“Look, I Didn’t Want to Be a Half-Blood.” – The Second Chance Percy Jackson Deserves

Nine years after the failure of the film series, a Percy Jackson TV adaptation is on its way to Disney+.


Teaser | Percy Jackson and the Olympians | Disney+

Khadijah Rashid, Staff Writer

On Sept. 10, Disney premiered the first trailer for the upcoming “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” television series. This is over nine years after the release of “Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters,” the second in a film adaptation series that was never continued. Author Rick Riordan’s book series ranks even higher on worldwide bestseller lists than hits like “The Twilight Saga” and “The Hunger Games,” but its films came nowhere near the success of their counterparts. Now, with a whole new cast and crew, Percy Jackson is finally getting a second chance at the silver screen.

Teaser | Percy Jackson and the Olympians | Disney+

The first film, “Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief” had a budget of $95 million. It was directed by Chris Columbus, who also directed the first two “Harry Potter” films and produced the third. Despite this, it grossed $226.4 million worldwide according to Box Office Mojo, much less than predicted based on its budget and comparable films. “The Hunger Games” earned that amount in the United States on only its ninth day, with a budget $17 million smaller.

Source: Box Office Mojo | Graphic by Misbah Kaludi

The “Percy Jackson” films’ deviance from their source material is one of the main reasons that can be attributed to their subpar performance. The authors of “Twilight,” “The Hunger Games” and “Harry Potter” were closely involved in the production of their books’ adaptations. 

In the case of “Percy Jackson,” the author was not part of the crew, and after reading the script for the first film, Riordan sent an email to the producers, part of which said, “The script as a whole is terrible. I don’t simply mean that it deviates from the book, though certainly it does that to point of being almost unrecognizable as the same story. Fans of the books will be angry and disappointed. They will leave the theater in droves and generate horrible word of mouth.”

Riordan went on to say that the altered plot did not work on its own either: “But the bigger problem is that even if you pretend the book doesn’t exist, this script doesn’t work as a story in its own right.”

“Percy Jackson and the Olympians” was one of my favorite series as a kid, and I remember being shocked watching the film for the first time. I understand filmmakers’ need to alter stories when adapting them from book to screen, but what was done with “The Lightning Thief” was appalling. An integral plot twist was changed, and the characters were significantly older than their book counterparts. Core elements of the book were ignored, leaving behind a husk of what could’ve been. It wasn’t epic. It didn’t resonate.

In May 2014, Twitter user @MaiiNieva tweeted at Riordan, “This shows all the changes that they did in the film.” Attached was a photo of a hardcover “The Lightning Thief” filled with dozens of sticky tabs, each marking something in the book that was changed in the film.

That June, @merlinsbeard221 asked Riordan which film of the two was his favorite with a laughing emoji. Riordan responded, “Any one they don’t make is my favorite. :)”

Attached to the stories and curious enough to see where the filmmakers went with the second one, I watched “Sea of Monsters,” which disappointed me more than the first. I don’t know how the series could’ve been saved after the choices that were made. When there was still a possibility of a third film, I searched for details about its development online, not knowing if it’d be worth watching. The third book was my favorite installment in the series, so it’d probably be the biggest letdown.

The second film grossed lower than the first, and with no official public announcement, the series was discontinued. For the next seven years if you got me started, I’d give impassioned speeches on what the world was missing out on for not having a good Percy Jackson screen adaptation. We could’ve had it all. I’d sit around and imagine the rights being sold to a new studio who wouldn’t mess things up, but I didn’t think of it as a real possibility.

Then in May 2020, Riordan announced that a new adaptation was in development, and he is involved with Disney+ “in every aspect of the show.” The author shared this news smiling and excited in an Instagram post as well as the front page of a screenplay. I was happy but skeptical. I didn’t know what to think about it being a television series, not films. Then, this month, the trailer came out, and it was a childhood dream come true.

The trailer features a voiceover of the first paragraph of “The Lightning Thief” book, narrated by actor Walker Scobell as Jackson (a stark contrast from the films which featured nearly no direct quotes from the books). It begins with “Look, I didn’t want to be a half-blood,” a line that has been inspiring fan-designed art and merchandise for years. A suspenseful orchestral track plays as Scobell makes his way through settings that bear such striking resemblance to those described in the book, they brought to mind mental images I haven’t thought of since I was in middle school.

This time Jackson will be 12 years old, as he was in the first book, instead of 16. This will allow the actors to grow alongside their characters through the stories of all five books. Although there is no official release date, the series is predicted to air in 2023. I can barely wait until then to get together with friends and relive “Percy Jackson and the Olympians,” the right way this time.