Re-imagining Percy Jackson as Holden Caulfield from Catcher in the Rye?
01.22.10 by reelz
In Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, the young hero discovers that he is the modern-day son of the Greek god Poseidon, and becomes enmeshed in all sorts of adventures with beings straight out of ancient myths. So when director Chris Columbus started looking for a writer to help adapt the immensely popular Rick Riordan book for the big screen, it was only natural that Craig Titley's name came up. After all, he's getting a PhD in mythology.
But when Titley started going over the details of adapting the book for the big screen with the director, he explains in an interview with Latino Review, the biggest change they felt they had to make had nothing to do with the mythology. It was the age of the characters.
Well, the biggest change are that the books skew very, very young, even younger than the Harry Potter books. The protagonists in the books were like nine years old and they would hurl insults like "You seaweed brain." So the first thing we decided to do, and this was where we were both completely in sync, was up the age of the characters, making them like seventeen years old. Once that happened the adaptation sort of all fell into place. Then things that needed to change were like you needed to up the intensity of the action scenes which in the book were kind of cute and silly at times. We got to develop deeper characters and character relationships, things like that, just because you're making them seventeen and they have real world issues as opposed to just kids on the run and having fun.
The idea, of course, was to be able to draw in more of an adult audience as well.
We got to play with a lot of those things and in my mind my way into it was this character of Percy Jackson. He's kind of a troubled kid. He's at a school for troubled kids and it was like, "What if we took Holden Caulfield from Catcher in the Rye and threw him into a Ray Harryhausen Greek monster movie." That was kind of my way in. That kind of became my tonal lynchpin. I think that we kind of wrote it more as like a PG-13, a pushing the envelope PG-13 but the base of fans of the book are so much younger that the final film has kind of skewed back to a PG. But it's still has the feel of being much more — I don't know if grownup is the word but it's not as cute and cuddly.
It's a tricky thing though, making such substantial changes to a story that already has such a large and devoted fan base. The risk of alienating your core audience is fairly high. Only time will tell whether they got the balance right.