The Journey from Page to Screen: Triumphs and Failures

Bringing a world originally formed by words on pages into reality leaves a lot up to personal interpretation. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. There are, of course, other limitations – not every minor character, interaction, and detail can make it to the big screen. Sometimes, extra things are added to or are changed in the plot. The issues with this in book-to-movie adaptations come when there are changes made to the plot that makes the screen interpretation so different from the source material, it might as well be another story.

Let’s compare two very popular book franchises with movie adaptations: “Harry Potter” and “Percy Jackson and the Olympians”

Warning: spoilers ahead!

“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”
The film adaptation of the first book in the “Harry Potter” franchise is pretty accurate to the book. The only differences are the omitting of some exposition scenes, some specific interactions and dialogue, and minor characters, as well as the rearranging of some events. However, all of the changes make sense for a screen-to-film adaptation. They cut down on run time, but don’t change any of the important events, main plot of the story, or the personalities of the characters. The movie simply brings the book to life, highlighting what makes the world and its characters so loveable.

“Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief”
The “Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief” movie changed almost everything. From the beginning to the end of the film there are so many characters that are removed and parts of the plot that are changed, but there are three main things that affect the story.
To start, there are a lot of pieces that are specific to the Percy Jackson world that have been changed. Personalities of the characters, (Annabeth’s character is combined with Clarisse, who was cut from the movie), the fact that demigods avoid technology, especially cell phones because they attract monsters, (Percy now has an iPod Touch), and the setting of Camp Half-Blood (changed from a summer camp full of kids to a battle camp) are all different from the books.

There are also several plot points that are different. Percy does fight the Minotaur in both the book and movie and his mother is kidnapped by Hades, and he does venture to the underworld in both versions, but in the movie, the pact of the Big Three is never mentioned, disregarding the significance around Percy being the son of Poseidon, and the reason he has to be the one to go one the quest.

As for the quest, in the books, Percy’s quest is prompted by a breach in the camp’s shield. Before his quest, he receives a prophecy from the Oracle of Delphi, telling him that Hades is accused of stealing the Master Bolt from Zeus, and Percy the son of Posideon must retrieve it. There is no mention of the Oracle in the movies. On the journey west in the books, Percy encounters and fights Medusa, Echidna, and her Chimera atop the St. Louis Arch, Procrustes at a waterbed store, the three Furies multiple times, enters the Lotus Casino, and encounters Cerberus at the gates to the Underworld though he didn’t fight him. In the books, he does not interact with every character, which is understandable for a movie adaptation. He does fight Medusa and encounters one Fury, but the movie adds him fighting a Hydra at the Parthenon in Nashville, Tennessee. The Hydra does not actually appear until the second book, and in the movie, it expels fire instead of acid.
Now comes the biggest change from page to screen.

In the books, Hades is innocent and accuses Percy of stealing his helm, and after escaping the underworld Percy and his friends discover that Ares, the god of war, has the bolt and the helm. Percy challenges him to a battle on a beach in Los Angeles and wins, returning the helm and bolt back to their owners. It is then revealed that Luke (a fellow camper and friend) was actually the thief, and he is working with Kronos, the Titan. The movie made it so that the bolt was hidden in Percy’s shield, and Hades finds it. He is about to use it on the demigods but is stopped by Persephone. When Percy leaves the underworld, it is revealed that Luke was the thief. The movie chose to completely scrap that battle between Percy and Ares, replacing it with a battle between Percy and Luke, who wields the master bolt.

Believe it or not, there are more changes and inaccuracies in the movie that I did not include here. This movie is an example of what not to do with an adaptation. Don’t omit details that are important to worldbuilding, don’t change major plot points, and try to keep as true to the source materials as possible.

Despite my personal opinions about these franchises, both are close to my heart. I highly suggest that you read these books and compare them with the movies, and judge how well you think the adaptations recreated the stories.