Australian Council on Children and the Media

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief

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Not recommended under 10, PG to 13 (Violence, scary scenes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief
  • a review of Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 22 January 2010.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 10 Not recommended due to violence and scary scenes
Children 10-13 Parental guidance recommended due to violence and scary scenes
Children 14 and over OK for this age group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief
Classification: M
Consumer advice lines: Fantasy themes and violence
Length 119 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

This movie is based on a series of children’s books by Rick Riordan. It opens with Poseidon (Kevin McKidd) appearing out of the sea and making his way to a meeting with Zeus (Sean Bean). Zeus is angry because he believes that Poseidon’s son has stolen his lightning bolt. Poseidon is given an ultimatum: his son has 14 days to return the lightning bolt or there will be war.

Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman) is having trouble at school. He is dyslexic and has been diagnosed with ADHD. Home is not much better. He loves his mother, Sally (Catherine Keener) but hates his stepfather who is a beer drinking bully who has no respect for her. Percy is happiest in water where he feels relaxed and can think, and he often spends time sitting on the bottom of a swimming pool.

Percy’s whole world is suddenly turned upside down with a visit to a museum of ancient history. His substitute teacher calls him into a room to discuss something and then turns into a monster and attacks him, trying to retrieve the lightning bolt of which Percy has no knowledge. Percy is rescued by his school friend Grover (Brandon T. Jackson), who is on crutches, and also by wheelchair-bound teacher, Mr Brunner (Pierce Brosnan). Percy now discovers that his father is the Greek god, Poseidon, which makes him a demigod. Grover turns out to be a satyr who is, in fact, his protector and Mr Brunner is a centaur. Grover and Percy’s mother take him to Camp Half Blood where there are others like him so he can be kept safe and trained for his life as a demigod. On the way they are attacked by minotaurs and Sally is seized.

At the camp Percy meets Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario), the daughter of the Athena. The camp is visited by Hades (Steve Coogan) who kidnapped Percy’s mother and offers to exchange her for the missing lightning bolt.

Percy, accompanied by Annabeth and Grover, then sets out on a quest to rescue to his mother and prevent war between the gods.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Greek mythology; separation from a parent

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is frequent violence in this movie, much of it involving fantasy beings and the main characters. Examples include:

  • Percy’s substitute teacher turns into a monster who tries to attack him
  • When Percy’s stepfather threatens him, Grover, the satyr and bodyguard, hits him with his crutches.
  • Percy, his mother and Grover are chased by minotaurs. Percy’s mother is seized and she disappears in flames.
  • Athena’s daughter fights Percy. Although they are training, he is cut in several places.
  • Medusa, who has a head full of snakes, turns a woman into stone with her eyes.
  • An attack by a Hydra who has several fierce looking heads.
  • Athena shoots the cleaners in the Parthenon with drugged arrows. They collapse as if dead.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the violence described above, the atmosphere of much of the film is dark and suspenseful and there are many images of transformations, scary fantasy beings and settings which are likely to disturb children, including

  • The opening scene where the gigantic figure of Poseidon rises from the sea, terrifying a fisherman
  • The transformation of Percy’s teacher into a monster
  • The image of the monstrous Hades leaping out of the fire at the camp, looking for Percy
  • The underworld is full of skulls and fire and ‘burning souls’. When encountered in his world, Hades at first looks like an ordinary man but transforms into the monstrous being seen earlier.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Children in this age group are also likely to be disturbed by the scenes described above

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Children in this age group may also be disturbed by some of the scenes described above

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Most children in this age group are unlikely to be disturbed by anything in this film

Product placement

The following products are displayed or used in this movie:

  • Dodge Truck
  • Maserati Sports Car

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • At the camp, Grover sees group of girls in bikinis and hurries over to them
  • Grover has to stay behind in Hades until he can be rescued. Persephone suggestively offers to ‘look after him’ and the sexual overtones here are very clear.

Nudity and sexual activity

None of concern

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • Percy’s stepfather is constantly asking for beer
  • the lotus flowers in a casino in Las Vegas are drugged in some way to make the people stay there forever.
  • drinking and gambling in the casino

Coarse language

There is some coarse language, including;

  • “kick his arse”

The movie’s message

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief is a fantasy adventure story based on Greek Mythology but brought into the 21st Century. It is likely to appeal to fans of the book series and teenagers.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • the importance of friendship
  • the bond between a mother and son


This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

  • the use of violence to solve conflict
  • the difficulties of being a parent and doing the right thing for your children
  • family conflict

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