Directed by: Chris Columbus
Written by:Craig Titley
Starring: Logan Lerman, Sean Bean, Uma Thurman, Pierce Brosnan, Brandon T. Jackson, Alexandra Daddario, Rosario Dawson, Catherine Keener, Steve Coogan
Released: February 11, 2010
Grade: C

With the Harry Potter series limping to its inevitable conclusion, movie studios are looking for something new to capture the attention of the younger audience.  It’s a lucrative market.  Those between the age of 14 and 24 buy more movie tickets than any other demographic.  Maybe they only go so they can get up to mischief in the back row.  Then again, maybe they just like movies.

20th Century Fox is hoping that the Percy Jackson series will win them over.  American author Rick Riordan penned the first book (on which this film is based) in 2005 and he’s churned out four more since.  They’re not even close to matching the popularity of J.K. Rowling’s novels but perhaps they’ll get a boost from this cinema release.

The story centres on a teenager named Percy (Lerman) who has just learned that he is the son of the great god Poseidon.  It’s a secret that his mother (Keener) has kept from him since he was born.  Percy has always had trouble concentrating at school and he thought he suffered from a combination of dyslexia and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.  Not so.  These were just symptoms from a range of special powers that were developing.

Percy is forced to discover his true self when his mother his kidnapped by Hades and taken to his fiery underworld.  Why?  It turns out Hades is using her as leverage.  He believes that Percy has stolen the lightning bolt of Zeus and now wants it for his own so he can control the world.  With the help of two new friends, Percy begins a quest to track down the “lightning thief” and save his mother’s life.

I can understand why director Chris Columbus was attracted to this project.  He has made some decent family films before including the first two Harry Potter movies, Mrs. Doubtfire and Home Alone.  Unfortunately, he makes a number of missteps here.  I know it’s based on a novel but it’s like they made it up as they went along.  It all feels so fragmented.  The characters are poorly developed and not enough is made of the references to Greek mythology (which could have added a dash of intelligence).

They’ve cast 18-year-old Logan Lerman (3:10 To Yuma) in the title role with hopes that his puppy dog eyes will woo the young female audience.  If that’s your thing, you’ll be satisfied with a bounty of facial close-ups (hair always impeccable) and a cheesy romance that he has with Alexandra (Chase), a fellow demigod with equally good looks.

If you’re not yet turned on, then I can’t think of another reason to recommend the film.  The special effects are sub-par and despite a range of cameos from some decent Hollywood stars (including Pierce Brosnan and Uma Thurman) no one stands out.  I’ve got my doubts as to whether this will take off at the box-office but time will soon tell…