Today my wife is going to take her class to see the film version of Percy Jackson and the Olympians. It’s part of their novel study of the book of the same name. The kids have high hopes for this movie (and so does their teacher). When Disney takes on a film, it’s always a crap shoot whether they can keep their corporate bureaucracy out of the production. In their rush to reach a wider market, they may try to make Percy Jackson into something it’s not: An American Harry Potter.
Having read all five Percy Jackson books myself, I can tell you that while there are similarities, the two series are completely different. While Harry was studious and accommodating, Percy is impulsive and defiant. His ADHD makes him a poor student (while at the same time makes him an accomplished soldier), and he will actually go out of his way to provoke magical beings that can end his existence with a thought. It goes without saying that Percy would have never stood for the Dursley’s shenanigans if they ever had the misfortune of meeting him. Like most of the demi-gods at camp half-blood, Percy has led a hard life because of his lineage. It’s going to take more than a summer camp with dryads dancing around to make up for being hunted by monsters and used as a pawn in the sibling rivalry of the gods. At many points in his adventures, Percy has to make choices between his duty to the gods and his duty to his friends and his own happiness. In Potter’s world, the goals of protecting the world from Voldemort and protecting Ron and Hermione were always one and the same. The only hard choice Harry had to make was whether the Death Eaters got to him at Hogwarts or at the Dursleys’ house.
If you need any proof that the Percy Jackson movie deserves to do well, you don’t need to look further than my wife’s grade seven class. People excuse the worst excesses of Harry Potter and the Twilight series by saying that it at least gets kids to read. Sara’s class, with full access to both Twilight and Harry Potter, has finished all their missing homework assignments to see this movie. Students would ask for the sequels from their parents for Christmas and then trade the books amongst themselves to read. Some of them have said, without hyperbole, that The Lightning Thief was the first chapter book that a teacher didn’t have to force them to read. It’s the books that convert non-readers that mean the most to literacy rates. Even if the movie is compromised beyond repair, if you enjoyed the Potter series at first, but were left high and dry by the end of it, do yourself a favour and pick up Percy Jackson.