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Did the Adaptations Meet the Expectations?

The public reception of the newest, and third, Percy Jackson cinematic installment.
Andrew Stine

To me, it’s my life’s work going through a meat grinder when I pleaded with them not to do it. So yeah. But it’s fine. All fine. We’re gonna fix it soon,” Rick Riordan tweeted regarding the movies that were supposed to portray a couple of his books in the Percy Jackson series. As of 2020, Riordan still hasn’t seen the movies and doesn’t “…plan on ever doing so”. However, the cinematic universe proposed a third test run of putting Percy Jackson to screen, leaving both fans and the author alike to eagerly anticipate the show, “Percy Jackson and the Olympians”. (Entertainment Weekly). Now, a couple of weeks after the first season of the show aired, fans debate whether the show was up to the task of faithfully portraying the books that they know and love.

Percy Jackson is a series following Greek demigods (individuals who have a human and a god or goddess as parents) who travel on quests, encountering mythological perils along the way. There are many adaptations of the books, the first being the movies in 2010 and 2013 that supposedly followed the first two books in the series, a musical called “The Lighting Thief”, and now the TV show in 2024. The first season of the Percy Jackson show, “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” consists of 8 episodes following the plot of the first book, “The Lightning Thief.” All episodes have been released and are accessible through Disney+. A second season has already been renewed (Variety).

Jenna Gould, an avid Percy Jackson reader since 4th grade, read most of Riordan’s series minus The Trials of Apollo series. This includes both Percy Jackson series, Percy Jackson and the Olympians being the first, and The Heroes of Olympus being the second, which focus on Greek and Roman mythology. Riordan’s other series include the Kane Chronicles, which follows Egyptian mythology, and Magnus Chase, the Norse mythology counterpart.

Gould’s first experience with an on-screen adaptation was the premier movie. Despite both movies receiving bad raps from the author and fans because of the script (Entertainment Weekly), Gould enjoyed the movie. She watched it when she was around 7 and liked it because, “I wasn’t as focused on if it was connected to the book or not. I was more focused on it as a movie itself and I found it pretty funny, entertaining.” Regardless of other people viewing the movies through the lens of the books, she feels this way because she wasn’t watching the movie for its accuracy to the books. Despite the movie’s negative public reception, Gould boldly states, “I thought it was good. I liked it. If it wasn’t trying to be an adaptation of the Percy Jackson series, I think that a lot of people would also enjoy it.”

When Gould realized there was a show coming out, she saw it as an opportunity to do the books some good. Shows, unlike movies, have a longer duration of time to get the story right, and fans believed this rendition could counteract the faithless adaptation that the movies were. Gould imparts that when she heard about the new Percy Jackson installment, “I was so excited! I thought that they would do a faithful adaptation and I was really happy about it.”

Jack Laird, another Percy Jackson fan, said that he started reading Percy Jackson because, “I was very interested in Greek mythology during elementary school, and the idea of the Greek gods and creatures living in today’s modern world was very intriguing. After reading ‘The Lightning Thief’ I was immediately hooked and proceeded to obsessively read all of the first and second series, then go on to the Kane Chronicles and as they came out I read the Trials of Apollo.” Because of his history with Riordan’s books, he says that when he discovered there was a show coming out, “I was excited to see Percy Jackson come to life, but wary of them messing it up.”

Both Laird and Gould found discrepancies in the show even though they believe the cinematic production of a book can stray a long way from the plot. Laird states, “A cinematic production can stray as far as they want, so long as the core ideals of the story stay the same and they have the permission and counsel of the original author.”

However, Laird and Gould alongside countless other Percy Jackson fans were disappointed by the show in one way or another. Gould thought the show was a terrible adaptation of the books and said, “…they need good pacing. ‘Cause if you’re gonna have so many episodes, I need to be able to either binge watch it or just have my full focus. And with this show at least… the pacing was not the best and the plot did not make sense.” The show changed different parts of the plot in inconvenient ways that weren’t necessary or made it so more of the plot needed to be changed. Gould goes on to say, “It contradicted itself.” Overall, she gave the show a 4 out of 10. “Can I list my dislikes?” she asked, searching for her phone to pull up a list she had written.


After this, Gould goes on to state that she 1) Personally didn’t like the acting in the show 2) Thought that Annabeth seeing Luke’s betrayal “was a bad change since the entire point in the books was that she stayed in denial about Luke being with Kronos…” and 3) Thought Zeus sitting around when the deadline had passed “completely robs the show of Zeus’s authority stakes & urgency”, among other things.

On a less harsh note, Gould thought the scenery of Olympus was cool “…but I just wish that they made it more immersive-they cut to black so fast that Olympus just looks static”. She also thought that Gabe wasn’t portrayed as abusive in the show, meaning, “ he didn’t deserve to DIE”.

Meanwhile, Laird rated the show 8 out of 10. He said it missed the last two points because, “I personally enjoy the later books better and the action isn’t as high quality as I expected.” He says, “I feel the show did not put enough emphasis or effort into the battles between Percy and the monsters, as they feel sluggish and not as entertaining as the characters and story. The fights in the books are usually full of excitement and move the plot and characters forward, and I feel the TV show does not reflect this as well as it could.”

Contrary to Laird’s dislikes, Gould appreciated the fighting scenes in the show. Another thing she enjoyed was how Ares was portrayed. “I just liked him ’cause he was funny,” she says. Whether in movies, books, or shows, Gould looks for something that will keep her entertained.

Laird liked the show more than Gould. When Laird watches a show, he says that the certain qualities he looks for is the character depth and whether or not it grows over the course of the series. He adds, “…more so in TV shows than movies because they have the time to work with that movies don’t. Percy Jackson mostly lives up to this, as the characters do develop over this first season.” Even though the TV show hasn’t gotten 100% of the way to the character development that can be found in the books, he attributes it to the structure of the book series itself. “…most of the development occurs much slower and over the entirety of the first book series so the TV show hasn’t gotten there yet,” he says.

Most of the dislike towards the show centers around its differences from the books. Other than it being boring to some people like Gould, overall the show surpassed the quality of the Percy Jackson movies. Despite this, many fans still can’t get around the ways the show was changed from the novels.

So why make a big fuss about the show if it seemingly wasn’t worth it? Perhaps, like Gould mentioned about the Percy Jackson movies, more people would enjoy the show if they weren’t looking at it to be a faithful adaptation. And while I have heard countless complaints about the show, I’m not aware of everyones opinion on it and it has 92% rotten tomatoes, the Critics Consensus labeling the show as “A faithful adaptation of Rick Riordan’s novels…” And it says that the show was, “…a lovingly realized odyssey through adolescence and myth.” The audience score is 80%, meaning the overall reviewers have an average 4.2 out of 5 rating (Rotten Tomatoes). As a matter of fact, I personally liked the show up to a point even though it seemed geared towards younger kids. Despite the potential target audience, it was still enjoyable to me as a 16 year old and adults who shared their opinion on it with me. However, I definitely think it would have been better had the script made more sense for being an adaptation of the novels.

If this piece of writing claims to be about the Percy Jackson show, why does it always come back to the books? Arguably, cinematic productions related to books cannot surpass the book, partially because words on paper deepen the reader’s understanding of the characters and the world in the novel, sinking into the reader’s perception of the plot’s journey for better or for worse.

Laird has been shaped by Percy Jackson books in the way he reads, claiming, “They dramatically raised my standard for a good narrative starring magical characters…” Referencing the intrinsic world building and character development in the books, he adds, “…the entire world has been fleshed out and no character is bland or pointless.”

Gould says, “…it just kind of made me love mythology a lot.” She personally liked the Percy Jackson books more than The Trials of Apollo, which she attempted but failed to read. To Gould, Apollo, the main character in The Trials of Apollo has, “…this more godly sort of narcissist… perspective.” On the other hand, she describes Percy Jackson as a kind of, “fun, goofy, sarcastic teenager…” Because of Percy Jackson’s character, she says, “It’s enjoyable to read.”

Another book, “Percy Jackson and the Olympians: Wrath of the Triple Goddess”, is slated to come out September 24, 2024 (Nerdist). Gould and Laird are both eager for the prospect, and Laird enthusiastically states, “I love anything coming from Rick Riordan and will devour it the moment it comes out.”

If someone has no history of Percy Jackson and they’re trying to decide whether to start with the show, the movies, or the books first, Laird has a definite answer. “Absolutely the books first. They are so accessible and engaging, and there is so much to read it will take a while before you are forced to endure the painful wait for Riordan to release another,” he says.

Similarly, Gould passionately states, “Oh, the books of course. You know… you can’t get more… original. The best way to start the Percy Jackson series is the books… It better communicates his thoughts ’cause you’re from his perspective, so you can… hear his inner voice in the book. Meanwhile, with the show and movies, it’s kind of more hard to communicate that. So you don’t get the same sarcasm and humor.”

No matter how many movies, TV shows, or musicals try to adapt the Percy Jackson novels, even if they turn out great rather than “terrible”, none of that truly matters in the long run. Gould matter-of-factly states, “Nothing can beat the original.”

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About the Contributor
Hannah Stine, Staff Writer
Hannah is a sophomore at Tuscarora HIgh School, and this is her first year on the newspaper team as a Staff Writer. She has played volleyball for NVVA since 5th grade. In her free time she's either reading, drawing, writing, or tackling an overload of homework.

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