So, I know I’m like 10 years behind on this series, but I just binge listened to the first five books this weekend and wanted to get this comparison up. I did take my own notes when reading and watching, but I saw that several of the things I picked up on mirrored The Dom’s Lost in Adaptation Review that I watched a couple months ago. If you want to check that out, you can here:
Although we had some similar thoughts, I’m still going to go through my thoughts. Since this will be a longer post, here are the various sections in case you just want to skip to one:
- Mini Book Review
- Review of the film as a film (NOT an adaptation)
- Comparison of the two
- My preference
**Disclaimer: To accurately discuss the similarities and differences between the two, several plot points from all aspects of the books will be discussed. Consider this your spoiler warning.**
Mini Book Review:
Percy Jackson is a good kid, but he can’t seem to focus on his schoolwork or control his temper. And lately, being away at boarding school is only getting worse—Percy could have sworn his pre-algebra teacher turned into a monster and tried to kill him. When Percy’s mom finds out, she knows it’s time that he knew the truth about where he came from, and that he go to the one place he’ll be safe. She sends Percy to Camp Half Blood, a summer camp for demigods on Long Island, where he learns that the father he never knew is Poseidon, God of the Sea. Soon a mystery unfolds and together with his friends—one a satyr and the other the demigod daughter of Athena—Percy sets out on a quest across the United States to reach the gates of the Underworld (located in a recording studio in Hollywood) and prevent a catastrophic war between the gods.
I get it. I get what all the hype was about. This book was so much fun, oh my gosh. I’m just mad I didn’t read these books back in the day. I would have adored them more than I do now, and I’m obsessed. These books are an amazing way to introduce younger readers to Greek Myths. This first book wasn’t afraid to teach younger readers and didn’t assume they were stupid. Also, Percy’s half blood status manifested in Dyslexia and ADHD, which is actually great for readers that do have these daily struggles. Reading about a great hero like Percy is a great way for younger readers to have a role model that is able to overcome these and prevail. I’m probably going to do a full review on this one because of how much I loved this book. It was an easy 5 Stars.
These books are an amazing way to introduce younger readers to Greek Myths. This first book wasn’t afraid to teach younger readers and didn’t assume they were too stupid to understand complex themes or myths. Watching how Riordan modernized several classic moments in Greek mythology was amazing and the fact that he did not have Percy fall into the standard tropes was so refreshing. Also, can we just talk about how he didn’t stereotype based off of gender? The daughters of Ares were badass and having Annabeth be a strong heroine was just amazing to see in a Middle Grade.
Having Percy’s half blood status manifested in Dyslexia and ADHD, was great for readers that do have these daily struggles. Reading about a great hero like Percy is a great way for younger readers to have a role model that is able to overcome these and prevail. I can continue to gush about this book for a while, but I’m going to move on to the movie review.
This book was an easy 5 Stars.
This movie was a PG version of the Clash of the Titans remake. What I mean by that is the film makers completely misunderstood the source material that the films were based on. Both movies decided to replace accuracy with bad jokes and beautiful people. The problem with this is that the source material has good jokes and less beautiful people, but for good reason, and messing with that just created several plot holes and a lack luster movie. I did watch this movie when it first came out before reading the books and was so offended on behalf of every Greek god. If I wasn’t such a nerd about Greek mythology, I may be able to let the movie be as a harmless fantasy, but as such a lover of Greek mythology, I can’t forgive some of the errors.
Book vs. Movie Comparison:
So this is when I encourage you to watch The Dom’s video. Like I said before, several notes I had showed up in his review. There are some things I’m going to repeat, but I will try to focus on details that he left out.
Probably the biggest thing that bugged me about this adaptation was the complete disregard for Greek mythology. Here is just a small list of the things they got wrong (that REALLY bugged me):
- Medusa is not a pretty woman with snakes for hair. She is a grotesque beast with snakes for hair. Her myth is completely based around this.
- Even in Riordan’s book, the modernized version was a grandmother-like character that wore a veil over her face. Percy thinks she might have been a Middle-Eastern woman. This works for updating her appearance, NOT a beautiful woman with sunglasses and a head wrap.
- Hades (the god) is the god of the Underworld, but he is NOT Satan or evil
- Hades (the place) is the Underworld, but is not “Hell”
- Cerberus is the guard of the Underworld, not just hell hounds. Where was he?!
- Like The Dom said, that better have been the River Styx…
- Persephone should not be in the underworld in June. Her entire myth is about this.
- For those not familiar, Hades kidnapped Persephone and her mom Demeter (goddess of the harvest) was so depressed everything wilted. She strikes a deal with Hades and Persephone can come home for three months during the year. This is how we have the seasons. Winter is when Demeter is depressed and summer is when she’s with Persephone, etc.
Okay, you get the point. The worst part is, some of these errors are turned into major plot points in the movie (i. e. the Hades stuff). Normally I’m okay with some changes. I get it, not everything from the book can be translated into the movie. This movie took the premise of the book, but it in a blender, took out some random parts and made their own movie. While this adaptation technique isn’t necessarily bad, it is in this case because they did not make a better plot.
They did keep the first 20 minutes of the film the same of the book. The problem is that they rushed it SO MUCH. Because of this, a good chunk of the set up was lost. In the book, after seeing Miss Dodds transform into a Fury, everyone acts like she was never a teacher there and that Percy made her up. This is not only a clever demonstration of how the Mist works but is explained as a defense mechanism in the book. If Percy genuinely writes this off as a dream, he would not have to go to Camp Half Blood, at least not yet. Rushing it in the movie ruins it. We also lost a visit from the Fates cutting a string and more set up for his dysfunctional (mortal) family. Also, it was here that we learn that they are completely leaving out the Mist as a concept. The Mist is a magic that prevents mortals from seeing all the fun godlike stuff going on and is why no one remembers Miss Dodds.
Oh and the biggest this they left out of this first 20 minutes is that Mr. Brunner is not only Percy’s Latin teacher (unsure what he teaches in the movie) and protector, but he knows (well suspects) that Percy is a half blood and takes time to teach the class (and Percy) Greek mythology. There’s a huge part of the first couple chapters that focus on the fact that while Percy is usually cut some slack because of his dyslexia and ADHD, Mr. Brunner was toughest on Percy about know this Greek and Roman myths. This comes into play later in the story because he’s living in a Greek myth. Having Percy completely oblivious to the Greek myths in this movie now makes no sense. In the book, he was mentioned random facts related to Greek mythos such as he can understand horses because Posiedion made them or realizing the Auntie Em/Auntie “M” reference (more about that later).
One thing I really hate about the movie plot is that it’s something we’ve seen done hundreds of time before. Hero has to go on a quest, get things to help with the quest, fight the final boss, win, live happily ever after. Boom. Done. The book’s plot was reminiscent of true Greek myths like Perseus and Odysseus. I’ll get into this more in a second, but first some issues with Camp Half Blood.
First, the cabins. In the book, new campers get assigned to cabins based off of who their parents are, however, few students are claimed by their parents. Unknowns are put in Hermes’ cabin since Hermes is the god of travelers. While here, Percy befriends Luke, kind of a major player in the rest of the book. On his way to the “Unknown” cabin, Percy passes the other ones, including ones for Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Hades, and Artemis, which are alway empty. It is here we learn that the “Big Three,” Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades made a pact to not have any offspring after World War II since Zeus and Poseidon’s offspring were fighting Hades offspring which lead to several events in the war. In the movie, Percy is just brought to the Poseidon cabin and is told out right that he is Poseidon’s son. This is kind of a big reveal like halfway through the book and is a MAJOR plot point in the rest of the series. Percy doesn’t learn he’s Poseidon’s son until after capture the flag and defeating a hellhound. Poseidon’s trident appears over Percy’s head when he claims him and admits that he broke the pact. This is why Percy takes the quest because Chiron believes Hades took the lightning bolt, but Zeus thinks Percy did because he’s a forbidden heir.
Also in the movie, the Big Three rule is gone and exchanged for a “gods cannot interact with their children” rule that the parents cheat by telepathically communicating with their kids. While this could have actually worked in the movie, it was just executed poorly. The voiceovers could have replaced Percy’s dreams, but instead just acted as poor exposition or as a means to advance the plot.
Like other Greek myths, Percy happens to stumble upon Medusa, Echidna and her pet Chimera, Ares, Magical Animals, The Lotus-Eaters, Procrustes, Charon, and Cerberus on his quest to the Underworld. The movie changes this to three specific locations to get pearls before going to the Underworld. Changing it not only made encountering a monster or threat more predictable, but it took the fun out of a Greek myth story.
One plot hole this developed was that because they stumble upon the locations, they don’t have time to think about them or make plans. For example, in the movie, the first place they need to go to is “Aunty Em’s Garden Gnome Emporium.” You really expect me to believe that NO ONE put together “Aunty Em” and statues on the entire bus ride there? Really? When they stumble onto the shop in the book, it makes sense that it takes them a while to put it together. Also, after knowing that each location has some myth related obstacle, why are they not Googling the locations for any Greek myth parallels? They could have completely avoided the threat of the Lotus-Eaters if they did this. One change I did like was actually having them eat “Lotus Cakes,” mirroring the fruit mentioned in the Odyssey. This was one of the few additions I actually liked.
Rick Riordan has an amazing way modernizing famous mythological characters or items and this movie does a stellar job botching up these modernizations. For example, we don’t have the modern appearances of the gods (kind of a big deal in the book that Zeus and Hades were the only two that looked “godlike”) or Athena’s helmet as a magical Yankees hat that Annabeth uses a bunch. Also, the mention of ambrosia and nectar or Percy’s dreams were eliminated completely. For those not up to date on their greek myths, ambrosia and nectar are the food and drink of the gods and they play a large role in the series.
I can go on about minor differences or how I hated that the writers changed the plot to a cliché instead of something reminiscent of Greek mythology, but I’m not going to. You guys probably get the point by now. Honestly, if you like this movie, more power to you, but this movie did my biggest pet peeve: making a movie about Greek mythology but getting the myths wrong. That’s probably why I disliked it as much as I did.
This one goes to the book, hands down. The book was such a creative and fun way to introduce younger readers to Greek mythology and older readers will adore the parallels. This is a story like Harry Potter, intended for younger readers, but fun for all ages. The movie, on the other hand, was a watered down version of better movies based on Greek myths. While harmless, this movie clearly doesn’t understand Greek mythology and should never be used as a reference for anyone wanted to learn more.
I hope you guys enjoyed this Book to Screen adaptation review.
If you want to see one for Sea of Monsters, be sure to let me know in the comments!
Also if you have any suggestions for Book to Screen adaptation reviews, be sure to let me know below!