There are dozens of infamous adaptations. Name a video game movie that doesn’t have the word ‘Pokemon‘ in the title, and it will have infamy tied to its name. The film version of ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender‘ has gone down as one of the worst movies of all time, if not the worst. Adapting a work from one medium into another is an incredibly difficult challenge.
But I have to ask: how the hell do you mess up this badly?
‘Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief‘ is a story that I will remember fondly for years to come. As a kid, it was one of my favorite novels. Now, as an adult, I can look back on it and appreciate how wonderful it is on basically every level!
Which makes remembering the movie adaptation hurt like hell. But we’re talking about something good today, so forget it.
Plot: Mommy’s Boy Goes to Hell
This story is incredibly simple, straight forward, and easy to follow. It’s a traditional Hero’s Journey. Which is exactly what it needs to be, considering the age of the target audience of ten year old kids to teenagers.
Percy Jackson is a normal, struggling kid. His biological father left him when he was a baby, leaving his loving single mother to raise him with his scumbag of a step-father. He struggles to get by in school, where he only has one friend, Grover, and one teacher whom he respects, Chiron.
One day, Percy’s life transforms entirely when he’s attacked by several monsters from ancient Greece. His mother and Grover mysteriously take him to a camp in the woods, where Chiron reveals himself to be a Centaur (though Percy had already sort of seen that). Here, Percy loses his mother, but he makes a few new friends, including the tsundere genius Annabeth Chase and the totally-cool-and-not-at-all-suspicious Luke. Here, the truth is made clear: he is a demigod, a son of a human and a God of Ancient Greece.
Shortly after his arrival, Percy makes a few important discoveries. One: he is the son of the Greek God of the Sea, Poseidon. Two: Zeus’s lightning bolt has been stolen, which threatens to cause a war between the gods, and Percy has been framed as the culprit. And three: Percy’s mother can be saved if he saves Olympus. So, with Grover and Annabeth in tow, Percy goes on a quest to the Underworld to save his mother, the world, and become a hero.
It is a perfectly paced plot. Every scene develops the story and characters wonderfully. Each event flows into the next nicely, even if the monsters within them are completely separate from one another.
Better yet, the setting is beautifully defined! Each monster is put into the modern setting in an incredibly interesting, and often hilarious, way! Medusa runs a statue shop, for god’s sake! Each confrontation is completely different from the last, and they are some of the most creative, intriguing and engaging scenes in modern children’s fantasy!
And of course: the characters. Each one, Greek God or not, is three-dimensional, incredibly well fleshed out, and unique from one-another. They each bring something to the table, and they are all incredibly important to the plot. Those who do develop do so perfectly, both internally and with those around them. Watching Percy and Annabeth slowly grow closer is an absolute treat! Luke’s heel turn (spoilers for an eight year old book, I guess) is foreshadowed masterfully. I love every single character, whether they be hero, villain, or general dickhead.
The ladder-most fits pretty well into either of the former two.
Voice: The World’s Most Witty Twelve Year Old
Rick Riordan has a perfect understanding of a kid’s mind. As such, the story is perfectly told from the perspective of Percy himself. It gives the story an immature but charming telling to it. This does a few great things. For one, it makes the story far more accessible, and the protagonist more relatable, to the target audience. Two, it strengthens the light hearted tone of the story, which makes the darker, more serious moments hit with that much more weight. Telling this story from Percy’s perspective was an ingenious move in all ways.
He just keeps going! You’d think that writing the story from the perspective of a near-teenage boy would mean that Riordan could skimp on the details. But he was determined not to take the easy way out. So, even with the chosen perspective, Riordan took extreme care to paint a clear picture of the setting, characters, and everything that happened to and around them. All while putting it in a way that an actual kid would put it.
Simply put: Riordan convinced me that I was actually reading a young boy’s account of a grand adventure. That was the most important thing to do in order to make the story work. And Riordan knocked the ball so high that it leapt Olympus!
After reading this book again, I have to wonder how the hell adapting it has been so hard! It is an incredibly simple, and perfectly executed, story for young readers! If you try more than ‘not at all’, then you should be able to make a great kids movie out of it!
God, I’d love to see the day we could get a good movie version. But we likely never will. Luckily, we’ve still got the books to read! And we can still tell them to our kids, if we want an excuse to read them again as adults!
Luckily, I don’t care about looking like a man-child. Honestly, this blog probably wouldn’t exist if I did.
If you’re looking for a fun fantasy adventure, I’d highly recommend reading ‘Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief‘. Whether you’re reading it for the first time or the seventh, it is still a total blast from the first page to the last! This was one of my favorite books as a kid, and it still is as a grown man!
Well… I say grown… And man…