Thursday, February 25, 2010

Percy Jackson and the Olympians

Monday the boys took me to see Percy Jackson and the Olympians; The Lightening Thief.  They had seen it with Anna when it first came out and they thought I'd enjoy it.  They are in the midst of Greek studies this year so it fits well with their schooling.
If you listen to National Public Radio you know that this film was critically dismissed.  Their film critic expressed hopes right off the bat that there would be no sequel.
I came away from it thinking it a good film, something more than your run of the mill movie.  As a movie, it had some funny highlights - nothing more funny than the famed Hollywood sign being the entryway into Hades.  It had explosions and danger and graphics that were fine.  I'm no judge of these things, I typically only notice these things when they are really bad.
What made it a film was the subtext.  The subtext is about the relationship between children and absent parents.  Percy is the son of Posidion, and his dad left his life when he was 7 months old because Zeus ordered that the gods should stay away from their human children.  Since then Percy's mother has married a guy who doesn't work, treats her as 'woman' - little more than a slave, and disdains his step-son.
Along the way we're introduced to camp 'half-blood', the place for other kids like Percy - they are demi-gods, the children of the gods and humans.  They are distanced from their parents, and that produces disappointment, unanswered questions, and in the lightening thief - anger and hatred.  The film seeks to address this absent-parent syndrome.
Sitting in the theater I had a couple of thoughts running through my mind.  I reflected about some of my friends, especially those in the military, who over the past several years have had major periods of an absent parent.  Their parents, like the gods in greek mythology, carry much responsibility on their shoulders.  This film could be very helpful to these young people wondering why mom or dad aren't around as much as they'd like.  On the other hand, this film could give creedance to those parents who view themselves as "saviors of the world" and thus wind up ignoring their kids.    
This is why the film, in the end, works well, it won't let the viewer have an easy scapegoat from responsibility for answering the complex questions of the task that is before a parent about how to best fulfill ones calling and love ones family.
The one place where the film projects clarity is in its depiction of the god Hades.  Hades is used in two forms, both the place of the dead and the brother of Zeus and Posidion.  Hades truly comes across as the chief deceiver, and the events which transpire in Hades, fit that form well - a place of deception.
In the end, I'm glad the boys took me along.  It was a joy to be present with them, think about the funny things, the explosions and the themes of the sub-text.

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