Percy Jackson and the Olympians is a series of five books written by Rick Riordan. Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief is the first of the book and sets the scene for both us, the audience and for Percy himself. After the Harry Potter series, kids seem to be in need of another fix of something mysterious and wonderful and it seems that Percy Jackson is where it’s at. It’s not so big in the UK yet but after the release of the new movie with a mix of all star cast and semi-newcomers, will the films start a wave of Percy Jackson here in the UK? Hopefully my review of the film might help you decide!

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief is directed by Chris Columbus. His name may not be one you’ve heard but if I tell you that he directed Mrs Doubtfire, Home Alone, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, you’ll no doubt have seen one or more of his movies. He’s also very well known for his writing. He wrote Gremlins, Young Sherlock Holmes and some movie that you might have heard of called The Goonies that inspired this very website. He really is a legend in cinema and when you see his name billed on a movie you go in expecting good things.

Here’s the brief synopsis to give you a bit more of an idea about what the movie is about:

Synopsis: Trouble-prone Percy Jackson is having problems in high school – but that’s the least of his challenges. It’s the 21st century, but the gods of Mount Olympus seem to have walked out of the pages of Percy’s Greek mythology texts and into his life. Percy has learned that his real father is Poseidon, god of the sea, which means Percy is a demigod – half human, half god. At the same time, the powerful gods on Olympus are feuding, which could launch a war enveloping our entire planet.

I went into the screening of Percy Jackson not really knowing anything about it. I’d seen the trailers and read the synopsis and production notes but that didn’t really prepare me for what I was about to see. The movie opens with a gigantic Kevin McKidd (Poseidon) walking out of the sea with a huge trident tattooed on his arm. Poseidon soon comes to meet Zeus, his brother played by Sean Bean who tells him that someone has stolen his master lightening bolt, the source of all lightning across the world and lays down a gauntlet that if he doesn’t have it returned to him a war amongst the gods would begin. Zeus believes that Poseiden’s son, Percy Jackson has stolen it – the issue is that Percy doesn’t even know that he’s a demi god (half human, half god) but he has always felt different to all the other kids at school and had a love of spending time in water.

After a series of events, Percy finds out his heritage and meets characters Chiron (Pierce Brosnan) who he thought was just his school teacher but is in fact half-horse and realises that his best friend, Grover Underwood (Brandon T. Jackson) is actually a satyr! Now, what is a satyr I hear you ask. Well, if you think back to your early high school days, you probably studied this sort of thing. I’m pretty sure I did anyway and watching this movie, I started remembering all the mythological creates that I had learnt about 16 years ago. You don’t need to know anything about Greek mythology to watch this film but I guarantee, when you come out of it, you’ll want to find out more about it. The effects that are used in this movie to create these wonderful characters are simply wonderful and very clever although after interviewing Brandon T. Jackson last week, I found out that wearing blue tights to create the effect afterwards isn’t as fun as we might think it is!

Other creatures used in the movie include the Hydra (clip here), and Medusa, played by Uma Thurman who, as you’ll see in this image, has snakes in her hair, but, whatever you do don’t look into her eyes or you’ll turn to stone! I’m not sure I’ve ever seen product placement in a film like this with the iPhone. Credit to Apple / Chris Columbus there! The CGI used to create these snakes is absolutely fantastic with the multitude of snakes attached to her having their own personality yet still being in touch with and linked to Medusa’s thoughts and persona. Massive credit to the guys who created the special effects for this movie because they are simply brilliant. Full list of cast and crew on IMDb here.

The other main leads in the movie include Alexandra Daddario who plays Annabeth Chase, the best swordsman (woman) of all the demi-gods. She’s a little perturbed when Percy turns up as the new kid on the block but their friendship grows stronger throughout the movie as she, Percy and Grover all depart on a question find who stole the Lightning bolt so that they can return it to Zeus before the epic war erupts. From here, Percy and his friends embark on a mission to discover the true thief of the lightning bolt. The issue for them is that Hades (the devil and another Greek god played excellently by Steve Coogan with his assistant played by Rosario Dawson) is on the hunt for Percy as well as with the lightning bolt, he can overthrow his brother Zeus. Percy decides the best cause of action is to go and meet Hades in Hell and try and talk things through.

Chris Columbus is a genius of the child genre of movie as he’s able to tell a story that is both intense, adult enough for people like me to enjoy it but child-like enough that a 12 year old can come out of the cinema and ask their parents if they can go straight back in to watch it again. Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief is no exception. The story is clever and Columbus adds comedy to parts but also huge tension and draws you into the story. As I said earlier, the effects are amazing. Just watch this clip of the Hydra and you’ll see what I mean. Columbus saves the big cgi for one of the final scenes though and I won’t spoil it for you but the CGI is so well done.

The three main leads are very believable and if there were a sequel (which I’m sure there will be) I would go and see it. There is one scene in particular which i think the movie lost it’s focus on being a movie for kids. The cast end up in a hotel where basically they are drugged to keep them there with women surrounding Grover. I’m sure it was wonderful for him to film but is this the sort of message to be sending to kids? I’m probably being over the top and you can tell me once you’ve seen it what you thought.

All in all, Percy Jackson was a well made movie with so many Hollywood stars playing cameos, it was hard to keep up but all of them were so well cast and it was wonderful to see them in a movie where they could all have a lot of fun making. It’s also nice to know that if you want to be a Greek god, you have to be British! Roll on the sequel!

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief is released this Friday 12th February.