The franchise Percy Jackson and the Olympians has been one of the most popular in young adult literature. The books authored by Rick Riordan, revolve around a demigod called Percy Jackson as he embarks on adventures in mythical lands. Rather than creating an imaginary world from scratch, Riordan reinterprets Greek mythological figures in modern settings. Like many other series in such genres, Percy Jackson too got his cinematic adaptation with Percy Jackson & The Lightning Thief, a film that was not that well-received. Its sequel Sea of Monsters faced the same fate, with criticisms being drawn against inaccuracies from its source material and an uninspired tone that made the films seem like many other offerings from YA adaptations.
This year, Riordan offers hope after announcing a new Disney+ series, based on his original novels.
10 Less Deviations From The Novels
While creative liberty is exercised in all novel adaptations, the Percy Jackson films took it a bit too far removing several significant and emotional elements, replacing them with simplified quests and forced teen tropes. This explains the rushed tone of the film, such as not enough background being given on Percy’s mother’s death.
The first film also revealed Luke’s antagonism pretty early, leaving no element of surprise for the third act. Creating an origin story requires the ‘chosen one’ aka the protagonist to make sense of their purpose first, rather than jumping straight to the action. Even though Percy wasn’t aware of his divine birth or the presence of Greek gods, he seems to be adjusting to his new life quite quickly. Each of the novels, on the other hand, captures his surprise as he discovers new phenomena.
9 The Age Of The Lead Characters
While this might seem like a trivial concern, but many fans were disappointed with the age of the lead characters of the film’s teen cast. Logan Lerman (Percy), Alexandra Daddario (Annabeth), and Brandon T Jackson (Grover), all were aged 15-16 years during the first film’s shooting. On the other hand, these characters were a bunch of 12-year-olds in the first book. The original series comprising of five books, traces their simultaneous coming of age in a natural manner, as did the Harry Potter films and novels.
Considering that the second film released three years later, the transition of these actors to adulthood was quite evident and didn’t fit well with the teenage tone that was intended.
8 Forced Relationships
The series should take its time in establishing friendships and romantic relationships. While the films waste no time in hinting at a romance between Annabeth and Percy, the books present their romance in a more natural and believable manner. They are competitive friends who later admit towards a mutual affection by the fifth book.
Even Percy’s friends have rushed narratives, leaving little to no scope for character development. While Brandon T Jackson’s Grover is funny and sassy, it would have been better if he got time to reach this confident stage after showing shyness and past failures. Even Tyson’s arc in the second film could have been developed better.
7 Author’s Authority
Rick Riordan himself has not been an avid fan of the films. It is a relief that he would be actively involved in the creative decisions in the upcoming series.
Riordan has also stated in multiple interviews that he never even cared to watch the films. In a blog post titled Memories from my TV/Movie experience, the author also revealed that he hardly had any influence to take creative decisions for the cinematic adaptations. In the same post, he also revealed several e-mails with studio executives which show his concerns over changes from his books.
In the films’ defense, it is obviously a Herculean task to showcase a mythology-rich novel in the span of roughly two hours. With the series, each season can focus on one novel giving enough atmospheric build-ups to the dramatic sequences, and adding more backstories for each character.
Adaptations of novel series like Game of Thrones and The Witcher have shown viewers the way good world-building can satisfy fandoms. With a Lord of the Rings series too in the works, it seems like a good opportunity for the Percy Jackson series to write the wrongs of its cinematic predecessors.
5 Not Mixing Novels
As mentioned above, basing each season on one particular novel seems like the logical move. Some series like Game of Thrones also merge multiple books in a single season. And yet the duration of the episodes is suitable enough for this transition to take place smoothly.
Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters created an unnecessarily confusing plot by mixing elements from both Sea of Monsters and the last book The Last Olympian. Even though there weren’t many clues of Luke bringing Kronos back to life, the plot point is suddenly introduced in Sea of Monsters, a move that surprised devoted fans and new recruits alike.
4 A Better Finale
Kronos, the evil titan, is the ultimate baddie in the novel series. He can be seen as equivalent to Voldemort from Harry Potter. However, in the films, he doesn’t get enough time to make his presence felt and is reduced to a CGI creature resurrected to life in a very rushed sequence.
One can hope that the Disney+ show would help in setting up a more convincing character arc. After all, the quests in the first four novels build-up to this confrontation with Kronos. He doesn’t have that many scenes but most of the series’ antagonists are ready to serve him, and most of their actions are motivated to bring him back to rule all realms.
3 Percy’s Parents
Even though Percy’s mother Sally is featured in just a few scenes, it’s when she goes missing that Percy decides to steal the lightning bolt in the first book. He also tries his best to prove himself worthy in front of his father Poseidon’s eyes. Coming to terms with his mixed parentage is one of the driving factors in the novels.
The film hardly features such personal crises, leaving his parents as insignificant characters. The audiences know that he’s a demigod. It’ll be interesting to see how he comes to terms with being a demigod.
2 Chiron’s Screentime
If Kronos can be seen as Voldemort, then Chiron is almost the Dumbledore of the series. The centaur is the activities director of Camp Half-Blood and serves as Percy’s mentor on certain occasions. He’s an interesting character from the book, as he’s also the immortal son of Kronos and brother of Zeus.
In the films, he ended up being quite a forgettable character. For some reason, Chiron’s actor Pierce Brosnan was replaced by Anthony Head in the second film, confusing viewers further.
1 Avoiding Cliches
It’s unfortunate that because of the films’ CGI-heavy action sequences and teenage themes, many critics found both films to be derivative from other young adult franchises. Some effects, sets, and costume designs turned out to be a tad bit cliched. For instance, many of the Greek mythological figures seem alike. Even the film’s Poseidon is armed to teeth, looking more like the war god Ares than the god of the seas.
The typical teen cliches can also be avoided by occasionally shifting the focus on the other gods too, capturing their struggles too. Otherwise, the films reduced the gods to extended cameos instead of secondary characters.
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