What Happened to Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief?

Just for Fun,Blog

“Look, I didn’t want to be a half-blood. If you’re reading this because you think you might be one, my advice is: close this book right now. Believe whatever lie your mom and dad told you about your birth, and try to lead a normal life. Being a half-blood is dangerous. It’s scary. Most of the time, it gets you killed in painful nasty ways.” 

Rick Riordan, The Lightning Thief 

One of my favorite book series growing up was Percy Jackson and the Olympians. I very vividly remember finding The Sea of Monsters in our mini 4th-grade library and reading the whole thing in less than a week. Upon learning that it was the second book, I immediately begged my mom to buy the first book and every book thereafter.  

I had a very different reaction when I learned of the movie. Still full of wonder from reading the book for the first time, I watched the movie and left feeling astonished… How could such a good book turn into such a bad movie? With Disney announcing they will be turning the first book into a show for Disney Plus, we will be going down memory lane and discussing what went wrong and if anything went right.  

1. Tweens to Teens

In the books, Percy and Annabeth were twelve while Grover was twelve passing. The story of twelve-year-old Percy was about a young boy struggling through childhood and wanting to find a place to belong. He was a character that the target audience could project themselves onto. After all, doesn’t everyone in middle school want something better? Percy’s youth also creates a fascinating contrast between a scrawny twelve-year-old boy and centuries-old monsters. He was a child fighting monsters that adults fear. He was forced to grow up and fight for survival. By making Percy sixteen, we lessen this impact. The audience’s view of Percy is changed from a pre-teen overcoming his fear to yet another teenage YA protagonist going on a heroic journey.   

2. Slow Burn to Whirlwind Romance 

In the books, it took Percy and Annabeth around five years to develop a romantic relationship while it took the movie around half an hour. The movie version of Percy and Annabeth had a small rivalry during their first meeting and subtle romantic nods by the middle of their quest. This quick progression erases the fact that they were enemies and best friends way before they were a couple. In the book, the entire quest showed how they overcame their parent’s rivalry. Instead of a son of Poseidon and a daughter of Athena, they progressed to simply being Percy and Annabeth.  

3. Look at Luke 

As a consequence of aging up the main trio, there was no longer an obvious age gap with Luke. In contrast to the twelve-year-old protagonists, Luke was originally portrayed as a more mature and experienced seventeen-year-old. He was portrayed as the cool older brother figure. He was one of Percy’s first friends. He looked out for Percy and was well-loved by the entire camp. This relationship was diminished in the movie because they looked the same age. Without this relationship, his betrayal, in the end, did not have the same impact and was less unexpected.  

4. Grover’s Personality Shift 

Another character that underwent a transformation was Grover. The only two similarities between the book Grover and the movie Grover were that they were friends with Percy and that they were satyrs. Everything else was drastically different. They were two characters that had opposite personalities. Book Grover was very shy and anxious while movie Grover seemed to be the embodiment of confidence. This shifted his dynamic with Percy. The book pair had Percy sticking up for Grover and trying to look out for him while the movie pair had Grover showing Percy the ropes. There’s nothing wrong with the movie Grover’s character- except that it wasn’t Grover. 

5. Was It Even the Same Quest? 

While the movie was technically called Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, it could very well have been named The Pearl Finder since that took up most of the plot. In the books, Percy was given three pearls as a gift from Poseidon. In the movie, they were created by Persephone and Percy had to go and fetch all of them. This created a whole new focus that took away from the main quest.  

Additionally, the existence of the pearls as a quick getaway for Percy, Annabeth, and Sally characterized Hades differently as well. Sally uses a pearl to leave in the movie while she was voluntarily returned by Hades in the books. The plot twist in the book was that Hades just wanted to be left alone while Ares was the problematic god attempting to stir up a war. The movies cut Ares completely and stuck with the stereotype of the god of the underworld being the villain of the story. 


Overall, if the movie did not have the words ‘Percy Jackson’ in the title it might have been better since it was almost unrecognizable from the source material. From wildly different characters and characterization to a completely different quest, this movie was a wild ride from start to finish. Still not convinced? I would say ask Rick Riordan, the author, since I know he would agree with me. However, this isn’t possible since he’s confessed to never even watching it after reading the script.  

Interested in what Rick Riordan has to say? Click here to read his letter to the producers!

Jyoti Duwady, Fall 2021 

Works Cited 

Haguenauer, Esther. “Percy Jackson: Everything That Went Wrong with the Movies.” ScreenRant, 13 July 2020, https://screenrant.com/percy-jackson-movies-problems-bad-issues/.  

Riordan, Rick. The Lightning Thief. Papyros, 2010.