For an article about the Percy Jackson TV series, a boy with mid-length brown hair wears a bright orange-yellow shirt with a pegasus (winged horse) on it while carrying a dark backpack. He stands against a blue, water-like, crinkly paper background with a Greek-style border along the left and right side.
Illustration by Makayla LeBlanc, Montserrat College of Art

Anticipation of the Percy Jackson TV Series: What Should We Expect?

The films strayed too far from the books, will the series do the same?
November 12, 2023
13 mins read

The movies that came out in the early 2010s based on the popular Percy Jackson books series were not a big hit, with many fans saying they did not live up to the original books. With the new TV series coming out in December on Disney+, many are unsure what to expect. 

In 2005, Rick Riordan published “Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief,” the first of many in the Percy Jackson book series. This book follows the life of demigod Percy Jackson, son of Poseidon, god of the sea as he discovers a new world full of monsters, gods and Greek heroes. In the first book, he is accused of stealing Zeus’s lightning bolt and goes on a quest to find the bolt and prove his innocence. Throughout the first series, the audience witness him grow from age 12 to age 16 as he matures and gets more used to his new life. 

In 2010, the first book of the series was adapted into a movie that was met with mixed reviews. The original films were not irredeemable per se; in fact, they were good movies… if not compared to the book series. The cast and the acting were great, showing their dedication to their roles. All of the main cast have moved on to more successful projects where their talents are more appreciated, such as Logan Lerman who starred in the more well-recieved movie,“The Perks of Being A Wallflower ” and Alexandria Daddario’s acclaimed role in HBO’s “White Lotus.”. 

As for the content of the movie itself, it had a good plot and overall themes. The films conveyed messages similar to those of the book series: themes of love, friendship, and determination were present in the movies as the trio attempted to save Percy’s mother. 

However, the movies pale in comparison to their source material. Many critics do not see the movies as stand-alone films, but instead compare them to the books. Los Angeles Times critic Kenneth Turan detailed everything wrong with the first movie by comparing it to the book series. 

The films had a rocky start with author Rick Riordan leaving the production because the production team was straying too far from his ideas. In the films themselves, the characters were aged up to match the age of the cast, which changed the way the audience sees Percy mature. Instead of seeing him grow up and get used to this new world, the story starts when he is already a teenager. 

Disney’s new TV series is taking all of the feedback that the movies have gotten over the years and fixing those mistakes. First, Riordan is much more involved in the production of the series, ensuring that the series does not stray as far from the books as the films did. Already visible proof of the TV series staying closer to the books is the core cast’s ages matching that of the books’ characters.This is important because the common idea that “the book was better than the movie” usually comes from how far the adaptation strayed from the source material. 

The biggest difference between the two is the form in which they are being released, one being an episodic series and the other being in movie form. The series will have more time than the movies, so there is room for more topics to be explored, as opposed to the rushed storytelling in the movies. 

The cast is a big point of excitement for fans. Not only are they the correct ages for the characters they are portraying, but many are commending the series for their choice of actors. 

So far, the most popular of the main cast is Walter Scobell, who has been in big movies before and has an off-screen personality that many describe to be similar to that of Percy. Leah Jeffries and Aryan Simhadri, who play Annabeth Chase and Grover Underwood respectively, are not as well known as Scobell yet, but many agree that they both seem to have potential to portray their respective characters due to their off-screen personalities. 

There was some backlash about the casting due to the physical appearances of the cast, especially Jeffries, a young Black actor. 

Author Rick Riordan released a response, explaining that Jeffries is the perfect choice for the role of Annabeth Chase due to her hard work and enthusiasm, and that physical appearance should have nothing to do with the casting choice. Besides the main trio, other well-established cast members include Timothy Odunson, Lance Reddick, and Jason Mantzoukas.

One of the difficulties of adapting books like the Percy Jackson series is that a lot of the content of the books is Percy’s thoughts. When on-screen, the audience cannot read Percy’s mind, so his thoughts have to be put into words. Percy is loveable because of his sarcastic personality, which can often be seen when reading his thoughts. The films did not do great in portraying this side of his personality, but hopefully, with more time and resources, the series will succeed in doing so. 

In the movie “The Adam Project,” Walter Scobell stars alongside Ryan Reynolds. This role got him a lot of popularity because the character he played was sarcastic but likable, similar to Percy Jackson’s personality. The proof that Scobell can already act in a way similar to Percy combined with the fact that Riordan is working closely on the project, things look good in terms of conveying Percy’s personality in the books to the audience of the series.

Throughout the book series, Percy’s character develops from a confused child to a teen.He matures quickly due to the burden of being a powerful demigod, constantly fighting people, monsters, and even gods who see him as an enemy. Rushing an evolution like this does not properly convey the entire journey he undergoes. Many scenes from the books were cut when the movie adaptation came out, and while these scenes may seem unimportant to some, they show the nuances of Percy’s change.

Percy’s change in the books shows an overarching theme not included in the films, but will hopefully be present in the series. In the film, Percy is a teenager, already knows his way around a sword, and learns to control his powers quickly. These are all different in the book series, where the reader is introduced to Percy as a twelve-year-old who, while powerful, is still a child that we see grow up and slowly get used to new things.

One of the most important characters in the books is Ares, the god of war. He makes many appearances and plays an important antagonistic role in the journey that Percy, Annabeth, and Grover embark on. 

One specific scene in the books that was excluded from the film was the fight between Ares and Percy. The action-packed sequence ended with Percy winning the duel against Ares, showing his great power early on in the series, having defeated a god in a fight. 

In the films, Ares was more of a side character. To push an important character like Ares to the side makes the audience unfamiliar with the history of the antagonistic relationship between him and Percy, and takes away many small details that build up Percy’s character. One such detail is that Percy is not afraid to stand up to the gods, and while he may do so in the movies, this scene shows how far he is willing to take it.

However, one of the biggest gripes that audiences have with the movies is the change of motivation for the characters. In the first book, the main drive to go to the underworld and confront Hades is because Percy, Annabeth and Grover are under the impression that Hades is the culprit behind the theft of Zeus’ lightning bolt. 

In the movies, this plot is still used, but his main drive was finding his mother. While both are noble reasons, the change in the core motivation for the group’s journey changes the story entirely, which is not what one should do when adapting a book into a movie. Sticking closer to the source material can be what makes or breaks an adaptation, which is why audiences hope that the Percy Jackson TV series doesn’t stray too far.

The films overall were very rushed. Due to this and the multitude of negative feedback, there were only two movies. So, many lovable characters never made an appearance. People like Nico and Bianca Di Angelo, and all the characters from “The Heroes of Olympus,” the second series following the story of Percy Jackson in the Riordanverse. If the series does well, these fan-favorite characters will be able to finally make their appearance on-screen.

A new remake is long overdue, and as the release date approaches, excitement is growing. Overall, there are a lot of expectations for the new Percy Jackson series, with many hopes depending on the themes and scenes that were excluded from the films. 

Despite critiques of past adaptations of the book series, everyone should try out the new TV series when it comes out on December 20. There are a lot of characteristics of the TV show that point to it being able to live up to expectations

Julia Ray, Northern Arizona University

Writer Profile

Julia Ray

Northern Arizona University
English (Literature)

"Hi! I am currently a freshman studying English at Northern Arizona University, and I love reading and writing in my free time!"

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