Book Vs. Movie: Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters (SPOILERS!)

Posted December 14, 2020 by Amber in Bookish Things / 0 Comments

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Good morning everyone!

I know that the bookish world has some FEELINGS about the Percy Jackson movies.  If I can be completely honest, I saw the Percy Jackson films before I read the books, so I remember entering the book community and seeing all the hate and going “I remember enjoying these… why is this a thing?”

However.  After reading Sea of Monsters and honestly… not liking it… I was feeling brave.  I thought – okay, I remember enjoying this movie! And I didn’t like the book!  Maybe the movie did some better things and people won’t destroy me!

Hmm.

Nope, as it turns out, that is not true.  I’m going to warn y’all again right here that there are spoilers in this comparison.  If you haven’t read/seen Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters, I’m dropping some major plot things here, so get out while you still can!

Right from the beginning we see problems.  From where the movie starts – at Camp Half Blood – to the way Tyson is introduced the story, we can see the script writers looking at the book and taking a collection of events and manipulating them to their purposes.  This continues to happen throughout the film.  We also see the Fates’ taxi in a different place, Hermes’ appearance, and meeting Clarisse on the quest.

As far as I can see, the filmmakers got really cocky with the plot and wanted to fit this story into a different formula than it was intended.  The plot formulas of the Percy Jackson books are methodic – they’re made to emulate the traditional hero’s journey with a three-part quest as a nod to classic Greek myth.  And that formula works – it carries a story and can carry a movie.  Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters scattered itself too thin and thought it was smarter than the original story.  It dropped key scenes from the book, ignored character development in favor of tropes (I’ll get into this in a moment), and brought in plot elements and scenery that didn’t belong in Sea of Monsters.

The character portrayals and storylines bothered me most about this movie.  Far more than the hot mess of the plot.

Let’s start with Tyson.  I found his portrayal a bit ableist in the book, but my memory was that the movie did this better.  Well, no, not really.  They cleared up a lot of the intelligence issues I had – going for naivety and enthusiasm instead – but they were ableist in a different way.  Mist is a pretty common thing in the Percy Jackson series, and yes in the book, it helps Tyson blend in.  It’s not just Tyson, it’s all mythological things.  For those less familiar with Mist, it’s Hecate’s concoction that creates an illusion of normality around the mythological.  We see in Sea of Monsters that Mist helps the man at the coffee shop blend in… and it’s an easy suspension of disbelief.  But when it comes to Tyson, Annabeth hands him a spray bottle and explains that it will help him look “normal”.

Here’s an idea.  Why don’t we normalize appreciating everyone’s appearance.

Really, the spray bottle still could have been used to create the illusion that Tyson was a mortal and stay within the canon and be less ableist.  It’s the dialogue surrounding the interaction that raised flags for me.  A simple “mortals are unnerved by the supernatural” and then let him be a cyclops instead of giving him two eyes.  I just… it bugged me, the way it was handled.

On top of all that, lets talk about how Tyson checked ALL the boxes for “useless comedic sidekick”.  He has actual purpose in the books, and more than once he uses actual skill to move the quest forward. Here, he mostly makes a lot of noise, gets confused and makes a scene, and stumbles around.  This character wasn’t treated particularly well in Sea of Monsters the book… but his treatment in the film is worse in many ways because he’s reduced to a trope.  He’s given no dignity and literally spends the whole movie trying to prove he’s worth being friends with.

Then we have Annabeth Chase.

I’m on-board with Annabeth in the books.  Love her.  She’s smart, she’s strong, she doesn’t take crap from anyone.  Annabeth is a great role model, and I would have adored her growing up.  However, apparently Sea of Monsters doesn’t think very much of her, because Annabeth contributes virtually nothing the entire movie.  Her big moment is near the end, and it just screams “I AM HERE AS A ROMANTIC INTEREST!”. … Which, yeah, we are shipping Annabeth/Percy, but don’t reduce her value like that?!

I also didn’t love her casting.  Alexandra Daddario wasn’t convincing to me and I didn’t feel she captured Annabeth’s snark and courage – emotional lines were delivered flat and she only has two or three different facial expressions the entire movie.  It’s possible this was direction – I haven’t seen this actress in other things – but one way or the other, yuck.

Now let’s talk about Grover’s storyline for a moment.  Readers of the book will know that Grover spends Sea of Monsters as Polyphemus’ prisoner.  So imagine my surprise when we see him at Camp Half Blood about three minutes into the film.  While Grover does eventually end up with Polyphemus, getting him there is a trick that involves completely changing up the stuff with Luke as well as Hermes’ scene.

And even though they changed up SO MUCH ELSE they decided to hold on to the crossdressing aspect from the book which was #nope.  I mean, if you’re going to change everything, why not change up the problematic bits?!

Also, where in the world did he get a giant googly eye to stick on his forehead after being kidnapped and tossed around.  When did he have the time and opportunity to stop at Michaels and pick up craft supplies?

*sigh*

It’s just a mess.  I can’t even give you a coherent review because it’s so topsy turvy inaccurate to the book.  And there are some thematic elements that didn’t make sense to me either.  For example, the scene where Tyson calls the hippocampus is one of the coolest in both the book and film and gives validity to Tyson’s character.  That is in the movie.  But about fifteen minutes later, Percy calls upon his MASSIVE POWERS OF THE SEA and creates monster waves to rock around the yacht.  A little while later, he conjures a surfboard style wave that not only can transport him from the yacht to the lifeboat, but is also solid enough that Luke – who is not a child of Poseidon and has no affinity with water – can climb up it too.

AMAZING.  Where was this fancy wave when they needed to get to the boat the first time?

Stuff like that is just… there are continuity issues and I want to know what the filmmakers were thinking.

The film isn’t complete trash.  The visual effects are cool (if unnecessary) and despite how his character was treated at a filmmaking-level, I liked Tyson better in the film than in the books.  And Nathan Fillion is a treasure, as always, and great casting for Hermes.

It is mostly trash though.  It’s not quite as bad as Eragon, but it is bad.  It completely disregards the books, and the changes don’t make sense.  You can’t say they changed Tyson’s appearance because of CGI costs, for example, and then look at the unnecessary scene in the belly of Charybdis.  There are always going to be some things that you can’t translate to the screen well and that’s why books and movies aren’t word-for-word the same… but then there are creative changes that are unnecessary and frustrating.  Sea of Monsters took some liberties there.  A lot of liberties.

Overall, I just can’t recommend Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters – not as an adaptation, and not as a movie on its own.  It’s absolutely unloyal to the original source material, and there are plot holes and inconsistencies in the storyline.  Then in a rush blitz, the end of the movie tried to throw in bunch of plot points from future books and just… why.  I also haven’t touched on the mysterious resting of Chiron.

No, dear fans, I agree that you can skip this one.  With a little time and patience, we will hopefully be able to see a more loyal adaptation in a few years from Disney+.

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What do you want to see in the NEW Percy Jackson adaptation?  Were there elements in the old movies you would keep?  Are there things from the books you would like to see changed?  Let me know your feelings in the comments!

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