The gods of ancient Greece rarely get featured roles in movies any more; but Zeus, Poseidon, Hades and the rest are at the center of at "Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief," a new film adventure adapted from the first in a series of novels popular among young readers.
Percy Jackson may look like a typical teenager: insecure, brooding and full of anger at the absent father he never knew. However, he is about to find out who his father is and the un-typical family he springs from.
"There are 12 Olympian gods. The big three are the brothers Zeus, Poseidon and Hades. On several occasions they would come down to Earth and …"
"They would 'hook up' with mortals. The children of these unions were half god, half human."
When strange things start happening, such as a winged Fury attacking him, Percy finally learns the secret of his birth. He is, indeed, a demigod: son of the sea god Poseidon and a mortal woman.
Just as he is getting used to the idea, Percy finds himself in the midst of a titanic struggle between the gods over a missing artifact.
"Zeus's bolt is the most powerful thing ever created."
"It has been stolen."
"If it is not returned by the summer solstice there will be a war."
Accused of stealing the lightning bolt, Percy sets out with his friend Grover (who turns out to be a satyr - half-man, half-goat) and another child of the gods, the skilled warrior Annabeth, daughter of Athena, to discover the true identity of the thief, recover the bolt and save the universe.
"Percy Jackson and the Olympians" is directed by Chris Columbus who also made the first film in the series about another teenager with magical powers: Harry Potter. The cast features 18-year-old Logan Lerman as Percy and co-stars Pierce Brosnan as his teacher, Chiron, a half-man, half-horse centaur.
"Of course, my sons were instrumental in me playing in this film," he said. "They had read and love the books. Chris [Columbus] was very sly. He went straight to my vanity. He sent me this beautiful portrait of me as this centaur in which I looked magnificent. I never had muscles like that in all my life and I began to believe my own portrait."
Logan Lerman believes "Percy Jackson" can be a fun way to dust off the ancient myths.
"You learn it in school, but I never really revisited it and being a part of this film has been a great excuse to brush up on my knowledge and learn a little bit more in detail," he said. "I think it's going to spark an interest in anybody who sees the film [and] they're going to get into Greek mythology."
Director Chris Columbus cast a roomful of screen stars as the Olympian gods. Sean Bean is the mighty Zeus with Kevin McKidd as Poseidon …Steve Coogan is Hades with Rosario Dawson as his queen of the underworld Persephone …and Uma Thurman plays the snake-crowned Medusa whose stare can turn humans to stone.
"For the gods I cast actors who have sort of a larger-than-life, godlike quality about them," Columbus said. "Who better to play a trainer of heroes - people like Hercules - than Pierce Brosnan? It was really the case with all of these gods and goddesses: how do we find someone who you can believe is a god?
Columbus knows his target audience is primarily young - pre-teens to young teenagers - but as a parent he wanted to make a movie that adults won't mind sitting through with their kids:
"For me, this film had to work on two levels," he said. "The first level is make it a wild ride for the seven- to 16-year-olds; and then for the older kids and adults in the audience, make it something that makes them feel like they are 12 years old again. So you'll see there's a balance where kids are laughing at something and then the parents giggle at something that goes over the kids' heads.
A warning to fans of the novels by Rick Riordan: there are some changes. For instance, Percy is already a teen at the very beginning; but star Lerman hopes readers go along with the adaptation.
"It would be cheating the audience if I didn't read the book in the first place so, of course, I read that just to understand the basis for the movie in the first place; but I used the script as my bible more than anything," he said.
"Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief" also features Alexandra Daddario as Annabeth and Brandon T. Jackson plays the trusty, lusty satyr Grover.