Thanks to the success of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone 22 years ago, cinemas experienced a flood of movies based on young adult fiction not unlike the barrage of superhero movies we experience today. While some have been hits, and others not so much, the two Percy Jackson films occupy the somewhat unique overlapping space in the venn diagram of ‘Okay Movies but Terrible Adaptations.’
The Percy Jackson series, however, quickly makes a restoration that had proven somewhat fatal to the films: the age of its primary protagonists. Led by Walter Scobell, Leah Sava Jeffries, and Aryan Simhadri, the actors now better reflect the characters’ ages as they were in the books. Which would seem like an obvious thing, but…
The shift towards accuracy and a more serious undertaking of the books’ tonality is certainly in no small part due to creator Rick Riordan’s involvement in this new adaptation. Riordan, who had previously stated his loss of faith in adaptations, has had a far closer involvement in the Disney+ series, and it very obviously pays off even early on.
While the opening episodes may still fall trap to some of the pacing problems in the early Percy Jackson novels, they’re largely smoothed out by the earnest performances of the cast, and the focus on character interactions
Perhaps its the improved accessibility of better graphics, or the greater respect afforded to the source material, but it seems that the visual demands of the Percy Jackson universe are finally met in this series. From mythic creatures to secret locations, the series goes the extra mild to capture the spirit of the books without getting distracted by the potential for special effects.
What the series does have in common with the movies, however, is the casting of some better known names where possible. From the get go we see the beloved Megan Mullally as the fearsome Fury Alecto along with Glynn Turman as Chiron, who follows the legacy of Pierce Brosnan and Anthony Head from the films. Jason Mantzoukas lends his specific brand of humour to the show as the sobre Dionysus.
Despite the impressive veteran cast, Percy Jackson and the Olympians keeps the focus on the younger cast of characters, allowing them to build towards their larger arcs.
It is, obviously, too early to say how the series will fare given the somewhat uneven track record of the Disney+ Star Wars and Marvel shows thus far. But, perhaps, not being a part of a larger, multimedia brand may just be the secret of success for Percy Jackson and the Olympians!
Percy Jackson and the Olympians debuts on Disney+ on 20th December 2023!