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Arts & Entertainment Presented by Santa Barbara Center for the Performing Arts

Cinema in Focus

Cinema in Focus: ‘Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief’

The coming-of-age story is told in comic book style with Greek mythology

By Hal Conklin and Denny Wayman |

3 Stars — Wholesome

In Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, Percy Jackson is a precocious teenager who’s about to find out that he’s not the son of normal parents. While touring a museum with his school class, he is confronted by other-worldly spirits that reveal to him that he possesses more power than he ever knew.

Although he had been protected by his mother for years, Percy (Logan Lerman) is a demigod — the offspring of a human mother, Sally (Catherine Keener), and Greek god Zeus (Sean Bean). Percy’s identity is revealed to him by angry spirits who believe he is the prime suspect in the theft of Zeus’ lightening bolt, a source of supreme power.

The story is told in a comic book style with fights with demons, a love interest who battles for control of the universe, a cross-country adventure and an odd assortment of heroic and comic characters. Most impressive is Medusa (Uma Thurman), whose head is covered with snakes. Whether alive or dead, her stare can turn you into stone — which happens with regularity (including in the credits).

Since Percy is suspected of stealing the lightening bolt, there are many competing gods that covet the power it provides. Much of the story is about these other gods and demigods who are after Percy in hopes of stealing it from him.

One competitor, Hades (Steve Coogan), the god of the underworld, holds Percy’s mother hostage in hopes that he can lure Percy into making a trade of her for the lightening bolt. Percy’s quest throughout the land of the living and the dead is to free his mother.

While Percy’s story is matinee entertainment, it is built around the moral theme of good vs. evil. There is little exploration of why these Greek gods would fight one another or why a god would pursue aims in this world that are so unlike a god. As a morality play, though, it portrays a positive value. There are some scenes that might frighten younger children, but for the most part Percy Jackson would be a good friend to have over for a fun story time.


» Greek mythology portrays the god as having the same foibles and desires as humans. As such, they fight and scheme over power and dominance. How do you see these gods as different from the God portrayed in such literature as the Bible?

» Percy discovering his true identity is a classic coming-of-age film. Have you ever imagined that you were someone far more powerful or important? Why do you think you or others might imagine this?

» It is the nature of a good story that we can see ourselves in the characters. Did you identify with any of the characters in this film. If so, which one?

— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church, 1435 Cliff Drive. For more reviews, visit

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