REVIEW: Demi-gods take on the TV screen in long-awaited “Percy Jackson” series

Photo Credit: "'Percy Jackson y los dioses del Olimpo' renueva para una segunda temporada" by pacogilgon is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

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Look, he didn’t ask to be a demi-god!

The brand new television adaptation of “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” came out on Disney+ last month, and fans of the series are thrilled.

The show is based off of Rick Riordan’s 2005 book, “The Lightning Thief,” the first in the “Percy Jackson” series.

In the “Percy Jackson” universe, the Greek gods and goddesses exist in the human world, following the center of Western civilization. Their Mount Olympus sits atop the Empire State Building in New York City.

Sometimes, the gods and goddesses meet and fall in love with mortals and have children with them. These children are called demi-gods, half-god and half-human.

When Percy Jackson, a seemingly-regular kid who always finds himself in trouble, learns that he is a demi-god, he goes to Camp Half-Blood, a safe haven and training camp for the children of the gods. From there, he embarks on a quest with his friends Annabeth and Grover to find Zeus’s stolen lightning bolt and save the world from war.

Riordan promised that this Disney+ adaptation would be more faithful to the books than the 2010 film. Though there were some changes to the plot, Riordan overall kept his word, and many fans were happy with the outcome of the series.

“While some of the book ‘purists’ weren’t a fan of the changes, I thought this was a fantastical, new way to bring the stories us fans love to life,” Gwyneth Johnson, a junior motion pictures production major, said.

The series stars Walker Scobell as Percy Jackson, Leah Jeffries as Annabeth Chase and Aryan Simhadri as Grover Underwood. The most exciting part about this casting is that the actors match the ages of the characters, a popular criticism of the 2010 film adaptation where actors in their 20s portrayed the 12-year-old characters. Fans were ecstatic to learn that the actors’ ages were accurate to the story.

Julian Ramos, a junior studying history and political science, has been a fan of the books since he was a kid.

“The three actors were born to play Percy, Annabeth and Grover,” he said. “They did justice to these characters that I have loved forever.”

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Prior to the show’s release, Leah Jeffries’ casting as Annabeth stirred up some controversy — an African-American girl with black hair, she did not match the book’s character description of being a white girl with curly, blonde hair and piercing gray eyes.

Following the cast announcement, fans expressed their reactions on social media. Responding to the online discourse, Riordan uploaded a blog post discussing how Leah Jeffries is the embodiment of Annabeth Chase.

He explained that he followed Disney’s nondiscrimination policy for the first open casting.

“I have been clear, as the author, that I was looking for the best actors to inhabit and bring to life the personalities of these characters, and that physical appearance was secondary for me,” Riordan wrote. “We did that. We took a year to do this process thoroughly and find the best of the best. This trio is the best. Leah Jeffries is Annabeth Chase.”

Despite the criticism, Jeffries delivers an amazing performance in the series that keeps the essence of Annabeth.

Like any book-to-movie adaptation, however, not every part of the “Percy Jackson” script aligns perfectly.

“The new ‘Percy Jackson’ series peels itself from the pages of the actual book at the start, but strays onto its own path to finish the 8-episode season,” Johnson said.

While the show follows the book’s plot, the episodes could have been longer and faster-paced. Most episodes were around 30-minutes long, but the show definitely could have benefited from an extra 15-minutes per episode.

“My issue with the series was that the editing and pacing seemed like it was meant for TV with commercials and not streaming,” Johnson said.

The set for Camp Half Blood felt like it came straight off the book pages in the book, and the dynamic between Percy, Annabeth and Grover was the best part of the show. They truly seemed like best friends, and this even is true outside the screen in interviews and cast hangouts.

Viewers are already getting excited for “Percabeth,” the name for the slow-burn relationship that builds between Percy and Annabeth throughout the five novel series.

The series has already been confirmed for season two, and fans are eagerly awaiting for filming to start.

“My only real complaint is that I have to wait for season two to premiere,” Ramos said.

Rating: 4.5/5

Cover photo credit: pacogilgon via Flickr