my biggest worries was that Brandon T. Jackson wouldn't be able to pull off Grover. And he didn't. However, he made Grover his own and really stole the show. In fact, in a rare instance here, the movie actually improved on the mythology of the book, wherein Chris Columbus made the satyr a bit of a horndog (as satyrs are known to be). Besides the action, which I mentioned earlier, the movie had some good comedy in it. Of course, Percy's sarcastic humor is a bit lost in the translation, but it's still OK.
Anyway, if you can handle the fact that basically, whatever wasn't cut was changed, then you'll probably enjoy the movie. I know it seems a double standard here, since that was a huge issue I had with Eragon. But there's a big difference here--In Eragon, what they cut/changed was for the worse, not the better, as was typically the case here (with some notable exceptions, as already mentioned). It's almost nothing like the book, and the third act drove me crazy, but it's still an entertaining movie. Had I never read the book (and known very little about Greek mythology), I might have even enjoyed it more, because I was constantly falling back on that prior knowledge. But I think it says something about the movie that it can make these major alterations and still keep me involved (I didn't even think about looking at my watch once). I think if they can pull off the future movies and show me that a lot of these cuts/changes are workable, then my score might go up. But until then, I'm highly skeptical (I mean, without Thalia's tree, Grover's journey, the prophecy, the Oracle, Clarisse, and Ares, not to mention freakin' Kronos, the second book is damn near impossible). So... yeah. I know this review sounds negative, but I actually enjoyed it quite a bit.
I Am McLovin!