The early 2000s were awash with huge adolescent franchises, and riding that wave was the renowned book series Percy Jackson, but its film adaptation fell flat.
While Logan Lerman’s performance in The Lightning Thief solidified him as everyone’s favourite white boy of the month, many who had read the original Olympians book series were less than impressed.
Despite introducing his books to a wider and eager audience, author Rick Riordan has never watched the original adaptation and said how it ‘missed the mark’.
After sitting in Fox’s archives for over a decade, Disney’s acquisition of the studio means that fans of the series will finally get to see Percy’s promise achieved in a much-anticipated new TV programme on Disney Plus.
Percy Jackson and the Olympians follows the protagonist Percy Jackson, who finds his father is a Greek deity (a significant one at that) and must now rush to Camp Half-Blood to perfect his talents among other demi-gods and fantastical animals.
Of course, this is not without risk, as the clever son of Poseidon can’t help but get himself into a lot of trouble – the world-ending sort, at that.
While Rick is aware of the importance of the first film in the hearts of many fans, he is eager to stress out that this TV programme is an adaptation of his beloved novels, not those films.
The 59-year-old author explained: ‘I’ve never seen the movies. Many people love the films and I am aware of that and the actors are incredibly talented.
‘However, as an adaptation of Percy Jackson the books? It missed the mark by a long shot, in my opinion.’
He continued: ‘One of the reasons we wanted to do this again now and as a TV show is that a television show allows us to properly tell the story over eight episodes that in a 90 minute movie you simply can’t do.’
The original adaptation’s critics frequently focused on the compressing, combining, and abandoning of plotlines in favour of dramatic sequences and showdowns.
‘The other thing is that Percy’s story is a coming of age story,’ Rick added. ‘It’s about a boy who is growing into a young man and learning who he is and when you have an actor who’s 18 you that you can’t tell that story.
‘It’s a different story and the tone was just different. It wasn’t, in my opinion, what it needed to be. So that’s what we’re trying to achieve this time around.’
Newcomer Walker Scobell has stepped into Percy’s flying shoes to rousing acclaim, as the TV adaption has already won over fans and reviewers with a strong 97% approval rating on review aggregate Rotten Tomatoes.
Aryan Simhadri as Grover Underwood, Percy’s junior protector and half-goat closest buddy, and Leah Jeffries as Annabeth Chase.
The author’s critical eye has not just been focused on films, but he has also reread his own work and made deliberate alterations to suit current culture.
‘We did tweak quite a few things,’ he joked. We updated the tale to ensure that it is still relevant and seems current and sensible for the year 2023. It was completed in 2005. That was a very long time ago. As a result, we were receptive to it.
‘One example would be the Medusa story. I think it’s much more nuanced and much more powerful in the TV show than when I wrote it in the book, because it talks about Medusa from Medusa’s point of view, and she has her own agency and her own voice and we were able to explore that in the show the way we really weren’t in the book.’
Famously, in the movies, Percy overcomes the snake-haired Medusa by using the back of his iPod touch as a mirror, but even those who have read the novel will be surprised.
Medusa, like many female figures in Greek myth, has been recast as a victim of merciless misogyny and abuse by modern writers, which Percy Jackson may lean into before chopping off her head (spoilers).
One big modification that sparked debate online was the casting of 14-year-old Leah as Percy’s companion Annabeth, who is depicted as white in the novels.
It’s easy to understand why Rick picked Leah to play Athena’s feisty and intelligent kid, as Rick noted she was continuously inquiring on set.
‘She wanted to talk motivation, she came up and said “hi, Mr. Rick, now tell me what is her relationship with her mom, Athena? Let’s talk about that.” I said, “Wow, this young woman is really serious about her role and her craft.”,’ Rick laughed.
He stated that they were merely seeking for the core of that character rather than ticking boxes for a physical description published in 2005, and he feels they ‘nailed it’.
While he isn’t afraid to ruffle feathers – or should that be changing tides? – the author is ‘honoured’ by the audience response to the universe he built.
He said: ‘It’s always an honour to know that I’ve been part of people’s lives and if I can bring them some joy and happiness and you know life is hard, and we need stories to make us feel better and to make us feel that there’s hope in the world and that’s a wonderful feeling.
‘Just seeing the reaction so far, it’s a major relief to me. It’s just nice to know that we work so hard for so long and people seem to love it.’
Percy Jackson and the Olympians is now streaming on DisneyPlus with new episodes weekly.
Source My Celebrity Life.