The “Percy Jackson” movies are synonymous with disappointment for fans of the franchise. “Percy Jackson and the Olympians”, a popular book series by Rick Riordan, is about a boy that finds out he’s the son of Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea. Along with his friends Annabeth and Grover, Percy goes on quests to save mortals and demigods alike when the future of the world is at stake.
“The Lightning Thief” is the highly-praised debut novel of the “Percy Jackson” series, released in 2005. Five years later, 20th Century Fox adapted the globally acclaimed book into a very controversial movie. Fans were disappointed by the film’s changes to the book’s storyline and characters. Percy, whose book counterpart was 12 years old, was played by a 17-year-old actor. Not only was Percy drastically aged up, but the movie also changed both the personalities of the main characters and the tone of the story. Worst of all, Rick Riordan didn’t get a say in any of it. Riordan was sent a copy of the script, after which he refused to watch the movie. The author openly described the two Percy Jackson movies as his “life’s work going through a meat grinder when (he) pleaded with them not to do it.”
Berkeley High School sophomore Orion Mckinsey has been a fan of Percy Jackson since elementary school, and like Riordan, he was not fond of the movie adaptations. “They were probably just there for the money, but they didn’t have any oversight from the actual author, which I think the TV show does much better on,” he said.
The most recent adaptation is a television series titled “Percy Jackson and the Olympians,” streaming on Disney+. And this time, Riordan is very involved. As a co-creator, he specifically selected the actors for their roles and has had a lot of input in the production.
“It’s a lot more faithful to the books. It has better CGI than the movies, and it has much better casting choices. Some complaints could be that it has a lot of exposition, or that it could be a bit too faithful to the books, but I don’t see this as much of a problem,” said Mckinsey.
Despite the raving reviews “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” received on release, scoring a 96 percent critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the show was initially rife with controversy. Percy Jackson, written in the books as having jet-black hair, is played by blonde actor Walker Scobell. Annabeth Chase was described as white with blonde hair, but the actress who plays her, Leah Jeffries, is Black and has dark hair.
Some fans were upset over the appearance of Annabeth. Being the daughter of Athena, her character in the books was intelligent and level-headed, therefore demolishing the “dumb blonde” narrative. However, this small argument does not justify the online harassment that Jeffries received for not perfectly resembling Annabeth. People on social media spammed comment sections with “This is not Annabeth” and other insulting comments regarding her race. In response to this, supporters of Jeffries created the #LeahIsOurAnnabeth, which spread throughout social media.
Actors don’t need to perfectly resemble their characters, with the importance lying within the acting performance itself. “It’s important for there to be representation. So if she was a good fit for the role, then I don’t think that it should be a big deal,” said BHS junior Lillian Cobb.
It’s also about the actors embodying the characters as Riordan created them. He handpicked these actors because their personalities match the characters in the series.
“As you watch more of it, it becomes less about how they look and more about the personality match, and how well they work together,” said BHS sophomore Taylor Kelso. Unlike in the movie adaptation, the show’s actors are much closer to their role’s age compared to their book counterparts.
It’s only been about a month, but the TV series has already exceeded the movie’s audience ratings, gaining over 13.3 million views on the premiere. While there were several changes to the TV series compared to the original books, it opened up many new opportunities for the show and the future of the Percy Jackson universe.