Rick Riordan Shares His Scathing Behind-the-Scenes Impressions of the 2010 Percy Jackson Movie

Logan Lerman, Brandon T Jackson, and Alexandra Daddario as the stars of Percy Jackson.
Logan Lerman, Brandon T Jackson, and Alexandra Daddario as the stars of Percy Jackson.
Image: 20th Century Fox

Having a film made out of your work has to be a stressful process. In most cases, you get little say, and have to watch as Hollywood either succeeds—or fails—to do justice to the things you’ve created. And in a lot of cases, you don’t even get paid more if it does well.

Rick Riordan, author of the Percy Jackson series of YA fantasy novels, has written a new blog post that offers some insight into the process from his perspective. In 2010, the first book of his series was adapted into a middling movie, and a sequel came in 2013. They were not great movies, nothing remarkable, and certainly not exceptional. And Riordan, according to some correspondence he was gracious enough to release in that blog, was not happy.

I’d recommend going over this whole post, it provides a lot of compelling insight into how this process works, especially when it goes poorly. But these letters, y’all. Oh, they are something. Here’s an excerpt:

Having said that, here’s the bad news: The script as a whole is terrible. I don’t simply mean that it deviates from the book, though certainly it does that to point of being almost unrecognizable as the same story. Fans of the books will be angry and disappointed. They will leave the theater in droves and generate horrible word of mouth. That is an absolute given if the script goes forward as it stands now. But the bigger problem is that even if you pretend the book doesn’t exist, this script doesn’t work as a story in its own right.

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Yeowch. Riordan goes in here, laying out precisely what he hates about the script and offering to fix it, which the studio, uh, refused. And we know how that went.

So, next time you get mad at a bad movie adaptation, be cheered knowing that the author probably got mad first, and hopefully they did what Riordan did and gave someone a piece of their mind.

io9 Weekend Editor. Videogame writer at other places. Queer nerd girl.

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DISCUSSION

oneminutemonkey
Michael M. Jones

Wow.

As someone who’s been a fan of the Percy Jackson series, and Rick Riordan’s books all along, I was gravely disappointed that the movie franchise died like it did. Especially since the failure of the first series meant that we were much less likely to get film adaptations of the subsequent volumes, which have matured nicely along with the characters. Imagine if we’d gotten to the point where we could see the gay and genderqueer characters which have been introduced in later books! Imagine if we could get faithful adaptations of the Magnus Chase or Kane Chronicles series.

I think the problem is that back then, the studios were chasing the big money YA franchises to follow in the Harry Potter, Twilight, and Hunger Games trend. Hence, we saw stabs at Eragon, Percy Jackson, Vampire Academy, the Maze Runner, Golden Compass, Beautiful Creatures, Divergent, City of Bones, Narnia, and so on. Some of these might have been mild successes, but most of those, almost all of which had franchise potential, simply missed the mark somehow. Too big, too bland, too glitzy, too CGI, whatever—they simply missed the aspects which appealed to the readers and fanbase in the first place, and, a worse sin in Hollywood’s eyes, they didn’t make enough money to justify continuing on or trying again. It feels like a classic case of trying to replicate a success without the slightest understanding of why it was successful to begin with.

I can just picture the response to Riordan’s letters. How dare this writer tell them what to do or how to fix the script? What does he know about making movies or special effects or luring in audiences? From their end, he probably came off as pushy and presumptuous, and was dismissed without a second thought... and lo, when the movies bombed, it was clearly because no one was interested in a big screen adventure about a teen fighting Greek monsters and gods... And yet, if Riordan -hadn’t- said anything, things would have turned out just the same and because he didn’t object they would have assumed he was okay with the changes.

Maybe we’ll get lucky and his series will get picked up for a television adaptation which can dedicate the time and energy into a more faithful, well-paced, storyline.