Why the Percy Jackson Films Didn’t Satisfy Fans

And Why Disney+’s New Series Is Delighting Them

Characters in a car in the Percy Jackson movies
20th Century Fox/Screenshot

With the release of the Disney+ adaption of Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, let’s look back at the divisive film adaptations of the past.

Swept into the major studios rush to fill the Harry Potter hole about to break the market, in 2010, Chris Columbus directed Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief with “White Boy of the Month” Logan Lerman playing Percy, Alexandra Daddario as Annabeth and Brandan T. Jackson as Grover. Contrary to the age of the characters in the first novel, these actors portrayed the Demi-gods and Satyr as 16-year-olds, older than the original 11/12. Particularly messing with the eventual prophecy in the Riordan series that references Percy’s 16th birthday.

Tyson (Douglas Smith) has one eye and stands in a cavern
20th Century Fox/Screenshot

Considering the themes and emotional development in the series’ first instalment, the change of age of the characters affected the believability and authenticity of the journey as their issues appear much too juvenile for their more advanced age. The writing of this first film, Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, also did a massive disservice to the audience by cutting scenes, characters and events that affect later events in the original series. These problems became more apparent in the second film adaptation, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters.

Particularly, the character Clarisse La Rue, a daughter of Ares (God of War), who in the novels exists as the lead Bully/Antagonist for Percy at Camp Half-Blood, is cut from 2010’s Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief. Instead, some of Clarisse’s angst and warrior instincts are mixed into Alexandra Daddario’s Annabeth. Not only did this mean writers had to scramble to bring back the character for the 2013 sequel Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, which is blatantly obvious in her awkward introduction, but the blending of characters in Lightning Thief makes Annabeth insufferable and filled with contradictions, rather than the strong, wise girl fans remember from the novels.

Percy (Logan Lerman) pointing a sword at Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario) duing Capture The Flag
20th Century Fox/Screenshot

Book fans know Percy and Annabeth’s love story is a slow burn over years of growing up together while being hunted by monsters, Demi-Gods, and God-Gods alike. It’s a romance similar to Ron and Hermione in Harry Potter (in the books, not the movies ’cause their adaptation butchered that too) or even like When Harry Met Sally. Destiny entwined. Reluctant friendship. Eventual love. 2010’s Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief and 2013 sequel Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters rushed that too.

From what we know about the production of the new TV series and the first couple of episodes, the team of writers and producers have already pleased fans with the casting of much younger actors to play the correct age (and even for the ‘minor characters’ the previous adaption chose to omit).

One of the most disappointing elements of the Percy Jackson films is how badly they are written and performed. The story progression is ripped to shreds and then poorly taped together. Instead of following the cleverly written story by Rick Riordan, screenwriter Craig Titley invented convoluted reasons to pull Percy, Annabeth and Grover across the United States, putting too much weight on pearls to get to the Underworld and less on the unfair dangers in store for children in this world—a theme which fuels much of Percy Jackson’s actions, motives and feelings towards the hierarchy of Olympus throughout the series.

The crypt of Kronos cracking in Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters
20th Century Fox/Screenshot

The trials of Percy Jackson are presented as his doing in the film rather than thrust upon him. We know Percy is snarky and classically impertinent, but he’s the guy who responds to violence with violence; he’s not typically the one to chase danger or incite violence. With Logan Lerman’s Percy, there’s teenage angst and nonchalance that undermines the righteousness buried in the book’s Percy’s actions. Not to mention, Logan Lerman’s Percy seems frighteningly unfazed by the possibility that his mother is dead… but maybe that’s the film’s fault for making him play Capture the Flag the same day he wakes up from possible head trauma after defeating the Minotaur.

Now, despite Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief being an ever so poor adaptation of Rick Riordan’s novel, the film’s sequel Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters is so much worse. Elements of other Percy Jackson novels are moved and morphed to fit into the warped storyline that is this 2013 adaption. Many sneaky reveals and events from the fourth and final novels, The Battle of the Labyrinth and The Last Olympian, are played out in this film, such as the prophecy, a Camp Half-Blood spy, new characters and the Titan Kronos’s revenge. Although it is not a fact, it is my opinion that Percy Jackson is much more cruel to his half-brother Tyson in the film than in the novel.

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters is a mess of poor character development and rushed story progression; I think the studios did us a favour by not finishing their planned trilogy because I have zero faith they would have been able to save themselves from their own mistakes.

I haven’t even touched on Chiron’s recasting from 007 to Giles.

Or Grover, like, never mentioning Pan, ever.

Or Hades holding Persephone hostage—sex crime?

Or Medusas’s downfall being an iPod Touch!

Medusa (Uma Thurman) looking at her reflection with Percy (Logan Lerman) behind her.
Image Courtesy of IMDb

The big thing to note about the 2010s Percy Jackson films is that although they were beloved at the time by Rick Riordan fans starved for Percy Jackson’s content, in actuality, the films hold no longevity for praise when time and retrospect have seen their shiny appeal dim, much like the mirror back of an iPod Touch.

Now, let us know below what omissions or changes you were disappointed by in the 2010s Percy Jackson adaptions in the comment section!

***Also, controversially, it became apparent during the press junket of the second film that none of the main actors had read the novels, which contributed to rather shallow performances in the films.

****Rick Riordan has, since the films’ initial release, made multiple statements to the press and in his blogs that the 2010s adaptions butchered his work, and he was adamant that should another adaption occur, he would have far more creative control.

Written by Isobel Grieve

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