Percy Jackson and the Olympians (Disney’s Version)
Though there have been past attempts to bring the mythological world of Percy Jackson to the screen, Disney’s new series may just be the best so far.
It is no small secret that those who loved the Percy Jackson series gave up hope long ago for a live action adaptation that would do justice to the original book series.. After the travesty of the 2010 adaptation, expectations were understandably low. The only silver lining for this newest version on Disney+ is that the author of the original book series Rick Riordan, who openly condemned the first adaptation, was actually involved this time. Which has clearly made a world of difference.
The story of Percy Jackson follows a twelve year old boy whose life rapidly begins to change after he learns he’s the son of a Greek God. Though he doesn’t immediately find out who his mythological father is, he has no choice but to become immersed into a world of monsters and immortals.
The show succeeds at introducing not only the main character Percy, but also the nuances of the world he will inevitably become a part of. The first episode titled “I Accidentally Vaporized My Math Teacher” (also the title of the first chapter in the book) does start out pretty heavy on the narration. However, as the story progresses the writers do a better job at showing us who these characters are and how they fit into their world rather than telling us.
Perhaps the best example of this so far happens in the first episode when Percy’s math teacher Mrs. Dodds unexpectedly morphs into a fury from the Underworld. The scene is done incredibly well and serves as an exciting first glimpse into whats to come. Staying true to the source material, none of the other students seem to notice that Percy manages to defeat the monster with a magical pen that turns into a sword.
The inclusion of these details, like the fact that none of Percy’s classmates can even see the exchange or remember the teacher, is what gives me hope that this live action version has learned from its predecessor. This aspect of the story specifically plays a huge role throughout the rest of the series because it introduces the concept of “The Mist”. A mythological plot device that explains why mortals can’t see any magical creatures or happenings.
The character of Percy Jackson, played by Walker Scobell, has also been improved a great deal in this adaptation. A chief complaint of the former adaption was the decision to age up the cast. Doing this took away a great deal of what made the original story so compelling. By keeping the main character, and subsequently all the secondary characters, true to the ages they were in the books not only makes their choices throughout the story more believable, but also more compelling.
Much of what Percy goes through during the series is informed and effected by the fact that he is so young. Facing the major gods and goddesses of Olympus with the fate of the world hanging in the balance is one thing when you’re almost an adult, and something else entirely when you’re only 12.
Walker Scobell gives an excellent performance as Percy. He comes off just as genuine and endearing as his fictional counterpart in the books. Despite the show having a bit of a darker tone than the books. This shift is somewhat off putting since Riordan’s humor is one the most defining characteristics of the series. However, making the tone slightly more intense does do a lot for getting across the gravity of everything that is at stake for our heroes.
The show does seem somewhat divided between trying to appeal to new viewers, while also attempting to earn the trust of those previously disappointed by the 2010 adaptation. Although this adaptation has surpassed my expectations so far, it may still prove to be somewhat of an uphill battle for Disney. As a show targeted toward the middle school demographic, “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” works quite well. Its fun, exciting, and has just the right amount of engaging, dramatic moments. But as for being a success to those fans still hoping for that *perfect* Percy Jackson adaptation? It’s still too soon to tell.
(And no, Annabeth still isn’t blonde but that’s okay