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“Percy Jackson and the Olympians Review: TV Series Corrects the Mistakes of the Films”

“Rick Riordan’s Beloved Books Receive the Lavish TV Adaptation They Deserve: A Smart Series Allowing Its Preteen Protagonist to Truly Embrace Being a Preteen”

The Hollywood landscape has shifted from the YA boom of the past to an era of second chances for YA adaptations.

In the late 2000s and early 2010s, the market was flooded with lackluster young-adult adaptations, as studios raced to replicate the success of franchises like Twilight and Harry Potter. However, for every blockbuster hit, there were several disappointments, such as Eragon or The Golden Compass—expensive fantasy films that failed to resonate with audiences or capture the essence of their source material. These adaptations often left both general viewers and die-hard fans disillusioned, as they fell short of expectations set by the beloved books. (If you’re curious, just ask a Christopher Paolini fan about their thoughts on the Eragon movie—they’ll likely have quite a lot to say.)

In recent years, several ill-fated adaptations have been given a second chance, thanks to the resurgence of interest in streaming services and their constant need for new content. Many of these adaptations have been reimagined as live-action TV series rather than feature films. For example, the His Dark Materials TV show, which concluded last year, was a significant improvement over the 2007 Golden Compass film. Additionally, Disney+ is reportedly developing a live-action Eragon series in hopes of redeeming the franchise after the disappointing 2006 movie. Even Avatar: The Last Airbender is receiving another opportunity, with a live-action show set to premiere on Netflix in 2024. Fans are hopeful that this new adaptation will make amends for the shortcomings of the infamous 2010 M. Night Shyamalan version.

It seems inevitable that the cyclical nature of the content machine would eventually turn its attention to Percy Jackson and the Olympians. Rick Riordan’s middle-grade novels captivated readers when they were first published in 2005, following the journey of 12-year-old hero Percy as he discovers his divine heritage as the son of a Greek god. However, the 2010 film adaptation and its 2013 sequel failed to leave a lasting impact, despite Logan Lerman’s charming lead performance. Many creative decisions, such as omitting significant sequences from the books and aging Percy up to 16, angered diehard fans. Riordan himself refuses to watch the movies, likening it to witnessing “my life’s work going through a meat grinder.”

Now, Percy Jackson is getting another chance to shine, this time with a lavish TV series premiering on Disney+ on December 20th. The eight-episode show aims to correct the missteps of the films, and the result is a delightful adventure that fans have eagerly awaited.

WALKER SCOBELL - PERCY JACKSON & THE OLYMPIANS

In The Adam Project star Walker Scobell assumes the role of Percy, a 12-year-old outsider contending with dyslexia and ADHD, often losing himself in daydreams populated by mythological beings. However, when Percy is ambushed by a winged creature disguised as his pre-algebra teacher (Megan Mullally), he realizes that his fantasies are rooted in reality. Suddenly thrust into a world of minotaurs, satyrs, and destiny, Percy finds himself at Camp Half-Blood, a refuge for half-human offspring. There, he learns the startling truth: he is a demigod, the offspring of an unrevealed Greek deity. To compound matters, he stands accused of pilfering Zeus’s potent lightning bolt. Determined to clear his name, Percy, alongside allies like the hooved forest spirit Grover (Aryan Simhadri) and Athena’s warrior daughter Annabeth (Leah Sava Jeffries), embarks on a perilous quest, journeying across the nation and confronting a myriad of mythical adversaries.

With Riordan himself involved in scripting and producing, it’s no surprise that Percy Jackson delivers a faithful adaptation of the beloved books. The series reintroduces fan-favorite sequences omitted from the films, such as a thrilling action sequence where Percy confronts a monster atop the Gateway Arch. (As a St. Louis native, this writer commends the production design team for faithfully recreating the Arch’s elevators and observation deck.) Clocking in at around 40 minutes per episode, the show takes its time exploring the joys and challenges of being a demigod, as well as the universal struggles of adolescence. A standout scene occurs at Camp Half-Blood, where young demigods engage in a magical version of Capture the Flag. Here, Percy learns that words can be as cutting as swords, adding depth to his character development.

The series demonstrates intelligence by allowing its preteen protagonist to authentically embody the essence of being a preteen. Unlike the films, which aged up Percy and his companions to their late teens and early 20s, Percy Jackson remains true to Rick Riordan’s original vision, where the 12-year-old hero genuinely behaves like a 12-year-old. Walker Scobell infuses the role with a wide-eyed charisma, deftly balancing Percy’s sense of responsibility with his penchant for witty banter. Together, Percy, Annabeth, and Grover form a compelling trio, their chemistry crackling on screen. Aryan Simhadri portrays Grover with warmth and loyalty, while Leah Sava Jeffries’ Annabeth is depicted as a hardened warrior, wielding her sword with determination as she pursues her own quest for glory.

With its delightful lead cast, Percy Jackson appears poised to become the next breakout YA sensation. The series stands out in the current TV landscape, where many shows tend to skew grittier and focus on older teens, such as Stranger Things. Percy Jackson offers a refreshing, old-fashioned adventure quality with its road trip plot, as Percy and his friends encounter minotaurs, furies, and legendary Greek myths cleverly transplanted into a modern American setting.

Yet perhaps Percy Jackson’s greatest achievement lies in its ability to elevate Percy’s coming-of-age journey to epic proportions, mirroring the grandeur of the legends from Mount Olympus. Emotional conversations between Percy and Annabeth about living up to their parents’ legacies are given the same weight as grand fight scenes atop American landmarks. The result is a triumphant adaptation that finally does justice to Riordan’s beloved books—proof that even demigods deserve a second chance.

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