Percy Jackson finally feels like he's getting the adaptation he deserves.
I have no familiarity with the Percy Jackson books. The most exposure I have with this Greek mythology-inspired Harry Potter-challenger is the 2010 film starring Logan Lerman. An average movie that didn't really sell anyone on this being a successful franchise. Luckily, the poor 2013 sequel to that movie wasn't the last we'd hear of Percy, as Disney decided to give the IP another go, with actors much closer to the ages of the original characters, and a story supervised by the original author Rick Riordan.
We begin with some scenes that are bound to be familiar if you watched the old movie. Percy is attacked on a school trip by his maths teacher and is expelled from school. He's then taken to Camp Half-Blood, where he's given a quest to go and track down Zeus' lightning bolt. There are some light explanations as to why this job is left to a couple of children and a 24-year-old Satyr that looks like a child, but it's probably best not to question that. This is a kids' show after all.
Percy's quest takes us on eight episodes of action, drama, and some more light-hearted stuff. With the Greek mythology connection, there were always going to be some darker undertones in this series, which Disney hasn't fully shied away from. The incest of the gods and some of their darker violent acts against one another are left out, but things such as Poseidon's treatment of Medusa are hinted at. It's always reinforced that the gods are not nice people, which creates a neat sense of nuance around them and especially Percy's relationship with his father.
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The episodes each have differing runtimes, and this helps with the overall pacing of the show. You never get the feeling that an episode is running too long, but not all episodes are made equal. Some have plenty of memorable moments, while others feel quite forgettable. Until Ares arrives, I can't really recall what happened in the middle part of the series. It doesn't help that this show is shot exactly like every modern streaming series today. There doesn't seem to be much personality in the way Percy Jackson and the Olympians presents itself, speaking in regard to its cinematography. Again, kids show, and it doesn't really stop the core content from being very good, but it's a wider problem with streaming shows that needs addressing. Especially with Disney+ and its reliance on The Volume.
This leads to some of the background special effects falling anywhere between middling and rather bad. For the most part, though, the CGI is rather good. The minotaur and other monsters are well-designed, and a good portion of the gods' realms are too. There are a lot of creatures and places that impress here, and even if they're presented in quite a basic manner, they still work for what the show is going for. Simple stories with characters at the core that keep you wanting to come back to see what they do next.
Our main trio of Percy, Annabeth, and Grover (played by Walker Scobell, Leah Jeffries, and Aryan Simhadri) are all pretty good. There are some slip-ups here and there, but at the end of the day they are child actors being given the leading roles in a pretty big Disney series. They're not going to be winning any Oscars anytime soon, and it's clear they're still finding their feet, but it often comes across as quite endearing as you watch the show. There's an episode where it seems like Simhadri is barely stopping himself from laughing in a lot of his lines, which only made me crack up even if the content wasn't that funny. Annabeth and Percy's actors are decent for the most part, but some of the deliveries from the former sound a tad clunky. Hopefully these are things that can be sorted before Season 2 rolls around.
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The adults in Percy Jackson and the Olympians are all giving it a good go, though. They're at least seeming to take the material seriously, and that really helps you get lost in the fiction of the show. A surprisingly good performance came from Adam Copeland FKA WWE wrestler Edge. His turn as Ares was like a classic jock who still thinks he's in high school, and it made him a scene-stealer when a lot of former wrestlers struggle to show off any acting talent. These performances help elevate the show from something you'd probably just stick on for your kids to something that has me intrigued to see where it goes next.
There are a lot of Percy Jackson books out there, and so Disney won't be running out of content anytime soon, and if it can keep up this quality, there's no reason not to look forward to the next seasons of Percy Jackson and the Olympians. It is a well-paced, character-driven adventure that isn't scared to ask some bigger questions from its audience. It might not be the best show out there, but it has a lot of potential.