Friday 14 December 2012
Films: Percy Jackson & The Lightning Thief (2010), and The Secret of Moonacre (2009)
Something of a change from my usual fare, but perhaps appropriate for the holiday season: a couple of films aimed at younger viewers.
Percy Jackson & The Lightning Thief (aso known as Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief) is loosely based on the first of a series of novels by Rick Riordan. It concerns a 17-year old boy (played by Logan Lerman) in present-day USA who suddenly finds himself under supernatural attack, and discovers not only that his previously unknown father was Poseidon, the God of the Sea, but that he is suspected of stealing Zeus' greatest weapon, the lightning bolt. If the bolt is not returned, there will be war among the gods which would lead to devastation on Earth.
Percy reaches safety at a special camp in rural USA established to train demigods like him; the offspring of relationships between gods and humans. There he discovers some of his magical abilities and, with two companions, sets off on a quest to find the bolt and rescue his mother, who is being held hostage by Hades, the God of the Underworld. Many spectacular adventures ensue before the quest is over.
There is a strong cast, including Uma Thurman, Sean Bean, Pierce Brosnan and Catherine Keener. The story rolls along well enough, mixing mystery, excitement and humour with some dramatic CGI, and will probably appeal to teenage fans of the Harry Potter films.
The Secret of Moonacre is based on a children's fantasy novel, The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge, first published in 1946. It is set in the 1840s and concerns a teenage girl, Maria Merryweather (Dakota Blue Richards, who played the lead character in The Golden Compass) who is orphaned and sent to live with her taciturn uncle Sir Benjamin Merryweather (Ioan Gruffud) in his remote country estate, Moonacre Manor. There she discovers that the Merryweathers have had a generations-long vendetta against their nearest neighbours, the De Noir family, in which magic was involved. She gradually learns that she has a pivotal role to play in ending both the vendetta and also an ancient curse which threatens to destroy everything in the valley.
The cast of this film is strong too (it also includes Juliet Stevenson in a comic turn, Tim Curry and Natascha McElhone) and the production excellent - it’s a visual pleasure. The story is rather bland with a schmaltzy ending and it didn't grip me, which is perhaps no surprise since I would assume that its target audience is young girls (who I guess will probably love it), but it was painless to watch.