Why We Didn’t See More Percy Jackson Movies

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Logan Lerman and Alexandra Daddario in Percy Jackson

So it’s been ten years since the first Percy Jackson movie hit theaters. The series had the potential to become the next Harry Potter series as the finale of Deathly Hallows drew nearer, but the movie adaptations for Rick Riordan’s best-selling YA book series flopped pretty much on arrival. Bringing Greek mythology into the modern space was an epic and exciting idea and it stood on the shoulders of a five-book series. So what happened? The abrupt end to Percy Jackson is sadly a trend the genre has experienced time and time again on Hollywood’s watch.

For the amount of Gods on its side, they were unkind to this one. It’s a real work of Hades. Let’s break down why we didn’t see more Percy Jackson movies:

Logan Lerman as Percy Jackson in the Lightning Thief

How Many Percy Jackson Movies Have We Seen?

The series centering on young Percy, who finds out he is the demigod son of Poseidon got its start on the big screen in 2010 with the Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief film. The movie was helmed by the same director who launched the Harry Potter franchise with 2001’s Sorcerer’s Stone and written by newcomer Craig Titley. And wow did the introduction to the series fail fans. Not only did it greatly ignore the source material, it played “Highway To Hell” in a scene where they go to the Underworld and “Poker Face” in the casino sequence. Yeah… that happened. (Points to nose vigorously).

The reception of The Lightning Thief was pretty on the nose too. It received mixed to negative reviews from critics and fans and only made $226 million worldwide on a $95 million budget. The first Harry Potter in comparison has cracked $1 billion, made possible recently by international theaters, but it was already close. Even so, one bad movie should not reflect the whole series, right? Its audience was crushing on either (or both?) Logan Lerman and Alexandra Daddario anyways. Three years later Sea of Monsters comes out even though Percy is supposed to have only grown one year between each book.

The results for 2013’s Sea of Monsters was pretty comparable to the one before. Mixed to negative reviews and a $200 million worldwide haul from box office tickets. The sequel went for the director of Diary of a Wimpy Kid instead of Chris Columbus, but at least the writer of the failed Green Lantern movie Ryan Reynolds can’t stop joking about wrote it this time. No shade, to Marc Guggenheim in all honesty though, I loved Arrow, which he helped develop for TV. Once again, the second movie did not rub fans of the book the right way. It merged the storylines of Sea of Monsters with The Last Olympian, the finale in the series.

Brandon T. Jackson, Logan Lerman and Alexandra Daddario in Percy Jackson

Were There Plans More Percy Jackson Movies?

As you may have gathered, the Percy Jackson series on the big screen was not going well. There were still three more books that could have been adapted as well, but after a second failure it was not a property that was worth Fox’s time anymore, despite its blatant mishandling. Besides Percy Jackson proving to be a low-performing film franchise, it had also alienated fans and the actors were getting older by the minute. By the time Sea of Monsters came out, Logan Lerman was 21 and if the movie was to stay true to the books, Percy was supposed to be around 16. Whomp, whomp.

Logan Lerman and Uma thurman in Percy Jackson

Why We Haven’t Seen More Percy Jackson Movies

The failure of the Percy Jackson movies seems to all come down to its relationship with the author, Rick Riordan. One fact that may surprise you is Riordan has not seen the movies to this day and does not plan on it. Back in 2018, Riordan opened up about his experiences with Hollywood executives while The Lightning Thief was being developed. He shared early email conversations regarding the disregard of Percy’s age on his website. Check out an excerpt here:

I don’t know if you or your staff have had the chance to read farther than The Lightning Thief in the Percy Jackson series, but there are four other volumes. The series is grounded on the premise that Percy must progress from age twelve to age sixteen, when according to a prophecy he must make a decision that saves or destroys the world. I assume that XXXX would at least like to keep open the option of sequels assuming the first movie does well. Starting Percy at seventeen makes this undoable… This would’ve been impossible if they’d started Harry at seventeen. The same principle applies here. Second, it alienates the core audience. I’m guessing those book sale numbers are important to XXXX because you’re hoping all those kids show up at the theater. The core readership for Percy Jackson is age 9-12. There are roughly a million kids that age, plus their families, who are dying to see this film because they want to see the pictures in their imagination brought to life. Many of these kids have read the books multiple times and know every detail.

Riordan notes more of his consultations during the making of the film including script details and and plot points that were ignored come the film’s production. Rumor has it Chris Columbus did not want to work with young kids after his time on Harry Potter. Back in 2010, he told CinemaBlend this:

These kids are battling for their lives. They’re training to be heroes and warriors and gladiators and 11-year-olds running around with paper hats and wooden swords seemed a little lightweight to me.

So there were clearly conflicting visions here and that impacted how Percy Jackson was received on the big screen. Rick Riordan made these comments earlier this year about his time consulting the films:

I judge them from having read the scripts, because I care most about the story. I certainly have nothing against the very talented actors. Not their fault. I’m just sorry they got dragged into that mess. To you guys, it’s a couple hours of entertainment. To me, it’s my life’s work going through a meat grinder when I pleaded with them not to do it.

It’s not an easy feat to bring a popular title to the screen, especially when movies are the director’s medium. Thankfully, it looks as though Percy Jackson could have a happy ending.

Logan Lerman in Percy Jackson

Are There Any Plans For Future Percy Jackson Movies?

While the original Percy Jackson series will not pick up where it left off, it was officially announced in May that Rick Riordan is working with Disney+ to make his books into a television show. This time the author is heavily involved in the production of the series for the streaming platform. As he has announced, the events of the first book, the Lightning Thief will be the subject of the entirety of season one and if the series remains to be successful, fans will get to see all five books in live-action. Here’s what the author said when the news broke:

Rest assured that Becky & I will be involved in person in every aspect of the show. There will be much more news in the future, but for now, we have a lot of work to do! Buckle up, demigods. It’s going to be a fantastic, exciting ride!

A Disney+ series was actually nominated by fans online when the studio technically acquired the Fox property. Although Percy Jackson had a rocky era on the big screen, news of the Disney+ series may prove to be worth it. Lessons learned it seems! We cannot wait to see Percy back on Camp Half-Blood in a version the Gods can smile upon.

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October 12, 2020

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