How ‘Percy Jackson and the Olympians’ season one by Disney+ compares to ‘Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lighting Thief’ by Rick Riordan

Courtesy of DISNEY/DAVID BUKACH

Warning: Contains spoilers for “Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief” novel and television series

In 2005, author Rick Riordan published a book that would soon spearhead one of the most beloved young adult (YA) series of all time. 

“Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief” follows Percy Jackson (Walker Scobell), a 12-year-old dyslexic and ADHD troublemaker who gets thrown into the world of Greek mythology, one monster after another, until his mom is “killed” by the Minotaur on their way to Camp Half Blood — a sanctuary for demigods.

When he arrives at camp, he finds out that not only are the Greek myths real, but that he is the child of one of the Greek gods — Poseidon, god of the sea — who is forbidden from having children. If that wasn’t a big enough shock, Percy also finds out that Olympus is on the brink of war, and it’s all his fault.

Zeus’ master lightning bolt has been stolen, and now that word’s out that he’s a forbidden child, all fingers are pointing at Percy as the thief. One problem — he didn’t steal it. 

With the help of Annabeth Chase (Leah Jefferies) daughter of Athena, and Grover Underwood (Aryan Simhadri) a satyr, the trio must embark on a quest to Los Angeles, where Hades resides in the Underworld, in efforts to convince him to return the bolt.

But of course, nothing will go as easy as we all hope. The trio must face monsters, gods and the police on their quest to retrieve the  master bolt and save the mortal world from a battle between gods.

The new Disney+ series has some big shoes to fill and some high standards to meet. After the disastrous movie adaptations in 2010 and 2014, both fans and Riordan were hopeful that tv series would bring the books justice. And fortunately, it did.

If you’re a fan of the books, the television series closely mirrors the structure of the books. From chapter to chapter, almost everything vital to the plot and characters is included in the show. Seeing places like The Lotus Hotel and Casino, Camp Half-Blood and the Underworld brought to life was like a dream come true. 

There was a lot of controversy when the casting of the series was released, primarily because none of the actors fit their character descriptions in the novel. With that being a huge issue in the films, fans were looking for redemption in the show — which didn’t happen.

But I think Riordan and the casting directors made the right choice in their casting. Although none of the characters looked how they were originally described, each actor embodied their role perfectly. 

There’s no denying that Walker Scobell was Percy, that Leah Jefferies was Annabeth and that Aryan Simhadri was Grover. Each actor brought all of the right quirks and personality traits to their character. If given the opportunity to choose between a book accurate casting or recasting these actors, I would absolutely keep Scobell, Jefferies and Simhadri. 

But with any child actor, you run the risk of underdeveloped acting — which was unfortunately the case for this season. Lines were delivered poorly, reactions were underwhelming and there were several throw away lines.

But as the season went on, improvements were made. It was like you could see the actors grow, develop and become more comfortable in their roles as the show continued. If the show is renewed for more seasons, this trio is sure to blossom into pros in no time.

The visuals in this movie were absolutely amazing, and after watching the behind the scenes documentary “A Hero’s Journey: The Making of Percy Jackson and the Olympians”, I have a newfound appreciation for how they brought this world to life. 

The scenes of the Underworld and Olympus were so regal in contrasting ways and it was clear that a lot of thought was put into how each realm of the gods would look. From towering buildings in Olympus to Hades’ upside down castle surrounded by sand dunes, nothing was how I originally pictured — it was better.

But unfortunately, every show has its downsides, and when it’s an adaptation, those downsides are always more prevalent because you have something to compare it to.

The biggest two for me was the lack of humor and action in the episodes. 

Percy Jackson was coined as “persassy” in the books due to his attitude and sarcastic sense of humor. This was an important element that just wasn’t included enough in the show. We get some funny quips, like saying Thalia — Zeus’ daughter who was turned into a tree — “met a pinecones fate”, but not nearly enough to really bring Percy’s character to life.

Scobell is almost under utilized in this way. In his role as young Adam in “The Adam Project”, he played a younger Ryan Reynolds and quickly became famous for his humor. And again when a funny parody for a Kraft Mac N Cheese commercial was released by Reynolds. It’s clear Scobell has a gift for comedy, so why limit his humor in the show?

Action was another disappointing factor. 

A demigod fighting monsters like Medusa, the Chimera and even the god Ares (Adam Copeland), is sure to lead to come pretty action-packed moments. But unfortunately, they were short lived and if it wasn’t for the stunning visuals and CGI, they’d be extremely underwhelming.

Some predict the shortness of action scenes is due to the shortness of the episodes (ranging 30-45 minutes), and some predict they’re short because unlike the books, we don’t have a window into Percy’s inner monologue, which is where most of the length came from in the books.

Although these are decent points, I don’t think it justifies the limitations of such a vital part to the Percy Jackson series. Perhaps as the show continues, their budget will grow and they will be able to opt in for longer episodes and longer action sequences.

If you haven’t read the books, or if it’s been a long time since your last read, there may be some instances where you feel you’re missing some information.

There’s several scenes in the show where entire conversations seemed to be skipped over, leaving the audience with more questions than answers. It’s almost as if the scenes were filmed, and then deleted, because the characters will reference the conversations, but the audience never once got to experience them.

If you’ve read the books, you can fill in the gaps yourself, but if you haven’t, you might be grasping at straws, which isn’t a great thing to do to your viewers.

Hopefully, like the action sequences, more will be able to be included as their budgets grow and their time constraints expand.

If you’re an avid fan of the books looking for the television series to be a verbatim copy of the novel, you’re going to be disappointed — I know I was. But after rewatching the episodes over and over, I was able to appreciate them in a new way. 

Although I disagreed with some of the changes — like the entirety of episode five — it’s still a faithful adaptation that brings the world of Percy Jackson to life in a way we haven’t seen before.

In the end, it’s a fun show full of moments from the book we’ve never seen brought to life before, and with the author heavily involved in all elements of the show, it’s near impossible to not like — even if it’s different from your initial expectations.

From capture the flag to Waterland, “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” is a long-awaited adaptation. Whether you’re a die hard fan of the book series, or a first time fan, season one is absolutely worth the watch.

I know myself and fans everywhere are already eager for the announcement of a series renewal, which will follow the second novel: “Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Sea of Monsters”.

The show has stirred up a bit of controversy amongst avid book fans, mostly due to the inconsistencies between the novel and the TV show.

It’s natural for things to be changed when adapting books to go onto the big screen, but after the disaster that was the 2010 and 2013 films, there were high expectations for this adaptation to be extremely faithful to the books.

While the bones of the show are essentially the same as the novel, there were some significant changes and inconsistencies to the show that made some scenes a little difficult to enjoy as an avid Percy Jackson series fan.

The upset for me was the entirety of episode five: “A God Buys Us Cheeseburgers”. Episode five covers chapter 15 of the novel, where Grover, Annabeth and Percy meet Ares, the god of war, at a diner.

Ares tasks the trio with finding his shield, which he left at an abandoned amusement park called WaterLand. The trio enters WaterLand and spots Ares’ shield in the bottom of “Thrill Ride O Love”, an empty funnel-style ride similar to one you may see at Great Wolf Lodge.

But Ares’ shield isn’t the only godly possession there, Aphrodite’s scarf is there as well, both sitting in a little boat. When the trio connects the dots that Ares and Aphrodite were having a secret meet-up, Percy and Annabeth begrudgingly venture into the ride.

But as soon as they grab the items, things go wrong. Water starts to pour into the ride, and with Percy and Annabeth in the boat, they slowly start to rise. Then a net starts to form above them, trapping them inside the ride, and preventing Grover to come help them.

Then, the spiders come. Little animatronic spiders start to spill into the pool, and with Annabeth being absolutely terrified of spiders, all hell breaks loose. The trio is in an absolute panic, trying to figure out how to get out of this pool.

And it gets worse when they realize their entire situation is about to live broadcasted straight to Olympus — courtesy of Hephaestus. 

Eventually they make it out with some help from Percy’s water powers and Grover’s handy flying shoes. 

Well, that’s not even close to what happened in episode five. The bare bones are vaguely similar — they do meet Ares at a diner and he does task them with finding his shield at WaterLand. But in this adaptation. Grover stays behind with the menacing god of war and Annabeth and Percy travel to the park on their own.

They do ride the “Thrill Ride O Love”, although it’s a differently style water-ride that tells the story of Hephaestus’ routine abandonment due to his horrible disfigurement — all to the tune of “What Is Love” by Haddaway.

Eventually the ride lives up to its name with some drops and turns, causing the pair to jump out of their boat just as they spot Ares’ shield. The shield in question is being held by an enormous statue, and at the base is a golden throne.

The pair determine that it’s the same throne that Hephaestusused to trap Hera, his mother, and that one of them must sit in the throne to release the shield. In typically hero fashion, Percy volunteers himself. As he sits in the throne, he is encased in gold until he is trapped in the chair, seemingly forever.

The shield drops to the floor, but Annabeth beelines to the back of the throne, trying to find a way to reverse it. However, she’s interrupted by a male who says it’s impossible to undo. The strange man introduces himself as Hephaestus. Who, despite every myth ever, is not horribly disfigured, burley or scarred. He’s just a small old man.

Annabeth gives a monologue — that’s a little cringy — about how the gods are unfair and only care about glory, and that Percy isn’t like that, so she wants to save him. This monologue convinced Hephaestus to release Percy from his golden-state and send the pair on their way.

The change of this entire subplot took away some vital action and character development to not only our trio, but the gods as well. We lose the dynamic of Ares sleeping with Hephaestus’ wife, Aphrodite, and how Hephaestus tries to expose and embarrass them to the rest of their godly family.

It’s natural to change things when adapting novels for film, but it was not a change for the better.

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