Categories
Scene

Book Nook: The infamous and upcoming Percy Jackson adaptations

I recently watched the 2005 film “Pride and Prejudice,” based on Jane Austen’s 1813 novel of the same name. It was excellent. Many movie adaptations of books struggle to convey their lengthy events in a completely different medium, but this is not the case with “Pride and Prejudice.” The writing succeeds in staying true to the book and creating an enjoyable movie. Readers of the novel will appreciate the actors’ interpretations of their respective characters. However, you could watch the film without reading the book and immensely enjoy it.

This made me think back to my days of watching the Percy Jackson film adaptations, which were terrible. They were incredibly loose adaptations, and the antithesis of everything the “Pride and Prejudice” film did well.

The novel series Percy Jackson & the Olympians by Rick Riordan is about a 12-year-old half-human son of the Greek god of the sea, Poseidon, who goes on adventures with his demigod friends and saves the world multiple times. It consists of five books covering Percy’s life over a few years at a magical camp for demigods on Long Island.

I loved the book series. It was a staple of my middle school experience. I would stay up extremely late to read about how Percy and his friends defeated monsters. I would read the series at the dinner table with my family, which was admittedly rude. But I was so absorbed in the writing, I physically could not put them down until I was finished. The characters had so much depth, the plot was fast-paced and the references to Greek mythology were incredibly interesting.

The film adaptations of the first two books in the series, “The Lightning Thief” and “Sea of Monsters,” were a disappointment. They changed key elements of the original Percy Jackson we know and love, like the characters’ personalities and the monsters they encounter. Reading the series and knowing how badly the movie portrayed the storyline was painful. But the films don’t just fail as adaptations, they fail to be good movies. Even for people who didn’t read the books, the movies were just plain unenjoyable. They could not stand on their own if they were not tied to the Percy Jackson series.

The pacing in the movies was jarring and the emotional development of the characters felt awkward and forced. Although the acting was decent, the characters felt one-dimensional at times. The focus of the films rested much more on the action and fight scenes than anything else.

Disney+ plans to release a television series adaptation of Percy Jackson. The good news is that Rick Riordan is on the writing team for the show. Hopefully, his influence will result in a series that stays true to the books, only deviating from the original plot in ways that are entertaining, improve upon the novels and translate their events for the silver screen.

The episodic format is also promising for the upcoming Percy Jackson release. TV shows typically can better adapt their source material because they have a longer runtime compared to movies. “Pride and Prejudice,” similarly, had a TV series adaptation on the BBC that was much more faithful to the original story. 

Despite this, I am still scared of how it will turn out. The Percy Jackson movies have permanently lowered my expectations.

Contact Caitlin Brannigan at cbrannig@nd.edu.

Categories
Scene

Book Nook: ‘Throne of Glass’

“Throne of Glass” is a young adult high fantasy novel about a teenage assassin, Celaena, who has been given a life sentence in prison and tries to win her freedom via a combat tournament. Although I enjoyed the novel, I wanted more from it.

The two best parts of the book were Celaena and her best friend Nehemia. Celaena is an intelligent, strong and witty young woman. The novel’s third-person omniscient narration, mostly through Celaena’s point of view, was a great choice. I was excited to learn more about her backstory and the clever ways in which she plotted against her opponents. Nehemia, the rebel princess from another kingdom that Celaena befriends throughout the novel, is mysterious and powerful. She’s incredibly intelligent, so seeing the way she navigates spying on her enemies is also very intriguing. I was very invested in these two and they kept me interested in the novel.

Another strong point is the plot. It’s fast-paced and engaging. Celaena is constantly coming into conflict with the people around her, whether it’s other competitors or members of the aristocracy. She occasionally unveils the kingdom’s secrets and learns more about her past. I felt very absorbed in these events.

I found the world building somewhat engaging but slightly disappointing. The book lays the groundwork for the entire series, but it can’t stand on its own. There’s rich potential that isn’t explored in-depth, and there are too many loose ends.

The novel paints a picture of a medieval fantasy kingdom that was once shaped by magic. Non-human fantasy races, like faeries, used to live alongside humans; however, magic has disappeared entirely from the land as a result of the tyrannical king’s decree. The mechanics of this disappearance aren’t really explored. There are several other kingdoms that the evil king has conquered, but most are not explored in-depth. There’s some form of religion involving high priestesses and different Gods which feels reminiscent of Roman mythology, but this isn’t expanded upon by the author. Ancient pseudo-magical marks called “wyrdmarks” play a major role in the book’s story. They keep appearing at the scene of serial murders of different competitors in the tournament. Celaena tries to learn more about the Wyrdmarks to prevent her own death at the hands of the mystery killer, but their origin and how they work still feels unclear by the end of the novel. The book’s setting is largely confined to the two castles in which the tournament takes place, and as a result, mainly explores aristocratic side characters. The world of “Throne of Glass” is interesting at face value but feels too much like it’s setting up its sequel.

I found it hard to care about the romance subplot. Neither love interests felt like they had chemistry with Celaena. Due to their ulterior motives and confusion about their feelings toward her, neither of them seemed like trustworthy or legitimate suitors. This subplot also felt like it was setting up a sequel, even though the book spent a lot of time on it.

I enjoyed reading “Throne of Glass” and I will definitely read the sequel. It’s a great book to read for fun, even if it has its faults.

Title: Throne of Glass

Author: Sarah J. Mass

Published by: Bloomsbury Publishing

Shamrocks: 4 out of 5

Categories
Scene

Book Nook: ‘Dune,’ two very different narratives

My summer project was reading Frank Herbert’s “Dune.”

The 1965 science fiction epic immersed me in its semi-supernatural world of complex space politics, family ties and religion. It focuses on Paul Atreides and his family who oversee a planet much like Earth but are soon forced by the interplanetary Emperor to move to the desert planet of Arrakis. They face several obstacles on this planet because of it formerly being “ruled” by their rival family, the Harkonnens. Though it has a slow start, the book soon becomes suspenseful and exciting as its protagonists navigate layers of intricate schemes devised by both their enemies and their allies.

The 2021 film adaptation of the first half of the novel is… different. It’s good, but viewers should not watch the movie expecting it to be the same as the book. The movie focuses on its cinematic elements, at which, obviously, it excels. The soundtrack, composed by Hans Zimmer, is beautiful; it creates suspense, sets the mood and captures the intensity of many scenes. The costume choices and the casting were on point, and the visuals, especially the vast landscapes, are stunning. The film completely immerses the viewer. I would recommend seeing it, especially in a theatre, because it truly is a work of art. However, unlike the book, I would never recommend it for the plot.

The film leaves out a lot of important details that make the novel a science fiction classic. Adapting “Dune” is hard for a number of reasons. After a string of bad adaptations, it was considered a novel nearly impossible to create for a long time. The 2021 adaptation is by far the best but suffers from some of the same problems as its predecessors.  

Because of the novel’s length and interweaving subplots, it’s very difficult to form a cohesive plot for a film. Splitting it into a two part movie instead of adapting it all at once is a smart choice — especially considering the first half of the novel, in both its plot and its characters, feels vastly different from the second half due to a jump in time.

The most glaring issue with the movie is that it fails to create a sense of the conflict between the Harkonnens and the Atreides. Much of this is conveyed in the novel through complex internal monologues, which are understandably difficult to adapt. Many of the tense conversations between characters that pertain to this conflict would seem tame if the reader wasn’t informed of the characters’ machinations through the omniscient narrator. Just adding this dialogue to the movie does not help viewers understand the veiled messages and hidden meanings that characters in the novel deciphered in their internal monologues from a few words of conversation.

The central conflict between the Harkonnens and the Atreides expands to include larger organizations in the second half of the novel. It is possible that the conflict was kept vague because of this shift, however, it leaves the movie feeling slow. The plot was moving at random without being driven by a central element.

The complex politics also felt glossed over. For example, the Bene Gesserit is a pseudo-religious political organization key to the novel’s plot. Its schemes have been drawn out for hundreds of years and have significant influence on every aspect of politics and Paul Atreides’ development, as he may or may not be critical to their end goal of finding a prophet-like figure. Most of what makes them important is barely mentioned in the movie. They come off as more of a shady cult than a powerful organization.

You should see “Dune” for its carefully crafted cinematic experience, however, don’t expect much from the plot.

Contact Caitlin Brannigan at cbrannig@nd.edu