I finally got around to seeing the film version of Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief. I really enjoyed the book. In fact, the whole series was enjoyable to the point where I couldn’t put it down, each book successively more enjoyable than the last. I finished all of the books in about a month. I loved the characters, and the author, Rick Riordan, obviously knew his mythology. If I ever have children, I will share these books with them as they are great introductions to polytheism.
The film version, directed by Chris Columbus (the same director for some Harry Potter films), was kind of a let-down in that it was so different. Sure the basic themes were there:
1) A coming of age story about a kid who discovers he’s the son of Poseidon.
2) Absent parents often leave children feeling insecure.
3) The Gods are still around and influencing our culture.
However, the story was really different. For starters, simple yet important plot elements were never discussed. An unfamiliar audience may not realize that Percy’s sword/pen is supposed to return to his pocket no matter what. It was never explained *why* Olympus was in NY City rather than Greece. Clarrise wasn’t there at all. Neither was Dionysus! Even Grover’s life goal, something incredibly important to later books, was left out.
Grover seemed like a vastly different character. He was my favorite in the books. He was insecure, always hungry, and was very concerned with the environment. He was funny because he was geeky and adorably awkward (for a Satyr). In the movie he was reduced to the wise-cracking side-kick who occasionally “maaa-ed” and ate a can. Although Grover had an eye for the nymphs in the books, he didn’t act like a playboy. I also can’t imagine Grover dancing on state to Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face.”
Which brings me to the major plot change. Ares doesn’t show up *at all*. The half-bloods don’t even go on an official quest given by the oracle – they run away. Chronos has nothing to do with it. The Titans are mentioned ever-so-briefly in a museum but, otherwise, everything gets blamed on poor old Hades. Now, in the books, Hades isn’t exactly the nicest guy, and he does desire a paradigm shift, but he wasn’t made to look like the Christian Satan and he didn’t want a war. In the movie, Hades first appears looking like a molten Chernabog from Disney’s “Fantasia.” WTF?! Hades is *never* described like that in the novels let alone Greek mythology. He later appears in a more human form – albeit dressed like some sort of punk rocker (lol). In the movie, Persephone was with Hades. In fact, they changed the entire plot so that the kids were looking for “Persephone’s pearls” spread all over the US, left for would-be boyfriends to find as a gateway into the Underworld. First of all, this takes place in the spring and summer – Perseophne isn’t supposed to be in Hades then! The pearl thing?! Where did they pull that from?! Why couldn’t they have stuck with the original plot of the book?! Changes like that make me so angry.
Plot aside, it was fun to see the characters brought to life. The satyrs and centaurs looked amazing. But there were so many things missing… I would have liked to see Clarrise. She’s an interesting character, especially later in the series. Annabeth (in the movie) seems to be a combination of her book counterpart and Clarrise, the warlike daughter of Ares. I was *really* looking forward to seeing Dionysus only to be disappointed. He’s so grumpy and (to me) lovable in the books. I was let down by his absence as camp director.
If you haven’t read the books, you may still enjoy the movies (plot holes aside). The children in the audience definitely liked it. My husband heard one exclaim “This is the best movie ever!” Maybe s/he doesn’t get out much? It was entertaining but, if you’re really curious about Percy Jackson, I recommend the books.