Wes and I went and saw this movie at the second run theater last Sunday night on our weekly date night outing. I've not read the books, although I have a friend who enthusiastically endorses them, I think.
Initially I thought that it might be a fun film to take the kids to see, as a special treat. We are big fans of fantasy fiction stuff at our house and this seemed like it might fit the bill.
But not far into the movie I changed my mind. I won't be taking my kids (ages 16, 14, 11 and 10...yes, they might be old enough to "handle it") to see this film. I'll get to the "why" in a moment.
In summary, Percy Jackson is a high schooler who hates his step father and who finds out that his real father is Poseidon. Being a demi-god, he goes to demi-god camp/school (Hogwarts, anyone?) to learn how to fight, medieval style, and to generally do demi-god things. I suppose he is expected to become a hero although why these kids don't move their weaponry and heroics into the 21st century is a bit of a mystery.
Adventures ensue when Percy, his satyr protector/best friend and girl who is the daughter of Athena go on a quest to prove that Percy did not steal Zeus' lightening bolt (the ultimate god weapon) before the deadline imposed by Zeus to have it returned, lest war among the gods break out and the world gets destroyed in the crossfire.
They must visit Hades to try and convince him that Percy does not have the lightening bolt, but first the kids have to collect three pearls to enable them to leave Hades. A magical map reveals where these pearls are located, and a teenagers-driving-a-pickup-truck-cross-country-roadtrip ensues. I always wonder how these things are funded, because in real life roadtrips cost quite a bit of money. I guess they have demi-god credit cards or something. The movie does not make that clear.
First stop: An old garden center in upstate New York somewhere. with lots of stone statues that turns out to be Medusa's lair. Medusa alone is reason for me not to let my kids see this film, since I have a young one with snake hallucinations sometimes. I think that's when I was 100% clear that this film would not be making it's way into our Netflix line up.
Second stop: Parthenon in Nashville. I used to live there and jogged past central park daily when I was a teenager. There's a giant statue of Athena inside an accurate replica of the Parthenon. From a classical perspective, the building is a beauty. From a religious perspective...shudder. Of course, they battle creepy monster bad guy creatures that are in the form of security guards during the day.
Third stop: Las Vegas, Nevada. A Casino where the kids get distracted by eating lotus flower cookies, lose track of time, and gamble their lives away for about a week. When they wake up from their dream state, they have very little time to make it to Hades (which of course is located in Hollywood, California) to convince him of Percy's innocence so he can argue the case to Zeus.
Once in hell (and yes, it was creepy and hellish), Percy tries to convince his uncle that he does not have the lightening bolt, but in the process it is revealed that it is hidden in the handle of the shield a friend of his at demi-god camp gave him, and Hades tries to take it. Persephone steps in and helps the kids out, and also makes very obvious sexual overtures to the satyr fellow. Ick.
Long story short, just in the nick of time Percy walks into the council of the gods and gives the bolt back to Zeus, has a heart to heart with Poseidon (his dad) and all is right with the world.
Ok, that's the movie in a nutshell.
I'd call this Greek mythology based fantasy fiction. Perhaps it might get some kids interested in learning the classics.
But see, here's the thing we must not forget: There was a time in the the history of the world, when the Greek myths, were not "myths" but rather, living religions. With sacrifices, temple prostitutes, people reading the future in entrails of animals,demon possession, all sorts of things that are nasty and less than wonderful that the classical lines of architecture, beautiful statues and the exalted philosophies of Plato and Aristotle might make us forget.
And it was into this pagan environment that St. Paul brought the gospel of Jesus Christ when he went and preached about the Unknown God who made himself known (Acts 17).
Zeus, Athena, Poseidon, Hades...these were gods who were actually worshiped by real people. These are the beautiful-yet-dark faces of demon worship that was supplanted by the worship of God.
I think it's important for Christian students to read the ancient Greek myths and be familiar with who these characters were. But at the same time, we must remember that these characters are not in the same category as Marvel Comic superheroes or made-up worlds. Rather, we must know them for what they were/are.
Christ is Risen from the Dead
Trampling down death by death
and upon those in the tomb bestowing life.
I remember one time, a few years ago when we were reading about the ancient Greeks, one of my kids asked: What about the Greeks now? Do they still worship these gods? (They were younger then).
And I was able to answer them: "No. Now they are Orthodox Chrisitans. Saint Paul preached the gospel there and many believed...a nation and culture was converted over time." The kids all cheered.