Saturday, February 20, 2010

Percy Jackson: The Lightning Thief

Last night I saw Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief. I have a lot to say about this movie, mostly because I'm a dork for Greek Mythology.
The German poster; because unlike in the American one, this scene actually happened in the movie.

I realize that the movie is both for children and based off of a book, so I tried to suspend my disbelief, but some things really bothered me with the mythology. Here we go:

1. Medusa. People always get her wrong in movies. She's supposed to be super ugly, but people always make her really beautiful. Although I guess the only really consistent description of her in mythology is the snake hair, it's supposed to be her frightening appearance that turns you to stone. And yet there she was, looking as beautiful as ever:
A beautiful Medusa.
Another thing that really bothered me was that she was still alive even though they mentioned on more than one occasion that Perseus had killed her, that the head was still good for killing things after it had been cut off, etc. If she'd never been killed, how would they know these things? And even though he wasn't in the movie, how could Pegasus exist? One thing I did appreciate that they got right though was that Athena was the one who had cursed her and that she (Medusa) used to "date" Poseidon (it was for being with Poseidon in Athena's temple that Medusa was cursed).

2. Athena. This portrayal actually made me kind of angry. Athena has a daughter (named Annabeth...the main female character in the film). Seriously. Athena, who is known for being a complete and total VIRGIN. Now you can tell how much of a dork I am when I get so mad when Athena is improperly portrayed in a kid's movie. Haha. Anyway, you know the Parthenon, Athena's main temple dealy? The word Parthenon comes from "parthenos" which means-- guess what-- virgin. And they definitely cover the fact that the Parthenon was Athena's temple in the movie. They even go to the one in Nashville (which by the way, they say is an exact replica, but I didn't see a reflection pool...). And even though I can't recall any instance when she punished guys for trying to take advantage of her (unlike her half sister Artemis), rape attempts definitely happened, and she deliberately escaped them. So why would she voluntarily go have a child with a mortal?
Athena Parthenos. Never had any kids. She's too vain and proud anyway.

3. Poseidon. He was just as prolific as Zeus and had something in the neighborhood of 56 children. So why would he care about one measly half-mortal son? I mean really, he built an entire "half-blood camp" just so that son could train and become a hero. And they never even mentioned he has a wife (or at least a permanent consort). Aside from Medusa's brief mention to Percy Jackson that "I used to date your Daddy" (see above), everything pointed to Poseidon's being totally in love with Percy's mother and almost becoming human to be with her and his son, but having to leave only because of his godly duties.
Poseidon in his armor on Olympus, looking longingly at one of his several dozen children.
And the whole concept the movie is based on, where the gods aren't allowed to have contact with mortal offspring, came from Zeus trying to punish Poseidon for his actions. Silly.

4. Zeus. He mostly acted in-character but for one thing at the end. Percy asked him to get his friend Grover the satyr out of Hades and Zeus was all like "Eh, no prob." Even though part of the whole thing with Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades splitting the heavens, sea, and underworld was that none of them could intervene in the others' realms. That's why it's such a big deal when people return from Hades; it can't typically be done, even for gods!

5. Olympus is in New York City?!? Since when, really? On top of the Empire State building? And why is it that Percy's mother, a mortal, knows exactly how to get there but can't get out of the elevator because of the barrier? Also, the entrance to Hades was in Hollywood, which I think is pretty funny.

6. I just checked something on the Twelve Olympians on Wikipedia and guess what they said? "If interested in Greek Mythology, read Percy Jackson and the Olympians: Lightning Thief. Ha!

7. The demigods spend so much time training they never take a mythology class, which, it turns out, would be incredibly helpful in living in that world. They'd know not to cut off Hydra heads, not to eat Lotus flowers, that they need to pay the ferryman in Hades, and all sorts of other useful things.

Things I liked that they included:
1. The gods were huge, as they should be. The opening sequence is particularly awesome, when Poseidon walks out of the ocean and a teeny-weeny fisherman on the pier stares in awe.

2. Annabeth mentions that her mother and Percy's father hate each other because of the contest in Athens. I'm glad she remembered that.

3. Chiron was there teaching everybody. And he really does teach everybody. The only thing wrong with this is that he's supposed to be dead. But I guess that's not really a problem since he's technically immortal anyway.

Um, well...that's about it. Sorry if I totally spoiled the movie for anyone. You should probably still see it though, it's a good movie aside from these sad oversights (I don't know whether to blame the author or the scriptwriters. I guess I should read the books). The score was good, the special effects were pretty cool, and it's still about Greek mythology!

Also, I'll probably have to skip Clash of the Titans. There's no way I can watch Perseus battling minions of the Underworld trying to take over everything. My eyes would get tired with all the rolling they'd do.


LP said...

I made a very lengthy comment to this post, and when I clicked "publish your comment", it all disappeared. I'll try and reconstruct what I said later.

Jared and Megan said...

you said 'spoilers ahead' so I didn't read anything after that. I'll have to finish reading this when I see the movie!

LP said...

All right, here I go again. First of all, I completely understand your geeking out about this; I'm the same way with Shakespeare. Okay, I have some comments and questions about the various points in your Bothers and Likes categories. Bothers first.

1. I learned that Medusa's sisters were turned into gorgons and she into a snakehead because their mother or somebody said they were more beautiful than Aphrodite (always a big mistake to boast about someone's beauty in Ancient Greece). Or wait, maybe it was that Medusa was messing around with a sailor, and he said she was more beautiful than Aphrodite, so Aphrodite turned her into a snake head, and the next time the sailor looked at her he died. Or is this one of those cases where there are multiple explanatory stories for the same event?

2. I can't remember exactly what I said the first time about this; all I remember is that it was very witty. Anyway, it doesn't bother me so much that Athena has a daughter. The book, being speculative fiction, is obviously free to widen the scope of the behavioral aspects of Greek gods and goddesses. I mean, we now live in a world where Spock dates Uhura, Lizzie Bennet kills zombies, and Sherlock Holmes beats up people for money, so what the heck.

PS I didn't know that 'parthenos' meant 'virgin'. That's very interesting.

3. Poseidon cares very much about his children! Look at his reaction to Odysseus blinding Polyphemus. So the foundation is there in the ancient myths for his being a good daddy, I mean as good as any one of those capricious, arrogant, self-centered, lascivious, pig-headed gods and goddesses can be. I can totally see him building a half-blood training center.

6. But look at it this way. You start with the earliest account of Greek mythology, by that guy who wrote the Theogony or whatever, and then people go on adding to it and putting their own little spins on things. Like that paper you wrote on the two different versions of Athena (was it?). So if some kid is interested in Greek mythology and reads the Percy Jackson books, then he or she may go on to read something a little closer to the original. Just like some 18-to-35-year-old-target-audience guy who watches the upcoming movie of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies may afterward have a desire to read all of Jane Austen's novels. Ha!

7. Agreed. In fact, they don't even need to take a mythology class. When I was a mere slip of a girl, I learned a lot about mythology by spending my Saturday afternoons in front of the tv watching old, poorly-dubbed Italian movies with cheesy special effects, like Hercules and the Queen of Sheba or Duel of the Titans (not to be confused with Clash of the Titans, which, although cheesy, was American, and btw the remake of which will soon be in theatres, so I'm excited. I love Greek mythology movies!). And then I found an old mythology book salvaged from a local high school that was being torn down and I read the first two-thirds (Greek and Roman stuff - the last third was Norse and Germanic, which I couldn't really get into. The story of Siegfried kind of gave me the heebie-jeebies).

About stuff you liked:

1. But are they always huge? Can't they sometimes be human sized when they want to?

2. What contest is that? The cheesy Italian films never mentioned any contest.

3. How exactly do you be dead and immortal?

Okay, that's it. Except you totally have to go see the new Clash of the Titans with me!

LP said...

Oh, I remember something else I said about Bother #2: Was Athena really that vain? I know she participated in the whole "To the Fairest" apple thing, but other than that I don't remember hearing about any particular vanity of hers. I would have thought her much-touted wisdom would have helped her avoid somewhat the weakness of vanity.

Shannon said...

1. It probably is one of those things where there are two origins of the same thing. They sometimes even contradict. Like the Athena/Hephaistos thing.
2. But I thought Sherlock Holmes *did* do a bit of prize-fighting? I mean, Watson constantly says he's one of the best fighters he's ever seen, so how would he see him fighting? Of course, at times Holmes is a totally wimp when defending himself (see "the adventure of the reigate squire"). But now I'm getting way off track. Back to the mythology.
3. Okay, you're right about him being a good dad. But what about the whole loving-Percy's-mother thing?
6. I was the two versions of Dionysos. And yeah, I guess if it gets people interested in the real thing, it's not so bad. You're right. As for PP&Z, I think people who've never even READ JA will be like "Oh yeah, it's a million times more EPIC WIN" or something really stoopid like that.
7. You said heebie-jeebies. That made me laugh.

1. They *are* always huge! At least in their "normal" god form anyway. The reason the doors to greek temples are so huge is so the gods can get in. Also, there are two sets of stairs up to a temple: one where the steps reach your waist or somewhere (for the gods again) and then smaller ones on the sides for the mortals. I think that's kind of neat. But yeah, they can be human sized, I mean look at all the mortal-interaction myths. They don't even have to be human as you know, they can be cows or plants or clouds of gold.
2. The contest! The contest to be patron deity of Athens (before it was called that)! Poseidon and Athena went head to head and each gave a gift to the Athenians. Poseidon gave them a salt spring and Athena gave them the olive tree. Athena obviously won because olives are way more useful. Poseidon's spring is part of the acropolis though, there's a little temple adjacent to the Parthenon that goes way down underground but has a hole in the roof. The hole is so that Poseidon can look down and see his spring. Funny.
3. He really did die, he was poisoned by one of Herakles' arrows during a rowdy wine-fest. He was technically supposed to be immortal though, so I don't really know how he died. Zeus made him into a constellation.

I *guess* I can go see Clash of the Titans.

Oh, and Athena is totally vain. Part of the whole thing with the Greek gods is their duality. Just like Apollo is the god of healing, he also sent out that plague amongst the...Greeks? in the Iliad. So even though Athena is wise and such, she can also be stupid. And all the gods are vain anyway. Look what she did to Arachne.

Wow, I really am geeking out about this. (Ha! Greeking out/geeking out! Okay, nevermind.)

LP said...

Greeking out - ha! You slay me.

Re: Athena's vanity. Yeah, but the Arachne thing is a late Roman addition to the Athena myths, and besides, Athena gave Arachne a chance to take it back, but she kept on boasting, and challenged her to a weaving duel, like she's asking for it, so Athena finally gave it to her. But I like Athena, even if she is vain, etc, because she helped out Odysseus and Penelope.

Shannon said...

yeah, I actually really like athena too for the most part since she likes all her heroes to do well in life. and because she hangs out with nike.