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“Percy Jackson” Review: new Disney+ series does disservice to original books 

“Percy Jackson” Review: new Disney+ series does disservice to original books 
Evie Wada

Among the legendary series of children’s and young adult literature, such as J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” and Suzanne Collins’ “The Hunger Games,” lies one of the most influential book franchises to ever grace the minds of young readers. Author Rick Riordan’s “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” series has been making waves since the first book “Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief” made its debut in 2005, engaging readers with action-packed adventure and witty humor. The series follows Percy Jackson, son of Poseidon, navigating life as a demi-god and the adventures he embarks on. To those who have never read the books, they may seem like just another children’s fantasy series. But Riordan’s work leaves a lasting impression on the generations of readers that grew up immersed in all the magical adventures the books had to offer. 

Which is exactly why the introduction of a new Disney+ series had me thinking the worst. How can anybody properly visually portray the perfection of Riordan’s captivating storytelling?

Disney+ premiered the first two episodes of “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” starring Walker Scobell on Dec. 19, garnering lots of excitement from fans of the books, who were understandably thrilled to dive into a visual experience of the series they’ve come to know and love. The only problem with this is the fact that it’s happened before. In 2010, the “Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief” movie starring Logan Lerman was released, instantly disappointing fans everywhere. The significant changes made to actor appearances and plotline left gaping holes in the hearts of nostalgic fans, mine included. Upon the announcement of this new television series, the eyes and ears of millions of passionate fans tuned in, thirsting for a greater portrayal of Riordan’s magical work. 

There are a few notable things about the new series that provide for an excellent viewing experience. 

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For one, the representation of different mythical settings from the books, like Camp Half-Blood and Mount Olympus, are beautiful and invoke feelings of awe. To see these places that have only been defined by Riordan’s written word executed well on-screen is surreal.

The show also made remarkable choices with casting. Actors Leah Jeffries and Aryan Simhadri play Percy’s companions Annabeth Chase and Grover Underwood alongside Scobell as the three main characters. While these picks deviate from the original physical descriptions of the characters, the actors excel in accurately embodying the personalities of the characters and portraying on-screen chemistry between the three. It’s far more important to have an actor who can capture the essence of a character rather than someone who looks physically similar, which is why the casting decisions made for this series go so far in terms of quality acting rather than simply creating a visually gratifying adaptation.  

Even Riordan’s infectious humor that was evident in the books is translated well into the show’s dialogue and character interactions.

However, there are fundamental issues with this new Disney+ series that cannot be disguised by impressive visual elements, great casting or engaging humor. 

Season one of the show is intended to follow the events of the first book of the series, however, the show strays away from the book’s plotline on multiple occasions for no good reason whatsoever, which ultimately ruins the greatest aspect of Percy Jackson’s adventure. My biggest gripe with the show is that each episode felt extremely rushed, which caused the storyline to only skim the events of the book or deviate from them completely, avoiding a far more in depth depiction of the original plot. 

For example, in the first book, the three main characters travel to the Lotus Hotel and Casino to briefly rest from their journey, which turns out to be a trap. The obstacle of this part of the book is the fact that everyone inside the hotel loses any concept of time, a modern take on Greek mythology specifically based off of the Lotus Eaters in Homer’s “Odyssey.” While guests may feel like they’re only spending an hour or two inside, days can pass. Percy, Annabeth and Grover unknowingly waste away multiple valuable days of their journey while enjoying the amenities the hotel has to offer. In the show, the three characters are already aware of the trap that awaits them inside before even entering the hotel and don’t have to find out the hard way. This happens on multiple occasions throughout the show, skipping over the young characters facing any sort of significant adversity.

These characters are seemingly not allowed to experience challenges and problem solve for themselves as they do in the books. The 12 year olds somehow have the answer to every obstacle standing in their way, which detracts from the whole “Hero’s Journey” of it all.  It may sound like an insignificant issue, but having characters face unexpected challenges and have to overcome them in the moment is a very basic principle to any good storyline. 

In general, the show struck a lot of crucial plot points from the script or warped them so much that they ruin the structure of the story. 

It seems that the major faults of the series is rooted in the fact that there are too few episodes with only a 20-30 minute length per episode. “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” is backing itself into a corner with the very short amount of time the show’s creators are giving themselves to capture the book to their best ability. The significant alterations to the plotline that ultimately leaves the show surface-level is likely compensation for the very short window of time each episode is given, crunching in as much crucial information as possible. The series could definitely benefit from a longer time allotment to go into deeper detail and highlight the brilliance of Riordan’s original writing. 

While Disney+’s “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” provides a visually enchanting representation of the first book and doesn’t fall short of humor and charm, the series fails to execute the rudimentary aspects of the story that define it as the iconic tale we know and love. 


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About the Contributors
Tess Arendt
Tess Arendt, Features Editor
Tess is a staff writer for the Stargazer. She is a Sophomore and serving as this year's Features Editor, this is her second year on staff. Tess engages in student journalism because she enjoys writing and keeping her peers informed.
Evie Wada
Evie Wada, Media Team
Evie Wada is a staff artist for the Stargazer. She is a Freshman and this is her first year on staff.

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