The Truth About Peter Johnson…uh, Percy Jackson

I’m convinced that the recently released “Lightning Thief” was written by Dionysus–the Demi-god loathing, ambivalent cretin who never gets Percy’s name right. Sure, the credits say “Joe Stillman”…but that’s got to be a pseudonym. It’s really Mr. D. The reason: The Lightning Thief could not be more off track from the book and poorly produced if Mr. D. had produced it himself.

So, I’ve come to the conclusion that we’ve been duped, that any of us who were awaiting this book to movie permutation, will have to keep waiting. So much is missing from the book, and so many things have been changed, that the movie most certainly is NOT “The LIghtning Thief.” For those of you who haven’t read the book, and since Harry Potter comparisons are inevitable, let me give you a comparison: let’s imagine that the first Harry Potter movie was missing 1. Draco Malfoy 2. Harry’s Lightning Scar and 3. Voldemort. That’s the movie that Dionysus, I mean Joe Stillman wrote, and  Chris Columbus produced, because Percy’s world is missing the exact equivalent of those Potter necessities.

The question I keep asking myself is “Why”…or “How” How could this movie be so off track? Potential answers:

1. The book is too long to fit into a 2 hour movie. That’s a good one usually, but here, it doesn’t apply. There were specific scenes that they unnecessarily altered. For example: There’s no reason Percy couldn’t have killed Ms. Dodds/The Kindly One in the beginning of the movie. Besides being true to the book, it would have been more entertaining than having Chiron give her a dirty look that scares her right out the window! And it only gets worse from there. The whole plot was completely distorted from the Nashville encounter with a Hydra  to the Pearls of Persephone. None of it is in the book…or any book for that matter.

2. Changes were because of acting needs/casting necessities. I bring this one up because the screenwriters, addressing concerns from movie goers on their story and actor choices, reassured audiences that it was for the best.  The actors, who were 4 or 5 years older than they were supposed to be, were chosen for their acting acumen, and, they promised, we would see that they really were “Percy, Annabeth, and Grover”. I have to disagree here. The acting was horrendous. There was NO character development, and they might as well have chosen people who were 12 because the older teens had no clue how to sell a scene or act in character (reciting lines isn’t acting).  Then again, I can’t fault them: the script was just bad. We’re talking “Titanic” bad. Dialogue randomly placed. Everything overstated. I kept having flashbacks to Leo DiCapprio and Kate Winslet onboard the Titanic. “Jack, this is wonderful.” “Yes Rose, it is.” “Jack, I love you!” “Rose, I love you too” “Jack” “Rose” “Jack” “Rose”…

With the abovementioned two potential reasons squashed…that leaves us with only one other reason why the movie diverges so much from the book, and that answer might be:

3. The movie producers/writers don’t care about the real fans. Humor me for a moment. Those of us who have actually read the Percy Jackson series are few. I’m serious. Check the Percy Jackson Facebook page. The same 3 people make comments. So, in stead of sticking to the book, which would have required apparently way too much effort for Chris and company,  they went with a dumbed down version that general moviegoers could get behind easily. There’s a marketing lesson here ladies and gentleman. Hit the widest market you can. Only problem: They missed the mark. Even if only a few of the non-readers go back and re-read the book (thus adding to our growing numbers of “duped” fans), the movie wasn’t just dumbed-down, it was dumb.

This takes us to the real TRUTH about the Percy Jackson movie, the reason for the change in the script, and the overall “duping” of its key audience:

4. The movie producers/writers don’t care about ANY moviegoers.Think I’m out of line? Humor me.Let’s say there never was a book series, and this was just a movie. What do you have? Trade in your “This isn’t like the book!” complaints, and instead you’ll get:

No character development. A Flat plot. And bad acting. This makes Twilight look Oscar-worthy. In fact, half way through the movie, I started asking myself, “wait, am I watching a blockbuster film, or a made for TV movie on a Saturday afternoon?” Unfortunately, I couldn’t help but think that it was the latter.

Bottom line: I’m still waiting for the Lightning Thief movie to be released. I hear it’s going to be good!

Here come the Olympians: Everything You Need to Know About Percy

Another book series headed for Hollywood. It’s almost as if Hollywood doesn’t know how to write a good story anymore…but I digress. Following the strong showings from Potter, and that chick who can’t decide between a vampire and a werewolf, we have a newcomer: some kid who claims to be a son of the Greek Gods. As Percy Jackson hits the big screen in the Lightning Thief, undoubtedly, the America that doesn’t read before they rush to the theater, and those who are pondering reading the series now that it has some legitimacy, need to know a few things about Percy and his friends.

1. Yes, the story is eerily familiar. Ever heard this one before? A boy who comes from  humble beginnings, finds out he has a magical history he knew nothing about, ends up having to go a magical school where he learns to use his power, makes friends who help him on endless quests that involve the return of one of the most powerful nemeses to all that is good. Oh, and don’t forget the prophecy that foretells that Percy, alone, will be the one to destroy him, thereby saving the world.

Percy and Harry –  Separated at Birth?

2. And yet, it isn’t Potter. For one, the story is relatively flat. Ok, there will be those who cry foul here and say, “What about the understories of the search for Pan? The lessons of the oracle? All those cool Greek Mythological creatures?” To them I say: flat. Flat, flat, flat, flat, flat. The reason? They add little depth to the story, and little depth of sympathy for the characters. In fact, my biggest beef with the Percy series is that so many of the adventures have nothing to do with the plotline. It’s as if Riordan simply thought of every possible Greek Myth he could put into the modern day and then wrote about it. It becomes incredibly predictable and quite inane after a while, ESPECIALLY in the Lightning Thief book (and the Sea of Monsters). Also, the writing in the books is very juvenile…In fact, I don’t think they’re written that well at all. Look Rick, I get it, you’re trying to simulate the teenage experience, and the dialogue that accompanies the teenage drama, blah, blah, blah, but I find the dialogue to be, well…flat. Of course, it could’ve been worse, at least it’s not James Patterson’s Maximum Ride books!

3. Ok, Percy’s world isn’t ALL flat… There is one exception to the flatness of this story: Nico D’Angelo. I have to say,  understory. I think Nico’s inner turmoil and role in the last few books quite literally “make” the story. It’s just too bad that it took 3 books to get Nico’s character, and the incredible depth he adds, into the story…especially since he makes a cameo in book one.

4. The bottom-line. If you start the books, you’ll most likely find yourself in the same position I’ve been in the last few years: finishing the book just to see what happens. And, if nothing else, that’s what makes the stories worth your entertainment dollar: in spite of the eery similarity to that other kid with mystical powers who found himself in a long book series, the overall story does grab you in a sort of “curiosity killed the cat” sort of way…and, if you are like me and are stuck just trying to finish the story for finishing the story’s sake…well…

At least Percy doesn’t wear glasses.