Radio 02.19.10
 
This is Ron Salfen, “At The Movies,” and here’s my commentary on “Percy Jackson & The Olympians:  The Lightning Thief,” which opened this week at The Majestic Theater in Greenville :
 
            Well, first, there was the “Harry Potter” series, then the “Twilight” series, and now it’s Percy Jackson.  The common thread is that these are all centered on kids who seem ordinary, but they slowly realize they have special powers or abilities that other kids don’t have.  Then it’s a matter of discovering hidden worlds, also hidden to everyone else, and finding their destinies there. 
            Of course, the idea isn’t anything new:  from “The Lion, the Witch and The Wardrobe,” to “Lord of the Rings,” to “Superman” and the “Star Wars” series, who hasn’t dreamed of having extraordinary abilities?  And yet, even for the very talented, it’s still about how you choose to apply yourself, and what you choose to do with the abilities you’ve been given, extraordinary or not, and therein lies the universal appeal.
            Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman) seems like an ordinary teenager, except he really enjoys hanging out on the bottom of swimming pools.  His mother (Catherine Keener) seems to be married to an oafish Neanderthal of a Stepdad, but other than that, Percy’s life is OK, just kind of uneventful.  His best buddy, Grover (Brandon T. Jackson), is a little guy on crutches who follows him around like a shadow.  Percy has no girlfriend.  He seems to struggle in school, because he’s so dyslexic he can never make the letters make sense, and because he’s been told he’s severely AD/HD.  But, it turns out, there’s a reason for all of the above. (Dust off your Greek mythology books, everyone.)   He’s actually the son of the god Poseidon, and thus a demigod.  Zeus had forbidden the gods to have contact with their (half-human) children (for a mysterious, cryptic biblical reference, see Genesis 6: 1-4), so Percy grows up thinking his worthless father had simply abandoned them.   But his mother actually needed to be with someone whose malodorous aroma would hide the scent of Percy’s divinity (so her slavish devotion was actually self-sacrifice with a purpose). 
See, there are plenty of extra-terrestrials who want to destroy Percy, because he represents a rival to the throne of the gods.  Zeus had prevailed over his two brothers, Poseidon and Hades, and then banished them to the Sea and to Hell, respectively, so he could reign on Mount Olympus .  Any of their progeny, of course, would represent a possible threat to this throne (see King Herod and the slaughter of the innocents, Matthew 2).  So once Percy’s identity is discovered, he immediately encounters a roaring Minotaur (a giant two-legged bull), and a screeching harpy, demanding that he return Zeus’ lightning bolt, or else there will be war.  Grover, it turns out, is actually a satyr (with the legs of a goat), sent to protect Percy, and the school’s wheelchair-bound headmaster (Pierce Brosnan), is really a centaur (with the body of a horse).  Percy’s brain is “hard-wired” to read ancient Greek, which is the only writing that makes sense to him.  His AD/HD is to help him in battle (moving quickly from one encounter to the next is essential to survival).  On his “quest” to find the missing lightning bolt and return it to Zeus, in order to avoid the threatened cataclysm on earth, he teams with Athena’s daughter, Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario), fights Medusa (Uma Thurman), is temporarily seduced by Aphrodite and her sultry accomplices, bargains with the Ferryman of the River Styx, and confronts Hades himself, as well as his beautiful, entrapped wife Persephone (Rosario Dawson).  Isn’t this fun?
            OK, fine, it’s pre-Christian.  There may be some who would be offended by the revival of the polytheistic Greek pantheon, even in a fanciful tale.  But, as in the “Harry Potter” and “Twilight” series, adults had best pay attention, because their kids will.
 
This is Ron Salfen, “At The Movies,” for 93-5 KICK- FM