Percy Jackson and The Unexpected Reboot

*Editor’s Note: Paul is on vacation this week, and fairly disconnected from the world, so hopefully this quench your thirst for World’s Best Articles.

I’m about a month late on this, but largely because I don’t know how many people who weren’t looking for this news would have found it, so my hope is that it’s still fresh or brand new to many of you.

I’m a big Percy Jackson fan, I read the entire “Percy Jackson and The Olympians” series after seeing the first movie. Then I saw the second movie, and I was fuming. Imagine if Voldemort had returned and had his big showdown with Harry in the third book instead of the seventh, basically that was how the second movie was. Fans of the movies, between the undercutting that the second film did and no rumors of a third movie, thought the series was done on film. It sucked, because some of the best stuff was yet to come, and it never came.

Uh Oh Annabeth, I don’t think we’re getting a third film!

Well, as I’ve said on here a few times before, I have a four-year-old, and so I’m always looking for new entertainment, and when the first movie, “Percy Jackson and The Lightning Thief” was added to Disney +, I decided to show it to him. It was a little more intense than I remembered, but my son can handle it. After watching it he was obsessed, and asked me all about it, I could remember some of the details on my own, and some I had to look up, and when I looked it up, I found out that Rick Riordan (the author of the books) had announced that they were going to be making a Disney + show, and expressed his own disappointment with the films. He basically said that he hadn’t seen the films but had read the scripts and described the process as seeing his life’s work “put through a meat grinder.”

It sounds like Rick Riordan will have a considerable amount of control in the show, I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. Rick being the creator of the books implies that there will be a certain level of faithfulness to the books that the films lacked, and I think they do need to follow the structure closer in order to allow the full story to play out properly. My worry, is over faithfulness. Let’s use the Star Wars Prequel trilogy as an example. George Lucas had full control, and that meant that clunky dialogue and bad acting went unchecked, a trilogy that I would argue with better dialogue and acting may have been the best in the series, was somewhat squandered. In addition to the prequels, in between Episodes I and II, we started into the Harry Potter film adaptations, and while I really like the Harry Potter films, they did one thing for the film industry that I’m not sure was a good thing; they made fans want as faithful and literal of a film translation as possible to source material. There was no more ‘spirit’ of the concept in adaptations, and if you got the wrong color cat for a scene, fans would go nuts (looking at you Hunger Games fans).

“…it’s my life’s work going through a meat grinder…”

With something that as specific of a story as the Percy Jackson series has, I want faithfulness in structure, and spirit, but I don’t want them to try to recreate dialogue from the book verbatim, unless it works, or is important (i.e. prophecies and things like that). I hope Riordan realizes that a show isn’t a book, and is able to adapt for that audience. I don’t know if he can or cannot, because his only IMDb credits are Percy Jackson related, and he had minimal control on the films. He could be great, and he could be awful.

Personally, I’m excited that there will be a new Percy Jackson series, and if it’s good, I hope they go through the sequel series “Heroes of Olympus,” which follows some of the characters in the Percy Jackson series, along with some Roman demigods. That’s kind of the cool thing about this series, if it’s adapted well, there are a ton of possibilities to keep going, or for spin-offs.

In the mean time, if you’re not familiar with the series, you have at least a year to read the first book before the show starts in 2021, and I would highly recommend the book series.

How To Treat Source Material by Guest Writer Michael Cole

I’m fortunate enough to know many talented and creative people. Some of them have already contributed great stuff to World’s Best Media. Like Tim Cuff, my cohost on The World’s Best Podcast with Paul & Tim, or Ryan McDonald who created the amazing promotional video for that podcast.  Both Ryan and Tim have contributed much more than that to this creative project I started, but one person who’s had a big influence on this entire thing who hasn’t gotten his due, is an old friend of mine named Michael Cole. Mike’s an extremely talented writer who has his own blog and has published a book of his own short stories called “Everything I’ve Got: A Collection Of Short Stories, Poems, and Essays”. He was the person I went to when I knew I wanted to start a blog and there would be no World’s Best Media without Mike Cole. One of my goals, when I created World’s Best Media was to  give a forum to all of these talented people I knew to offer what they’ve created to the world.  So I’ve been wanting to do something with Mike specifically for some time and we are going to have him be a special correspondence for World’s Best Media.  Mike will be contributing guest articles every now and again on topics similar to the type of thing we cover all the time on all our podcasts and blogs. Pop-culture, movies, books, TV, everything.  So without further ado here is Mike’s first piece for our site. I already  have one more of his articles ready to post and we’re very happy to have him writing for us.  I think you guys will love his point of view.   Below his article I just posted a link to his website. Enjoy!

-Paul

How to Treat Source Material by Michael Cole

​When something is adapted into a movie, there is inevitably some complaint about source material. Whether it’s a video game, a book, a comic book, or a TV show, someone is going to be unhappy. It’s inevitable.
​Currently, the problem tends to be that something doesn’t follow the source material close enough. It’s a natural complaint, after all if you were a fan of the original thing, then you want to see it adapted well, but is it a fair to expect a literal translation of page to screen?
​I think it depends, and I don’t mean it depends on the specific work it’s based on, as much as I mean what the original format was. Look at a finite book series, like Harry Potter or Percy Jackson; there are 7 Harry Potter books, telling one overarching story, there are 5 Percy Jackson books (plus 5 where he’s a semi-main character, plus 5 where he’s a background character). Both of the series have pretty defined beats that lead to their ending in the final book, so they should be pretty close to the original source material, at least in those beats. Harry Potter does a pretty good job of this, cutting some of the fat that isn’t needed, but overall sticking to the same structure. Percy Jackson got two movies (of 5 books) and by the end of the second book, there was a battle which was essentially the final battle from book 5. By doing this, they had predetermined that even if it had been successful enough to warrant further movies, that they wouldn’t be able to continue following the story that had been laid out for them.
​I think a finite series, should adapt the basic bones of the original, but an ongoing serial, something which has the mythology being rewritten constantly, has much less responsibility to strictly following the source material. We’re seeing this with comic books, they’ve been restarting, and reinventing, and reimagining the stories and the worlds, and so when it comes time to adapt them into films and TV shows there is a wealth of source material, but sometimes its contradictory, so in this way sticking with the spirit of the characters and their arches tends to be paramount, and making sure that any element that has remained untouched through all the various adaptations and updates isn’t changed (at least without VERY good reason). It’s well established that Joe Chill killed Bruce Wayne’s parents, in every variation except for Tim Burton’s Batman, in which Jack Napier killed them before becoming the Joker. While there was some disagreement about changing it, ultimately it made no impact on the ongoing storytelling in the overall Batman catalog, but allowed that films story to have the proper impact without shifting too far from source material.
​What is interesting about film adaptations is, that if you look at them before a certain point (I tend to think of Harry Potter as being the turning point) a significant amount of book to movie adaptations had significant changes to the source material. Look at a movie like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest based on the novel by Ken Kesey, (among many other hugely successful films adapted from books around that time) it took a starkly different approach from the book. In the novel, the whole story is told from Chief’s perspective, and as readers we have a hard time differentiating between what is real and what is hallucination. There are moments in the book to make it clear that the Chief does hallucinate, like when the beds each lower down as the floor opens up and all the sleeping people are experimented on by putting mechanical and electronic parts in them. In the movie, because the story is closer associated with McMurphy’s point of view, we see the ward as being filled with people who are mentally ill, but the view point of it is clear itself.
​One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, is an example of a book that would have been unfilm-able as a literal adaptation, and that is where a lot of stand-alone literature falls. We naturally want to see a film adaptation, but not every book translates, whether that be due to technical constraints, or more hard limit medium differences (if Chief had narrated the film as heavily as he had the novel, he would have been talking nearly the entire movie.)
​One of my favorite books, The Knife of Never Letting Go which is the first book in The Chaos Walking Trilogy, is being adapted into a film for release in 2019. The book takes place on a world where everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts, including the animals. (I’m going to give no spoilers so don’t worry). The people refer to that concept as ‘Noise,’ as in your thoughts are your ‘Noise,’ and most people can hear everyone’s ‘Noise’. On the page, Patrick Ness, fills the page not only with what you need to know, but noise, words all over the pages a typography nightmare, and it makes for an incredible novel. We can ignore a lot of it visually, so we get the idea, but we’re not actually as overwhelmed as the characters. How is this going to work in the film? My hope is that they’re not going to be completely faithful to the novel. My hope is that they’ll find some other manner of conveying that, because— at least for me— ignoring audio noise will be too difficult and distract from the storytelling.
​Ultimately, I think there must be a consistency whether it’s to the characters, or the concept, or in some cases it should tell the same story, but I think depending on what kind of source material you have, and what kind of film you’re going to make, you have to change things. You’re going to get some people mad, and those people will get frustrated with those who enjoy the new item, but a movie isn’t a comic book, or a book, or TV show, and the focus just has to be on the quality of the storytelling, and not an overwhelming reverence to an original in a medium that doesn’t tell stories the same way.

​What do you think about adaptations and source materials? Do you prefer them to be perfect visual representations or are you ok with changing things as needed? Tell us in the comments below.

https://michaelchristophercole.com