Why the Percy Jackson Films Flopped
By Karis Fields
Photo: Teen Vogue – Source
If you grew up in the early 2000s, you probably read the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan. The series defined a lot of zillennial childhoods, receiving praise similar to the likes of Harry Potter at the time. The series starts with a twelve-year-old Percy Jackson first discovering that he is a demigod, or half god and half mortal. He figures out he is the son of the Greek god Poseidon at Camp Half-Blood, a safe haven for other demigods such as himself. With his friends Grover, a satyr, and Annabeth, the daughter of Athena, he goes on dangerous quests to save both the mortal and Olympian worlds.
Similarly to the Harry Potter series, those who read the books got to basically grow up with Percy and his friends in each book of the series from when Percy is twelve until he turns eighteen. Something else that fans of the series were drawn to was the diversity presented in these books. The lead character of the series was a kid with both ADHD and dyslexia, which really spoke to neurodivergent readers who struggle and live with these same neurodivergencies.
Fans were more than excited when it was announced that the series would get the film treatment. The recent trend in Hollywood had been adapting teen novels for the big screen. The first Twilight movie was released in theaters in 2008 and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in 2009. Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief was released in 2010.
The first signs that this movie adaptation would flop was after casting had been announced. As previously mentioned, the book series begins with Percy at age twelve. The movie aged up Percy from twelve to sixteen in its first film, casting Logan Lerman in the role. Not to say that Lerman wasn’t a good choice for the role, he was talented and played Percy as best as he could in these trainwrecks of films, but aging up Percy caused a huge continuity and plot error with transferring book to screen. The whole series is essentially based around a prophecy with Percy at its center. This prophecy is set in motion when Percy first figures out he is a demigod and is set to reach its peak in the days before he turns eighteen. It’s been said that the studio behind the films made this change in order to appeal to an older audience. A mistake in every conceivable way.
As well as not following the use of book ages, the films also either introduce certain characters and monsters too soon in the franchise or not at all. This wasn’t as big of a problem for the first film, but it was definitely more evident in Percy Jackson & the Olympians: Sea of Monsters.
Not only did the fans have issues with the movie adaptations of these books, but so did the author himself. Riordan has been incredibly open with his disapproval of the films, even sharing in full extensive detail his experiences working on the making of them on his blog. From his shared experience, fans are told that none of the producers really listened to Riordan or even let him work on the films. Riordan even emailed producers with various suggestions for casting, script, and more and remained ignored.
Many fans of the books either pretend that the films themselves don’t exist or that they are instead some imaginary or parody films referred to as the “Peter Johnson” movies given how much of a joke these movies seem to be to the fanbase. Earlier this year, however, Riordan himself announced that he had been working directly with producers at Disney to get a live-action Percy Jackson series up and running on Disney+ since 2020, with a projected release of the first episode later this year. Fans are hoping that the series does the books justice and erases the mistakes brought about by the films.
So far, with Riordan himself working closely with the show, there seems to be hope in the accuracy of the series. Additionally, it was announced earlier this week the casting for Percy himself. Thirteen-year-old Walker Scobell (The Adam Project) will be playing the titular role. The rest of the cast is yet to be announced, but Percy’s casting has caused some relief over fan anxieties.
I for one am hoping that the television series ends up being a success.