Top Shelf: Books to movies

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Logan Lerman as Percy Jackson in the Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief. (bangdoll/Flickr Creative Commons)

Logan Lerman as Percy Jackson in the Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief. (bangdoll/Flickr Creative Commons)

If there’s one thing any book lover simultaneously loves and fears, it would be movie adaptations of their favorite books. If I had a dollar for every magnet, mug or t-shirt that I have seen with the words “the book was better” inscribed on it, I would have enough money to personally remake the Percy Jackson movies. But alas, I do not.

No matter how good a movie adaptation is, readers will always have some issues with it. The actors will never look the same as the characters someone pictured in their head, and since an exact adaptation would end up being several hours long, scenes inevitably get cut or small things get changed. Between money issues, time constraints and the sheer bounds of reality, movies will never be a perfect representation of the books on which they were based. This is understandable, but sometimes the adaptation is just, well, awful.

Some directors throw artistic integrity out the window to make the movie they want to direct or the one they think will make money, not necessarily the movie fans want to watch. There’s a difference between making a movie loosely based on a book and making a faithful adaptation. But this isn’t always advertised, so fans can walk into a movie expecting something entirely different from what they expect.

Contrary to popular belief, most authors have no control over what happens to their books after they sell the movie rights. They often have no say in casting, the script or any part of production. And sometimes, like in the case of Percy Jackson series author Rick Riordan, they hate the movie adaptation just as much as we do. He hasn’t watched either of the movies that were made from his books.

In the case of Rick Riordan, he fought as hard as he could to prevent that movie from being made. If you haven’t read the series or seen the movie, then consider yourself lucky. Essentially, the story revolves around 12-year-old Percy Jackson and the entire series leads up to Percy’s 16th birthday, because a prophecy foretells chaos happening should he reach that age.

Riordan mentioned in a blogpost recently that the producers initially tried to make the main characters 17 years old, which completely destroys the entire plot of the series. After arguing, he managed to convince them to make the characters 15. But this choice still ruined the plot of the series. Not that this mattered, however, because they rewrote the entire story of “The Lightning Thief” for the movie. The only real thing that stayed the same were the characters’ names. Not only this, but it alienated all the young fans who wanted to see themselves on screen, because Percy was supposed to be 12.

A sequel, “The Sea of Monsters,” was made but has more or less been forgotten about entirely. The movie series was canceled after this, despite the series being five books long. The series still remains unfinished, and fans are still incredibly angry and upset about it.

Like in the case of Percy Jackson, producers love to make characters a lot older than they are in the original text. Even if they don’t change it in the script, I’m sure you’ve seen plenty of movies where a 24-year-old actor is acting as a 15-year-old high school student. This is partly because of laws about how long minors can work on set, which a lot of producers like to avoid. But it’s also so producers can get big-name actors in the movie in an attempt to draw in more money.

Casting aside, sometimes the movie can be pretty decent but will completely misrepresent the characters. While the Harry Potter movies are pretty faithful adaptations, they reduce Ron’s character to comic relief and give all his good lines to Hermione. They also completely wipe away Ginny’s entire personality and story arc, reducing her to just Harry’s love interest. It’s unfortunate, because she was a spectacularly strong female character in the books.

More recently, it has become popular to make books into TV series. “Game of Thrones” does this well, and a lot of other books are following suit. “The Mortal Instruments” series was made into the “Shadowhunters” TV show. John Green, author of “The Fault in Our Stars,” recently announced that his book “Looking For Alaska” is being made into a Hulu original mini series next year. Because books are separated into chapters, they translate pretty well into TV series, because you can separate each chapter into an episode.

When producers get selfish or carried away, series can fall apart quickly. They like to prioritize money and their own interests over fan interest and what would make a good story. It can be frustrating as a reader and an audience member to routinely be disappointed and screwed over by companies who only want our money and will scam us out of it in any way possible. Especially since they know readers will go see the movie adaptation of a book regardless. It’s just disappointing when a book series has so much potential to make an amazing movie series but gets destroyed in the process.

But all of this is to mention some good news! Disney bought the rights to the Percy Jackson series from Fox. While Disney has yet to announce if they will be remaking the movies, there is still hope for a better, more faithful adaptation of the series. And as for me, I’ll try to remain hopeful that one day, this series will get the movies it deserves.


Courtney Gavitt is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at courtney.gavitt@uconn.edu.

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