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PERCY JACKSON AND THE MYSTERY OF ADAPTATIONS

Updated: Mar 9

So, I recently finished watching the first season of the new Percy Jackson show. Not only that, but I also got to experience the show with my sister, Emma.

It was what I expected it to be. That is to say, throughout the show, Emma kept leaning over to me asking, "Is that how it is in the book?" and I kept responding with a resounding "Nope. In the book, it went like this...."

Which, of course, got me thinking.

WHY?



Why do some adaptations that follow the book almost directly, like Lord of the Rings, work so well, while an adaptation like Last Airbender, which still follows all the main plot beats with many of the "same" moments, fail?

Similarly, why do adaptations that go almost entirely away from the original story, like How to Train Your Dragon, work while another adaptation that still goes almost entirely away from the original story, like the Percy Jackson movies, fails?

 

People say, "If they make it just like the source, it will be good," or "If they are going to make changes, just make a separate story entirely." But above, we see triumphs and failures from both camps.

My conclusion came to me while I was watching the Percy Jackson show. Because while it hit closer to the book than the movie, I believe it wasn't the best adaptation. Why?

 

Because it missed the SPIRIT of the original story.

 

Why was Lord of the Rings so successful while Last Airbender failed? Through painstaking and dedicated love and care, the team behind Lord of the Rings captured the spirit and life of the original stories, while Last Airbender fell flat, failing to bring in any of the charm, character, and depth that the show has.

Similarly, while a completely different story than the books, How to Train Your Dragon still captured the originals' spirit, leaving us with an adventure that people regard with as much respect as the original.

This is where both the movie and the show of Percy Jackson failed.

The books are tales of bravery, adventure, discovery, and myth. The thrill of stepping into a world of heroes and monsters we don't know, with a hilarious protagonist who stumbles around it with us.

While the show does provide some sense of bravery and adventure and does have some solid moments, it fails to deliver the spirit of discovery and mystery.

We who have read the books and the Greek Myths know that a shop called Auntie Em's Garden and Gnome Emporium belongs to Medusa. But the characters walking up to it saying, "This belongs to Medusa," removes the discovery, tension, and thrill of watching the characters piece it together and then use their wits to escape.

 

It misses the original spirit of kids discovering new parts of their world for themselves.

 

And in doing so, it removes any opportunity for the intended audience (kids) to figure it out along with the characters and get that sense of awe and thrill that comes with discovery.

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Yes, I had the same experience watching PJO. I’ve also been thinking about this a lot as I just recently discovered “Howl’s Moving Castle”. I found that I loved both the movie and the book and was able to respect the movie for its differences. It was probably, as you said, because it captured the same spirit of magical discovery, whimsy, and coziness that I loved.

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Howl's moving castle is a really good example about two different stories, yet similar versions respected on equal grounds by the audience. It's one of my favorites 😊

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