Fans of the ‘Percy Jackson’ books were disappointed by the lackluster film adaptations. While the original novel series by Rick Riordan, consists of five books, 20th Century Fox only adapted the first two into movies and from the sound of things, it was a rocky journey. Riordan has made public emails he wrote to Fox in which he took issue with their decision to age-up the main characters, to add coarse language to presumably appeal to an older audience and to make broad changes to the content of the stories. And while it might be easy to dismiss his critiques because he was being protective of his own work, as he states in one email: “The script as a whole is terrible… 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.”
Fox was clearly aiming to emulate the success of Warner Brothers’ ‘Harry Potter’ franchise, and if they had simply used that brand as a template, things may have worked out. (Fox even hired Chris Columbus, who directed the first ‘Potter’ movie, to helm ‘The Lightning Thief’.) But unlike ‘Harry Potter’, in which children were cast to star in the films and eventually grow up over the course of sequels, the decision was made to portray Percy and his peers as 16-year-olds.
As revealed in his emails, Riordan argued against this change:
“As no one wants to see this film succeed more than I do, I hope you’ll let me share a couple of reasons why this is a bad idea from a money-making point of view.
“First, it kills any possibility of a movie franchise. 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 [Fox] would at least like to keep open the option of sequels assuming the first movie does well. Starting Percy at seventeen makes this undoable.”
Unlike ‘Harry Potter’, which had folks of all ages reading the novels and loving them, the ‘Percy Jackson’ novels were less well-known and their main fan base was still the target audience of 9-12 year-olds. Riordan wrote that aging the characters in the film would alienate those readers, as would the inclusion of mildly explicit language, another decision Fox made, presumably to appeal to older theatergoers.
“There is nothing radical, fresh or interesting about biyotch, ass, or shit. [This language] has been overused to the point that it doesn’t even rate a cheap laugh anymore.”
Not only did Riordan point out that this type of dialogue wouldn’t impress anyone, but it also would actually offend parents of what should have been the film’s target audience. “I would be horrified if I steered them into a movie with this kind of content… Please do not ‘sex up’ my children’s story.”
It would seem that Riordan was right, as the movies failed. ‘Percy Jackson: The Lightning Thief’ made $88 million domestically, on a production budget of $95 million. It’s a mystery as to why Fox even made a sequel, but it did. ‘Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters’ had a slightly reduced budget of $90 million and took in $68 million, in the US and Canada.
Fox, however, still holds the rights, and with Disney acquiring Fox, that means that Disney will soon control the brand and could reboot it… but that’s unlikely. Disney watched as its C.S. Lewis-based ‘Chronicles of Narnia’ franchise rapidly decline after the first entry. Earlier this year, ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ flopped. And the studio is already working on launching a franchise based on another YA series, ‘Artemis Fowl’.
Aside from Disney’s output, Summit Entertainment’s ‘Twilight’ and Lionsgate’s ‘Hunger Games’ series lost steam as each movie did worse than the one before it. The ‘Divergent’ film series, from Summit and Lionsgate, was cancelled before the final film, leaving the story unresolved.
Are you a fan? Would you like to see what Disney could do with ‘Percy Jackson’?
Source: Indie Wire