What Its Multiple Adaptations Tell Us About The Lightning Thief

Here’s how the Percy Jackson fandom held their own through the different phases of Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief

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Percy Jackson covers- TV series cover(left), book cover(centre), Movie cover(right)

The 19th year of The Lightning Thief brings readers to look back on the journey of the story of Percy Jackson and how it all started as a fantasy-fiction with a modern twist of Greek mythology. As we process the multiple faces given to the same protagonist, we wonder at all the possible adaptations this book is considered for and how they reiterated attention to the entire franchise with every new adaptation. Even after, we, as nostalgic readers, cling to the hope of seeing the rest of the books come alive in continuation. Suffice it to say that readers can’t get enough of them!

The Percy Jackson Books

Percy Jackson, the chosen one, is exposed to the world of Greek Gods and monsters as he discovers that his father is Poseidon, the God of the Seas. As a Half-Blood, he is a beacon for monsters outside the safety of Camp Half-Blood. After losing his mother in a monster chase, Percy is determined to get her back and embarks on a quest with Annabeth and Grover to the realm of Hades, God of the Dead. Through this adventure, Percy discovers his powers, meets other Gods, and makes more enemies than friends. All-encompassing, this is a solid, standard plot of a first book that gives the readers just enough introductions to the built-in fantasy world where Greek Gods co-exist with humans and their technologies.

Percy Jackson and the Lightening Thief by Rick Riordan, book cover depicting an illustration of a minotaur fighting a young man in a lightening fueled forest.

The iconic trio — Percy, Grover, and Annabeth — has a lasting impression in all three mediums in which the stories are delivered. It’s interesting to see how various directors view the same characters. It’s a balancing act, to be sure, as they portray their strong traits on one side while ensuring that they match the expectations of all the readers in the audience. Both the movie and the television series have used their tools to bring these characters to life, from paper to screen.

Movie Adaptation

The 2010 movie stars Logan Lerman, Alexandra Daddario, and Brandon Jackson as the lead trio — Percy, Annabeth, and Grover. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’s director, Chris Columbus, did remarkable justice to the story and brought the Greek fantasy to life. This stays true for the sequel, Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters. However, readers’ fears came true when they realized that the adaptation deviates from the book’s plot. For the same reason, Sea of Monsters had a disappointing box office performance, bringing the movie series to an end. 

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, film poster showing Logan Lerman(centre) with Zeus's Lightning Bolt, Alexandra Daddario(right) and Brandon Jackson(left) holding shields and swords

There is a thin line highlighting the difference between the creative storytelling method of a filmmaker and that of a writer. Owing to their strengths and weaknesses, I found the two films as remarkable adaptations despite the slight disappointment of their deviation from the actual plot. Comparing the director’s attention to detail in the Percy Jackson movies with the Harry Potter series, one cannot help but notice the similar treatment of the book plot these films adopt. Harry Potter too, for that matter, did not entirely stick with the book’s storyline. But at the end, it was a finished film series of the book adaptation.

The Television Adaptation

Percy Jackson and the Olympians: the TV series, created by Rick Riordan and Jonathan E. Steinberg, released in December 2023, reigniting the entire fandom through another adaptation. Walker Scobell, Leah Jeffries, and Aryan Simhadri play Percy, Annabeth, and Grover for the first season and will hopefully be continuing in the next. The series puts a good effort at inclusivity by starring the actors. As one tries to spot similarities and differences in the three mediums in which the story is portrayed, it is inevitable to highlight the various tools that they use.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians TV series poster with Walker Scobell as Percy(centre), Leah Jeffries as Annabeth(left) and Aryan Simhadri(right), as Percy holds Zeus' Lightning Bolt

The TV series allows for a flexible narration, focus on individual character building on the basis of the cast, an episode-wise breakdown of the plot congruent to the chapter-wise progress in the story, and an overall hook guaranteeing the continuity of the series. Evidently, there are a lot of gray areas that get lost in translation in the attempt of another adaptation of the book. At the most, we could see that the TV series does more justice to the book because of its unrestricted screen time in comparison with the films. 

The Fandom

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief was a solid start for a new fantasy world against the witches, wizards, werewolves, and vampires. Riordan excelled in his ability to continue the series and branch them to several spin-off stories like the Kane Chronicle series, Magnus Chase series, Heroes of Olympus, etc. In doing so, he indeed created a bold brand emphasizing the world of Egyptian, Norse, Roman, and Greek mythology. The hype of historical fantasy competitively fought with the normal fantasy and would have won if it had the boost of film and TV adaptations. Percy Jackson and the Olympians was expected by its readers to open the next Harry Potter-level franchise and brand; however, the two movies released didn’t hit the mark. Another attempt to revive the fandom was made in the form of the TV show on Disney+ and Hulu. This series strongly promises a second season, given its large streaming. 

It seems that the recent TV series has brought back its readers to dwell in their nostalgic childhood. While the second season’s casting call has begun, on the one hand, The Other Place, London confirms the premier of The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical later this November. This is great news for the ‘demigod’ audience, both new and old. It also shows another attempt at proving how the series has the potential to grow bigger than it already has by being adapted in most forms of storytelling. 

What to gift to a demigod reader? Check out these Percy Jackson gift recommendations.

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