With the series premiere of the new Percy Jackson series approaching on Disney+, the internet is buzzing with anticipation. After the first disastrous adaptations, Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (2010) and Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters (2013), fans have simultaneously held their breath for a new adaptation while praying a bad one never happens again. Even Rick Riordan, beloved creator of the franchise known as Uncle Rick to his very interactive following, gave up on the idea of ever walking down that path again. But in the world of demigods and gods, impossible is nothing and the hero must eventually venture into danger to save the world.
In this case, our hero was Rick and the danger was another adaptation. After Disney acquired Fox in 2019, the question of whether they would do something with the Percy Jackson rights bubbled up. Riordan was hesitant, but decided if the series was going to be made, he might as well try to see that it was done right. He pitched Disney in late 2019, and a few months later the project was in the works.
Here are three things we want to see from the new adaptation of the Percy Jackson series, which debuts one month from today.
1. More Books, Less Movies
It’s rare when almost an entire fandom agrees on something. But in this case, it'ss pretty easy: Make the series more like the books and less like the movies. Even Rick Riordan was less than thrilled with how the movies turned out and went into detail about that experience ten years after the premiere on his blog. It says a lot when the author publicly admits to never seeing the films, and even went so far as to politely request teachers stop showing them in their classrooms.
It might seem like a case of the author simply not liking the commercialization of their art, but Riordan knows his audience. With an audience score of 53% and a critic rating of 48% on Rotten Tomatoes, Riordan turned out to be the Oracle of Delphi because the movie was a splat. The second movie didn’t fare any better, and of the planned five-film franchise, only the first two were ever made.
Even though the series is clearly aimed at the younger book audience, we hope that the battle and fight scenes aren’t quite as polished as the movies made them. We don’t need to see excessive blood and gore, but Percy, Annabeth, and Grover face dangerous and deadly obstacles and one thing many fans have commented is those scenes should feel real. The movies wanted the shinier, sexier appeal, leading to the characters emerging from fights with barely a scrape.
But none of that seems to be happening here. Everything we’ve seen so far is incredibly promising, including Riordan’s tease that any subsequent seasons would follow the rest of the books in order (especially considering that the second Percy Jackson film somehow managed to merge the second and five books, leaving many viewers—both fans and newbies–hopelessly confused on character development and plot). If the series stays true to the books, and we have every reason to believe it will, this version will be well-worth the developmental dollars Disney is rumored to be spending.
2. More Input From Uncle Rick
If you’re worried about how this new series might compare to the movies and haven’t been on social media much in the last few years, you’ll be relieved that Riordan himself is very involved in this adaptation. He’s on board as an executive producer and writer, ensuring that none of the creative liberties the film studios took happen again.
The first and most important element is the casting. While we love Logan Lerman, one of the disappointing aspects of the movie was how old Percy was. Readers of the series wanted a younger Percy, not just because that’s how he’s written in the book, but elements of the prophecy were tied to his age. A 12-year-old thinks and acts much differently than a 16-year-old. Every decision and small action that Percy makes in the books comes across differently through an older lens.
To fit this older cast of characters, the movies drastically changed a lot of elements in the plot. With Riordan in the writing room and with the benefit of the longer run-time of a series, fans will be relieved to know the storyline should follow the book plot a lot closer this time around.
Disney is also embracing Riordan’s original advice to play the long game for building a solid television franchise. The main trio are relative newcomers to Hollywood, allowing them to grow with the success of the series. And they are perfect as far as the characters go. Walker Scobell is set to play Percy Jackson, Leah Sava Jeffries is Annabeth Chase, and Aryan Simhadri as Grover Underwood. But even young half-bloods need guidance, which is where the more-experienced talent like Lance Riddick (Zeus), Toby Stephens (Poseidon), and Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hermes) will help steer the show in the right direction.
We know that there have been a few changes to the storyline. Changes are always necessary when making an adaptation, and Riordan acknowledged as much in his emails to movie producers back in 2010. We don’t know exactly what plot points or elements are different, but because Riordan is such an integral part of the production process, we have faith that the spirit of the books will be respected and upheld no matter what details had to be changed.
3. Attention to Detail
One element that the teaser trailer made clear was not only that the show would be more faithful to the story, but would be appealing to viewers who had never read the books. Anyone who watches the trailer should walk away with a decent understanding of what to expect, but there are subtle nods to details that every Percy Jackson fan will scream over.
The first is the use of “Riptide” by Vance Joy. The song fits the more serious undertones of Percy’s world being upturned and subsequently sent on a quest, but it’s also the name of the sword that we get a glimpse of at the very end of the trailer. These are the details the fandom wanted to see in the movie and should be ecstatic to see now.
We see a touch of Grover’s humor, a hint at Annabeth and Percy’s blossoming relationship, and several heart stopping moments that our hero must overcome. And then there’s the slivers of Zeus, Poseidon, and Chiron.
Given how long fans have waited for a faithful adaptation, and how incredible the show looks so far, on top of the glowing support Uncle Rick has shown on social media and his blog, we are counting down the days until the series premiere.
The first two episodes of Percy Jackson and The Olympians will be available December 20 on Disney+ with new episodes released weekly.