Adaptation is a tricky thing. A very good one can illuminate the material in a new way that feels honest and true to the source (fun fact: Fitzwilliam Darcy does not dive into a picturesque pond at any point in the novel Pride And Prejudice). But even very good adaptations often get dinged with “the book was better,” because books and movies/television shows/plays/musicals/etc. are not the same, and when you convert the former into one of the latter, by necessity you must leave some things out and make changes to others. And oh, there were certainly some changes made to the Percy Jackson story when 2010's Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief and 2013's Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters were released, but the biggest problem with those films isn’t that they’re super different from the original stories. No, it’s that they’re baaaaaaad.
Rick Riordan certainly thinks so. He wrote the books, and thought the adaptation was bad enough on the page that he’s never even seen the movies.
Riordan shared his thoughts after a fan tweeted a question about a scene that seems to have been altered from the original when streaming on Disney+. Riordan’s response: “I don’t know, but clearly it’s a mistake. They should censor the entire thing. Just two hours of blank screen.”
Another fan said it was “refreshing to see that uncle Rick hates the [Percy Jackson] movies more than we do,” and Riordan pointed out that for fans, it’s just a couple of crappy movies, but for him, “it’s my life’s work going through a meat grinder when I pleaded with them not to do it.”
That “we’re gonna fix it soon” is a reference to the forthcoming Percy Jackson TV series from Disney+. In closing, Riordan notes that he doesn’t blame Logan Lerman, Alexandra Daddario, and the rest of the cast for the shitshow:
Like Percy facing down Medusa as played by Uma Thurman, Riordan has never seen the films, but this isn’t the first time he’s shared his frustration with the screenplays. Riordan wrote about his experience on his site in 2018, even including excerpts of emails he sent to producers about his, um, qualms.
When I first read the script I’ll admit I was plunged into despair at just how bad it was. If I were intentionally trying to sabotage this project, I doubt I could have done a better job than this script. But as I began to make notes and look specifically at what was bothering me, I realized that the script could be made palatable to fans and the general movie-going audience without really changing its present scene structure, lengthening the script, or adding new sets that would increase the budget. I am choosing to take heart in your assurance that this script is not finished. That is one thing we can agree on: It needs help.
Hopefully the TV series will do a better job of capturing the spirit and tone of the books than these two films. If not, Percy Jackson fans will simply have to content themselves with the fact that Riordan spent the weekend tweeting out titles by trans and nonbinary authors, a nice contrast with some other people.
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