Race matters, even on Olympus.[Some small spoilers for Percy Jackson & The Lightning Thief herein]
My 12 year old's reaction (who loves the books): "It's worth seeing, but don't get your hopes up - it's not like the book."
I haven't read the books, so my reaction was a little different. It was an okay (matinee/2nd run/DVD) fantasy action movie. The effects were, for the most part, great. The water was rendered especially well. Logan Lerman walked the line between being awestruck and cocky really well. Brandon Jackson played a solid sidekick (though see below), and Alexandra Daddario was a strong female lead.
There were some problems with the film as a standalone work. Things seemed rushed more than a few times. The foreshadowing of the final reveal was very heavy handed. Despite us hearing about the earth-shaking cataclysms that were looming on the horizon, other people (and their reactions) seemed conspicuously absent for the final third of the movie. There were some awkward acting moments - though I considered them plot elements. For example, I don't expect an immortal god to be able to relate well to his teenage son. Mr. Lerman's acting saved that scene - because he acted just like a smartaleck kid would. Still a fun movie.
...and then there were the other things.
- We saw the trailer for the Karate Kid remake. Changing the protagonist to a Black kid just makes the theme of "white guy manages to get himself accepted into a closed society of people of color and eventually becomes its most awesome member" be "Westerner manages to get himself accepted into a closed society of Easterners and eventually becomes its most awesome member". I hope I'm wrong with that.
- Why are the two main characters of color in Percy Jackson (Grover and Persephone, played by Rosario Dawson) also all about getting it on? (To the point that Grover's a satyr, a literal half-animal.) I mean, really, aren't we done with the "oversexed dark person" stereotype yet? Hell, why not have the black guy hate country music and talk about the "benjamins"? Oh, wait. They did. Dammit.
- I only saw one black Olympian. They had no lines. All the other Olympians are quite ... pale. I mean, yeah, they were worshiped by the Greeks - but that doesn't mean they all look like the Greeks.
- Oh, and let the black comedic (though competent, thank goodness) sidekick to take one for the team while the white folks go save the day? Really? Didn't we get that out of our system with the Dungeons & Dragons movie?
Again, I haven't read the books, so I don't know if any of these elements are part of the books, or addressed there. I did notice them in the film, though.
Again, Percy Jackson & The Olympians was an okay movie. The racial elements I found troubling are, unfortunately, not surprising at all, and while distracting are not major elements of the plot. Catch a matinée, a second-run theater, or watch the DVD.