Saturday, February 20, 2010

Percy Jackson and the Olympians: A Travesty of Adaptation

I recently purchased Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief for my 8 year old son. He was busy at the time reading a comic, so I decided to read the new book first. In short, I loved it. I'm a bibliophile and a mythology buff and this book was right up my alley! The plot was engaging and the story felt very much like Greek mythology writ for modern times. Sure, it was fairly obviously an attempt to draw in those who loved Harry Potter and were looking for something new now that that series has ended. And yes, I felt the author could probably have come up with a better name than "Camp Half-Blood". But the story was kick ass and the author got the little details near and dear to my mythology loving heart right. The book was just as much a hit with my son and my husband. We are hooked.

Naturally, I was delighted to hear that a movie adaptation was coming out soon. I was equally thrilled to hear that Chris Columbine, the director of the first two Harry Potter movies, was on Percy Jackson. Not only would it bring an awesome story to the screen, but it should be a reasonable adaptation.

Enter Craig Titley, screenwriter. He absolutely gutted this story. He turned an archetypal coming of age journey with an awesome plot into a road trip movie. He sucked the main plot of the book out of the story entirely. No Kronos, no stolen dark helm of Hades. No huge tribe of offspring of the god Hermes. No children of Ares either, which I suppose shouldn't surprise me since Ares was also conspicuously absent. No Achidna. He replaced the St. Louis arch with a Parthenon knock-off in Nashville TN. No Tunnel of Love built by Hephaestus to trap and embarrass Ares -- Oh right, Ares isn't in this story. No Procrustes the waterbed salesman. No Charon the record executive, just a sterotypical Ferryman. No cool battle between Percy and Ares -- Ares who? No heart, no soul.

What did we get instead? The hydra, whose only purpose for being in the movie so far as I could tell, was to make a nasty boss for the inevitable video game. An over-sexed Persephone who appeared to have been transplanted straight from a comedy on the WB.

Surely the visuals would compensate? Au contraire! The Greek underworld became a cheesy knock off of Hell. There was no Cerberus. No Asphodel Meadows. No Tartarus. No Elysian Fields. In fact, if the many character's name wasn't Percy Jackson, a young man believed by Zeus to have stolen the master bolt, I don't think I would have even recognized the story as being an adaptation of the book!

Imagine my surprise dear reader, upon discovering that Craig Titley is currently attending school at Pacifica Graduate Institute, where he has completed everything but his dissertation for a PhD in mythological studies! Are you kidding me?

I propose a letter writing campaign. If Mr. Titley's PhD committee isn't aware of this travesty of a movie, they should be. FLUNK TITLEY!!

If you'd care to join me in writing, the university's address is Pacifica Graduate Institute • 249 Lambert Road, Carpinteria, CA 93013 or you can email them at

This travesty cannot be allowed to stand!