'The Lightning Thief'Where, o where, will the next Harry Potter come from? Could it be from New York, via Texas? Pierce Brosnan, Uma Thurman, and Sean Bean have signed up for Percy Jackson, according to The Hollywood Reporter, an adaptation of The Lightning Thief, the first book in a series by former Texas schoolteacher Richard Riordan. After the failure of various projects to become "the next Harry Potter," the news prompted Entertainment Weekly to wonder, "Could this finally be the next big family fantasy franchise?"

Based on the premise, Percy Jackson stands a good chance of appealing to a wide market, but much will depend on the script, since Chris Columbus is still on board to direct. As Christopher Campbell wrote two years ago, Columbus "may have been the least inspired director involved with the Harry Potter franchise," so big questions remain. Can he deliver a good-enough movie that won't disappoint fans of the books and whip up enthusiasm among non-readers for seeing a series of movies in the same vein?

The 12-year-old titular hero, to be played by Logan Lerman, appears to be "just another New York kid diagnosed with ADHD, who has good intentions, a nasty stepfather, and a long line of schools that have rejected him" before he discovers that his father is Poseidon (the Greek god, not the doomed ocean liner). He sets off on a cross-country journey to retrieve Zeus' lightning bolt, "the original weapon of mass destruction," which his father has been accused of stealing. Kevin McKidd will play Poseidon, which is inspired casting. Fox is aiming for release in February 2010.

Will you mark your calendars? Will Percy Jackson do better by avoiding comparisons with Harry Potter?

By: Peter Martin