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March 3, 2022

February 15, 2024

Percy Jackson and the Next

Underwhelming Adaptation 

Jacob Pszczolkowski

Like many my age, Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians series of novels filled my adolescent mind with stories of fantastic heroism and mythical creatures. As I aged out of the target demographic, I found the novels holding up far better than Harry Potter, a series comparable to Jackson in tone, popularity, and audience. Where Potter had Jackson beat, however, was film adaptations. All seven Potter novels have been adapted to feature–length films of commendable quality, while Jackson fans received two bafflingly poor films which showed no respect at all for the original story. When it was announced that Jackson would see a television adaptation on Disney+, and that Riordan himself would be intimately involved with the production, fans couldn’t help but get their hopes up. While the new series certainly eclipses the disastrous films, it still falls pitifully short of the beloved original novel.

Airing from Dec. 20 to Jan. 30, the first season covers the events of the first book in the series, The Lightning Thief. In the story, 12-year-old Percy Jackson discovers the truth of his world — that the Greek gods and monsters of legend are real, and he himself is the demigod son of Poseidon, god of the seas. He stands accused of stealing the Master Bolt belonging to Zeus, God of skies and storms, and must embark on a quest to prove his innocence and prevent his divine family from going to war against one another. While the story of the show follows the basic beats of the novel, the minor differences and errors bring the show down to a far inferior version of the story.

Firstly, the inconsistent and often extremely short episode length results in lots of important character moments and exposition that fleshed out the book being left on the cutting room floor, occasionally replaced by new scenes which lack the depth of the original. Sometimes, entire chapters are radically changed, usually into less interesting versions which remove the characters agency in deducing their situations or solving the problems within by having the setups and answers given to them. Each episode could have seriously benefited from an extra 10 to 20 minutes of runtime.

Second, the acting in the show falls flat. I can’t be too hard, as the show’s protagonists are children depicted by child actors, but their line delivery and moments of heightened emotion tend to come across as phony, stilted, and amateurish. Again, it is difficult to fault child actors for not being professionals, but their performance frequently takes me out of the show.

Overall, the first season is fairly underwhelming compared to the novel it attempts to adapt. It would seem that despite being a fantastic novel author, Riordan has much to learn when it comes to screenwriting. Feel free to watch it if you were a fan of the books, but don’t go in expecting the depth or quality of the novels.


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