Percy Jackson and the Olympians succeeds as a riveting and very faithful TV adaptation of Rick Riordan’s young adult fantasy novels. Attempts were already made at bringing the popular series to the screen in 2010’s Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief, but the result seemed to be that its rich lore could not be distilled properly into a feature film format.
Judging by the first few episodes, the Disney+ series corrects that mistake, giving each chapter of the first novel the room it needs to breathe, in an adaptation that is incredibly true to the well-loved series of books.
When audiences are introduced to 12-year-old Percy Jackson (Walker Scobell), he’s a lonely school kid, often bullied but not afraid to stand up for his friends – well, the one friend he has, Grover (Aryan Simhadri). After their school field trip goes wrong and Percy is attacked by a monster disguised as one of his teachers, his whole world changes. He learns that the Greek myths he grew up reading are real, and the differences that have been weighing him down are actually due to his identity as a Demigod.
Percy Jackson & The Olympians manages to completely capture the tone and humour of the books and translate it onto screen. With Rick and Becky Riordan on board as a writer and executive producers on the series, it makes sense that this time the series is sticking closely to its source – and it’s all the better for it.
It’s worth noting that Percy Jackson skews younger than other YA adaptations like Harry Potter or The Hunger Games. Its characters are pre-teens dealing with distinct coming-of-age issues that are wrapped in an epic fantasy quest and that come with dialogue and themes that are more appropriate for that age bracket. It’s something that feels right at home on a Disney streaming service.
With that being said, there’s still a lot here for adults to enjoy, thanks to the series’ lighthearted tone, and book fans of all ages will definitely enjoy the care with which the material is being handled.
The spread of plot across the first couple of episodes has a few pacing issues. The first episode is ladened with a lot of the set up, and plot points are often shoehorned with a lot of tell-don’t-show dialogue. However, things seem to find a better flow in the following episodes, once Camp Half-Blood and the main quest come into play.
Walker Scobell, as the lead, carries a lot of the burden on his shoulders as a POV character for the audience. While his dialogue is often saddled with a lot of questions, Scobell still manages to land Percy’s charming and likeable nature. The supporting cast is pretty much spot-on across the board. Simhadri carries Grover’s nervous yet wise beyond his years energy, and Leah Jeffries is a standout as Annabeth Chase, emboldening her with a nice balance of spirit and wit.
Then, of course, there is the roster of star-studded adults playing the legends of Greek myth, who all bring their A-game but also leave room for the younger cast to shine.
The visual effects and action sequences deserve a shout-out. The detail in the visual effects and fight choreography is impressive, giving the series a sense of grand fantasy scale. The orchestral score is another standout, as it perfectly emulates an epic Greek quest.
Just like the books have done for years, Percy Jackson & The Olympians has found a way to rewrite classic mythology for a younger audience, making it accessible and fun. Here’s hoping the TV show actually gets the chance to cover the full series of books this time around, because it has massive potential to be another defining YA novel-to-screen adaptation for a new generation of fans.
Percy Jackson and the Olympians review: The verdict
Pros: Incredibly faithful to the source material, charming chemistry between the lead trio, impressive action and VFX.
Cons: Some clunky exposition and pacing issues in initial episodes.
Watch it if you liked: Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia, American Born Chinese
Percy Jackson and the Olympians debuts with its first two episodes on Disney+ on December 20.
Lead Image Credit: Disney+
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