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'Percy Jackson and the Olympians' reboot brings hope back to its original readers

Readers and fantasy fans at ASU discuss the comeback of the popular books in television form

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"The Lightning Thief," Percy Jackson's book, at the teen graphic's section of the Burton Barr Central Library on Monday, Oct. 3, 2022, in Phoenix.

Most stories don't get a second chance at life on the big screen, but the "Percy Jackson and the Olympians" book series has fans excited about its upcoming TV adaptation despite the critical failures of its previous movies.

Rick Riordan's bestselling book series was foundational to many kids' love for reading and fantasy. Released between 2005 and 2009, with multiple spin-offs after, the series created a fantasy universe centered around Greek and Roman myths that was unlike any other series at the time.

Nathan Hess, a junior studying biomedical sciences, said the series' initial appeal was taking these old stories and putting modern, relatable characters into them.

"Not only was it super creative,(but) it brought a really fun twist to these myths that had been boring before," Hess said. “It was also just really funny.”

The "Percy Jackson and the Olympians" books tackled both real, serious topics and dystopian fantasy villains through characters that many fans say have stuck with them since. The story seemed primed for a successful big-screen adaptation in 2010 with the release of "Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief," but fans were left wanting more. 

"The movies failed the series," said Bri Gonzales, who graduated from ASU in 2023. "They cut out a lot of what made the stories so charismatic and just tried to make it into a money grab."

Many details of the story were changed, characters were left out and crucial moments either weren’t there or felt significantly cheaper. 

Hess said that viewers who hadn’t read the books have a more favorable opinion of the movies than the actual fans, thus isolating the original audience. However, now with a chance at a new life, book fans are hopeful the series will provide a more quality and thoughtful adaptation.

"It will break the mold a little bit, especially since it is a series; it’s not just a movie," said Charlize McCain, a senior studying digital marketing. "People will be talking about it for a lot longer."

The main appeal of this series was the heavy inclusion of Riordan in its production — unlike the first movies. 

"It gives me a lot of confidence that the person who has the most accurate perspective about it all is going to be a guiding hand in all of this and how it turns out," Hess said. 

Each season plans to cover a book in eight episodes, allowing for much more content to be adapted from the book than a movie. 

"With a TV show, you get to see the whole story," Hess said. "You get to be there for the ups, the downs and those little moments that might not be important for the bigger picture, but stand out to a reader."

The change to the TV format also improves the founding characteristic in the books: inclusivity, especially for neurodivergence. "Percy Jackson and the Olympians" positively spun Percy's ADHD and dyslexia for the story and was possibly the first encounter with these disorders that many kids had. It was even written to encourage Riordan's son, who has both conditions. 

"A TV series is perfect also because … it's a big champion of ADHD," Gonzales said. "Giving the viewers a way to watch it in short increments instead of sitting down and watching a full-length movie is very appropriate."

Gonzales also said though the casting isn't down to the detail of what was described in the books, she's happy that it focused more on how the actors can portray the characters rather than just appearance. And with how inclusivity has been a stalwart of the series from the start, there couldn’t have been a more "Percy Jackson" choice to make. 

McCain said that this is the perfect time for its release as well, with audiences currently enjoying a lot of callbacks to this era of teen fantasy from around the same time period, such as the new "Hunger Games" movie.  Though it will be difficult to match the peak of the books' relevance or their acclaimed quality, the new "Percy Jackson and the Olympians" has all the signs of impressing fans. 

"It really raised the bar for what I wanted out of a story or movie," Gonzales said. "It shows characters in such a human way that I feel like I can't really go back to more cheesy romance books or even hero books."

Edited by Sophia Braccio, Walker Smith and Shane Brennan

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