‘Percy Jackson’: Author Rick Riordan Hated the Film’s Script So Much He Didn’t Even Watch the Fan-Hated Movies

We’ve all heard the phrase: “The book was better!” This classic lamentation from avid readers adorns t-shirts, mugs, and plenty of bookmarks. Bestselling novels being adapted for movies and television shows is both a blessing and a curse. While some franchises succeed in bringing authors’ words to life, others fall painfully short. 

Book super fans can be a tough crowd to please, but some screen adaptations go so far as to let down the author. Even the check that accompanies the sale of movie rights isn’t enough to comfort writers who see their plots and characters warped on the big screen. For Rick Riordan, the movie version of his Greek gods book series seemed like a gift from Hades himself. 

Logan Lerman, Alexandra Daddario and Stanley Tucci smiling in front of a 'Percy Jackson' banner
(L-R) Logan Lerman, Alexandra Daddario and Stanley Tucci | Matthew Eisman/Getty Images

‘Percy Jackson and the Olympians’ kept teens reading

While Harry Potter and Chronicles of Narnia paved the way for a young-adult book genre, early 2000s series like Percy Jackson helped define it. Rick Riordan’s 2005 release, Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, is the first of a five-book series following Percy, a young boy who finds out that his father is Poseidon.

Playing into the ever-popular Chosen One trope and riddled with irresistible sass, the book and its sequels are the perfect combination of middle school and mythology. The first book’s two million reviews on Goodreads speak to its widespread appeal — not just with children, but with their parents and educators, too.

In response to fans’ desperation for more, Riordan churned out nonfiction companion novels, graphic novel adaptations, and an entire spinoff series following new characters and some familiar faces. A movie adaptation seemed inevitable, and it came in 2010. Unfortunately, many disappointed fans were quickly ready to trade in their tritons for pitchforks. 

Percy Jackson’s fans (and creator) hated his big-screen debut

Directed by Chris Columbus, the mind behind the earliest Harry Potter adaptations, Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief had every reason to succeed. It had a $95 million budget and excellent source material to work with … but that was where things started to go wrong. 

According to BuzzFeed, Riordan quickly started noticing problems when reading the script. The characters were aged up and many plot points were changed, “kill[ing] any possibility of a movie franchise.” Unfortunately, there was little Riordan could do. As authors are constantly having to remind angry fans, they typically have very little to do with the casting or production of movies. 

Things didn’t get any better when the script was brought to life and the movie was released. According to Variety, Riordan compared the films to seeing his “life’s work going through a meat grinder.” When the movies moved to Disney+ and some scenes were altered, the author suggested that they simply censor the entire thing. Needless to say, Riordan never could stomach watching the films. 

Disney+ is offering Riordan an adaptation redemption 

One would think that such a bad experience would put authors off adaptations forever … but it would appear that Riordan is ready for a second chance. In 2020, he announced that the demigods would be moving to Disney+ as a television series. Per Collider, casting is only just getting started. Still, Riordan’s public approval of the effort has fans feeling hopeful. 

Though Riordan is staying busy with his writing and publishing imprint, he seems to be playing a larger role in this film. He confirmed for fans that Percy would once again be portrayed as a 12-year-old and that the five-book series will be the guiding light for the TV writers. We’ll wait until production is finished to see if this show gets Riordan’s stamp of approval. For now, one thing is abundantly clear: the 2010 movie has been cast out of Olympus … forever. 

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