“Percy Jackson, the son of Poseidon, continues his epic journey to fulfill his destiny, as he teams with his demigod friends to retrieve the Golden Fleece, which has the power to save their home and training ground, Camp Half-Blood.”
There was too little Nathan Fillion and Anthony Stewart Head for my liking.
No, but seriously, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters must be one of the worst adaptations I’ve ever seen. And that’s including The Lightning Thief. How? Well…
Number one, it doesn’t respect the source material. Seriously. One of the things you need to do when you adapt a book into a movie is to respect the material. You don’t have to stay completely true to it, but you have to keep the essence of what makes the book well-loved by fans. When you treat the story like shit, you’re treating the fans the same way.
I don’t like being treated like shit.
Now, to put things in perspective, I want to share why Prisoner of Azkaban is one of the best movie adaptations in my opinion. Don’t worry, this will be short. Basically, in the Prisoner of Azkaban movie, the screenplay writer and the director took the parts of the book that would make the most sense in the context of the film universe, the parts that would make the movie look good, and then made sure that it kept to the message that the book wanted to put across: that we mustn’t judge others based on what we hear about them.
That movie did a great job.
Sea of Monsters actually has the same message. sort of. But the most important part of the book, for me, was the fact that this was about Percy Jackson coming to his own. The first book had him rely a lot on Annabeth, Grover, and the other kids at the camp. Sea of Monsters was his quest taken away from him, and his journey to find out who he is, and what he is capable of.
His main problem is belonging.
Instead, we are treated to what is supposed to be a series of eye-candies: a battle aboard a ship, a daring escape, and a chase scene that was supposed to scare us into thinking that our heroes are doomed. Instead of getting intelligent solutions to problems posed to our heroes, we see just how lucky they can get.
Everything is planted clearly. Everything is handed to our heroes on a silver plate. By the end of the movie, our heroes learn nothing. They do not grow.
The source material was treated like shit.
I’m supposed to go to number two now, but that’s mostly me griping about the changes made from book to film. I understand the need to make it more visually appealing for the tween audiences. But couldn’t they have at least tried to make it make sense?
Seriously, an amusement park in an island in the middle of the Bermuda Triangle? Someone definitely didn’t think things through.
Being a writer, I know how hard it is to adapt something that isn’t originally yours. Especially when you have to stay fateful, but don’t have enough airing time to do show everything important. That’s why we have creative licenses. That’s why we adapt instead of dramatize. Looking into the end product we get with Sea of Monsters, I had to wonder: how hard was it to adapt the book? Had I been writing it, I definitely would’ve done it a lot differently.
For starters, I wouldn’t begin with Percy narrating a flashback he knows nothing about. I would start with Percy saving Tyson from bullies. If it needed be humans, then I’ll include something about the Mist. If it can be mythological bullies, then, no problem.
Percy would feel good about beating the bullies, before more comes in. He can’t save Tyson alone, and Tyson is too hurt (and confused) to defend himself. And then Annabeth and Grover comes in to help him. Percy is relieved to find help, but this begins his doubts about his capabilities.
Can he actually finish things by himself, or will he always need the help of others?
This would then be the thesis statement of the film.
When Percy and his friend clear Tyson over at Camp Half-Blood, Percy is forced to befriend Tyson the cyclops because no one wants to be near the guy. Grover, being a satyr, doesn’t like him because cyclops eat satyrs. As for Annabeth, we could keep her reasons a secret for now. And we can also start to pull her away from Percy who becomes confused. Because of his friends’ reactions though, Percy should also pull away from Tyson. Which hurts the cyclops.
The competition with Clarisse is easy to insert. She could lead the hecklers against Tyson, or she could be the person to save Percy’s ass while he fails to save Tyson on his own.
We can keep the bull’s attack on Camp Half-blood because it moves the plot along. Also, it’s visually cool. But instead of having Percy be the one to discover Luke’s involvement, let it be Annabeth. And let Percy witness this. Now we’re giving our hero a conflict. The girl he likes is maybe in league with the person who wants to destroy life as we all know it. What’s a guy to do?
Percy tries to talk to Poseidon, but dad won’t return the call.
When they discover that Luke’s attack has weakened the protective barrier of camp, Percy is forced to confront Annabeth. What is she hiding? Annabeth pushes Percy away. Percy is very alone now.
And then we reveal that Tyson is Percy’s half-brother when Poseidon claims him. Which hurts Percy, because his dad didn’t answer his call–and now he’s saddling him with a cyclops. That no one likes. And, well, basically telling everyone that they’re brothers. Half-brothers.
Now, Percy is out to prove himself. Not just to everyone at Camp Half-Blood, he wants to prove himself to his friends. Not to mention the fact that he knows that Annabeth is keeping something. From him. So he talks to the Oracle. In secret.
And then he finds out the prophecy. About the child of the Elder Gods who will either bring salvation or destruction to Mount Olympus. Now we can start to play with Percy’s mind. He thinks he’s weak on his own. He has a cyclops for a brother. Of course he will think that destruction is what he’ll bring. And he needs to change this.
This is where Chiron and Annabeth come in. They would’ve already deduced that they would need the Golden Fleece. And Percy wonders. Because of Clarisse’s connections, she gets to lead the quest. And she gets to choose her two comrades, provided that one of them be a satyr–because satyrs are cool. Well, that and they are drawn to the Golden Fleece. Percy won’t have a chance to prove himself.
After a dramatic pause, Chiron reveals that the Golden Fleece is guarded by Polyphemus. Who is a cyclops. Who eats satyrs.
This is when Percy realizes that Grover is missing. Since Luke’s attack. He deduces that Luke has Grover. And then he sees Annabeth sneaking away. So he follows her. And Tyson follows him.
We can have Percy and Annabeth fight. Annabeth is keeping secrets from him, and she slips that she knows where Luke is. This is where it all adds up for Percy: Annabeth’s knowledge of the Golden Fleece. Her talk with Luke. Grover’s disappearance. Annabeth knows something. But she won’t tell Percy. And she won’t go near Tyson. But she is setting out to save Grover from Tyson.
Now we’re on a quest.
And now we can play with the emotions of the characters as they go on their journey, making it more dramatic. Making the audience care more about them, and their probable fate.
On the part where Percy and Annabeth meet Luke, we can reveal Annabeth’s wish to save Luke. To bring him back to their side. And this is where we can find out about her past with Luke, about the tree that guards Camp Half-Blood, and about Thalia. This is also where we find out that Luke has sent Grover ahead to the Sea of Monsters. That he also wants the Golden Fleece. And we can have Percy not really say anything here yet–so we can mine those emotions for later.
But we can have Luke try to kill Percy by this time. A shot that would hit Tyson instead, seemingly killing him (and making him fall off the boat and into the ocean), allowing Percy and Annabeth escape. And making our heroes more vulnerable–and allowing us to add a new member to the team later.
Because this is where Annabeth and Percy reach the Sea of Monsters. And this is where they come across Clarisse. And the three of them can help each other in getting out of the belly of a very large beast.
And this is where Percy begins to think that Clarisse might not be so bad after all. Especially when it’s Clarisse who says something nice about Tyson. As well as something that would make Percy feel better about Tyson’s death. Maybe something about bravery. And dying in battle. Clarisse is the daughter of Ares. It just has to be something that doesn’t sit well with Annabeth, especially after how she treated Tyson, and how Tyson died saving her.
Now we’re giving Annabeth conflict. And we’re developing the love angle by giving them an unwitting third party. As Percy is drawn to Clarissa’s brutal honesty, Annabeth is forced to face how she keeps everything to herself. Something she could face when they eventually come face to face with Polyphemus.
Which brings us to Circeland. Which I really don’t like. If we’re going for an amusement park visual, then we should exploit it. But the movie doesn’t. So why not keep the towering cliffs and the barren lands? It can be visually exciting if done right.
And it can be a great test to Percy’s patience as he is already used to fighting all the time. Now he’s with Annabeth and Clarisse, and all they are facing are barren lands. That is, until they see sheep. And find out that Polyphemus’s lair is nearby.
If we have to absolutely use an amusement park–then let’s utilize it. Have Luke’s team be there lying in wait. Have a fight. Anything that would actually warrant the use of an amusement park.
And then have Percy’s team fall unto Polyphemus’s lair. And then the revelation that Grover is still alive–and pretending to be a girl cyclops just to survive. And then, have them be trapped with Grover. Now there’s more of them that’s about to get eaten.
At this time we can have the realizations. Percy’s fears of being not enough. Annabeth’s trust issues. Clarisse’s need to be the best. And Grover just doesn’t want to be eaten by a cyclops.
Working together, the kids would be able to outsmart Polyphemus, with Annabeth’s wit and Percy’s daring–leading Polyphemus to the ocean to drown. (Clarisse’s shining moment is in, maybe saving Grover, and allowing Percy to have a heroic moment.) And they think they’re home free. Percy, having done something brave on his own, gives Clarisse the Fleece to bring home. As she mounts her ship, Luke attacks.
Percy and Annabeth tell Clarisee to leave. To save Thalia’s tree. And then the two face Luke to battle it out again. Except Polyphemus is back. Because cyclops can breathe underwater. And Luke escapes because no one wants to be cyclops’ food. Now Percy, Annabeth, and Grover have to face of Polyphemus on their own–except they’re not. Because Tyson has returned. Because Tyson, also a cyclops, can breathe underwater too. And being a son of Poseidon, the waters healed him after Luke almost killed him.
With Tyson marches some of Poseidon’s men. They allow Percy and the others to escape as they trick Polyphemus into his death. This is where Tyson says goodbye to Percy, because he’s joining the other cyclops under the sea.
When Percy returns to Camp Half-Blood with Annabeth and Grover, there is already a celebration, because Thalia’s tree has been saved. But a surprise is waiting for both them there–
Of course, this is what I would have done. How would you have written Sea of Monsters?