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Chris Columbus has always struck me, as something of a rather pedestrian director. His work is competent, but fairly uninspired. That being said, Columbus’ departure from the HARRY POTTER series was probably the best thing that happened to that movie franchise. Of course, this brings us to the similarly themed PERCY JACKSON & THE OLYMPIANS: THE LIGHTNING THIEF ($40), a film based upon a series of fantasy books intended for younger readers. While his work still doesn’t distinguish itself in any significantly impressive way, I think Columbus does a better job with PERCY JACKSON & THE OLYMPIANS: THE LIGHTNING THIEF than the first two installments of HARRY POTTER franchise. Direction-wise PERCY JACKSON & THE OLYMPIANS: THE LIGHTNING THIEF isn’t as flat or weighted down as those two HARRY POTTER films proved to be. In fact, PERCY JACKSON & THE OLYMPIANS: THE LIGHTNING THIEF is a bit more zippy, playful and fun than the Columbus directed POTTER movies.

As I have not read the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series of books by Rick Riordan, I cannot tell how well the film compares to its literary source, but I did find this family friendly fantasy film to be far more enjoyable than many of the theatrical critics. Likable actors fill the films primary roles, the story is quickly paced, plus there is a good mixture of humor, drama and adventure, not to mention some reasonably good special effects work (which sometime evoke shades of Ray Harryhausen) and attractive cinematography. PERCY JACKSON & THE OLYMPIANS: THE LIGHTNING THIEF mixes Greek Mythology into the modern world, and opens with the god Zeus (Sean Bean) meeting his brother Poseidon (Kevin McKidd) atop the Empire State Building. At this meeting Zeus informs Poseidon that his master lightning bolt has been stolen. Zeus blames Poseidon’s son for the theft and gives his brother fourteen days to return the lightning bolt or else there will be war amongst the gods.

The film then introduces its audience to fifteen-year-old Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman), who is attacked by a fury demanding the return of the lightning bolt, while attending a school sponsored field trip. Percy’s Latin teacher, Mr. Brunner (Pierce Brosnan), rescues the boy from the attacking creature. Because of the attack, Percy’s best friend Grover (Brandon T. Jackson) reveals that he is a satyr assigned to protect Percy. Inevitable exposition also reveals that Percy is the son of the god Poseidon, as well as the fact that Zeus believes Percy has stolen his lightning bolt. Under Mr. Brunner’s instruction, Percy, Grover and Percy’s mother Sally (Catherine Keener) make their way to Camp Half-Blood, which is a training ground and safe haven for young demigods. However, before they arrive at the camp, Sally is captured by a Minotaur and is whisked off to the Underworld by the god Hades (Steve Coogan). Hades also wants to possess Zeus’ stolen lightning bolt, and informs Percy that he will exchange Sally for it. With Grover and fellow demigod Annabeth Chase (Alexandra Daddario) by his side, Percy sneaks out of Camp Half-Blood, and the three set off on a quest to rescue Sally from the Underworld. During their quest, the trio encounters Medusa (Uma Thurman), a hydra and the Lotus-eaters, all of whom provide deadly obstacles to their goal. The cast of PERCY JACKSON & THE OLYMPIANS: THE LIGHTNING THIEF also features Jake Abel, Rosario Dawson, Melina Kanakaredes, Joe Pantoliano, Maria Olsen and Julian Richings.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has made PERCY JACKSON & THE OLYMPIANS: THE LIGHTNING THIEF available on Blu-ray Disc in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec. This is a marvelous looking 1080p presentation, which maximizes the principle photography, without detracting from the occasionally less than realistic CGI work. Everything appears wonderfully sharp and highly defined. Additionally, the picture is quite dimensional, in addition to offering a wonderful level of fine image detail and texturing. Colors are deeply saturated and completely stable. In addition, the flesh tones are highly appealing. Blacks are deep, while the whites are crisp and clean. Contrast is smooth and shadow detail is usually quite good. The elements from which PERCY JACKSON & THE OLYMPIANS: THE LIGHTNING THIEF has been mastered appear virtually flawless. A fine sheen of grain is noticeable during the presentation.

PERCY JACKSON & THE OLYMPIANS: THE LIGHTNING THIEF is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. This track definitely goes onto the demo pile, with PERCY JACKSON & THE OLYMPIANS: THE LIGHTNING THIEF offering an excellent fantasy movie sound design. As expected, the soundtrack takes advantage of all the discrete channels and is a showcase for the bigger action set pieces, with sounds that swirl, zip and explode throughout the soundstage. . Even the smaller moments in the film are mixed to provide a nice amount of envelopment. Thanks to the lossless encode, fidelity is just great. The soundtrack produces a warm, full-bodied musical component, as well as convincing effects. The bass channel is deep and powerful, without becoming overwhelming. Voices have a warm, natural quality, plus the film’s dialogue is easy to understand. French, Spanish and Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1 channel tracks are also encoded onto the disc, as is an English Descriptive track. Subtitles are available in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Cantonese and Mandarin.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the disc's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as some supplements. Featurettes and other programs include the following: The Book Comes To Life (four minutes), Inside Camp Half-Blood (five minutes), On The Set With Brandon T. Jackson (six minutes), Meet The Demigods (four minutes) and Composing For The Gods: A Conversation With Christophe Beck (three minutes). Also included is an interactive Secrets Of The Gods and Discover Your Powers Quiz. Deleted Scenes, a Teaser and Bonus Trailers close out the standard supplements. PERCY JACKSON & THE OLYMPIANS: THE LIGHTNING THIEF is also BD-Live enabled (requires a Profile 2.0 player). Disc two offers a DVD copy of the movie for those who are on the fence about making the upgrade to Blu-ray, while disc three provides a Digital Copy of the film.

PERCY JACKSON & THE OLYMPIANS: THE LIGHTNING THIEF is a rather enjoyable family friendly fantasy film. The Blu-ray scores very high marks for video and audio presentation. Recommended.



Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief [Blu-ray] (2010)


DVD & Blu-ray Disc reviews are Copyright © 2010 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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