16 ‘Percy Jackson’ Movie Changes That Are Still Controversial With Fans

There once was a time back in 2010 when Percy Jackson book readers couldn’t wait for the film adaptions to premier. Starring Logan Lerman as Percy Jackson and Alexandra Daddario as Annabeth Chase, the Percy Jackson & the Olympians film series was expected to be the next big book-to-movie adaption to sweep through Hollywood. However, following the release of The Lightning Thief and then Sea of Monsters, it quickly became clear that the dedicated fans of the Rick Riordan novels were far from happy with the films.

The Percy Jackson and the Olympians book series first debuted back in 2005 and quickly became mandatory reading for any child or teen interested in greek mythology. As fans grew to love the six Percy Jackson novels more and more, there love for the Logan Lerman-led film adaptions grew smaller and smaller.

Thankfully, the Percy Jackson book series is being adapted into a much more faithful television series for Disney+ but that won’t stop all the hate book readers already have for the films. Here are the most unforgivable changes the movie adaptations of The Lightning Thief and The Sea of Monsters made that fans of the books simply can’t ignore.

1. Percy Abandons His Mom In The Underworld

Photo: Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief / 20th Century Fox

The first film sees Percy, Annabeth, and Grover spending much of their quest seeking three magic pearls that will let them escape from the Underworld after confronting Hades. When they arrive, Percy finds his mother, who was taken hostage by Hades, and longs to help her escape, although he doesn’t have an extra pearl for her. Grover bravely stays behind with Persephone and sacrifices his pearl so that Percy can rescue his mom. 

In the book, Percy makes a less selfish choice. As Percy finds the Master Bolt hidden in his backpack and realizes Ares set him up to look like the thief, he knows he has to confront the god. He uses the pearl to escape the Underworld along with Annabeth and Grover, leaving his mother behind – though he promises to come back for her. Fortunately, after Percy defeats Ares and returns Hades’s stolen Helm of Darkness, Hades releases Sally. 

2. The Real Reason Percy Doesn’t Fly

Photo: Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief / 20th Century Fox

In the novel version of The Lightning Thief, once Percy is given the quest to find and return Zeus’s Master Bolt, Luke gives him a parting gift of a pair of flying shoes. However, Chiron advises Percy not to use them, since the sky is Zeus’s territory and he may just blast Percy out of the air. So, Percy gives the shoes to his best pal, Grover, who ends up in grave danger since Luke cursed the shoes in an attempt to sabotage Percy.

Even though movie Luke (Jake Abel) is still the antagonist, he doesn’t curse the shoes, and Percy has no hesitation about using them. In fact, they prove very helpful as Percy uses them to claim one of the pearls. Percy also uses them in his battle with Luke, which makes one wonder why Luke gave him such a useful item in the first place.

3. Percy Actually Fights Ares And Then Luke

Photo: Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief / 20th Century Fox

The climax of The Lightning Thief features an epic battle between Luke and Percy at the Empire State Building, after Percy figures out that Luke stole Zeus’s lightning bolt. Percy defeats him and returns the bolt to Zeus, and that’s that.

In the book, Percy’s climactic battle is instead against Ares, who helped cover up Luke’s plan to steal the Bolt thanks to Kronos’s influence. Luke’s role in the plot isn’t revealed until Percy gets back to Camp Half-Blood, and Luke lures Percy into the woods to get him alone. Luke attempts to kill Percy with a deadly scorpion to prevent him from further interfering with Kronos’s plans, revealing his treachery in the process. Luke also explains his reasoning for siding with Kronos and his feelings of resentment at Hermes’s neglect before he flees to continue working with the Titan. Percy survives the scorpion attack, but its sting leaves him with a scar.

4. Percy And Annabeth Meet Differently In The Books

Photo: Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief / 20th Century Fox

The novel depicts Percy and Annabeth’s first meeting as a mix of impressive and awkward. While fighting the Minotaur as he attempts to reach Camp Half-Blood’s protective border, 12-year-old Percy just manages to defeat the beast before passing out. As his consciousness fades, he sees Annabeth, whom he describes as a princess, for the first time. Later, when Percy wakes in the infirmary, they have their first real conversation, and Annabeth pesters him to understand what’s happening at the Summer Solstice. Much to Percy’s embarrassment, she also notes that he drools in his sleep.

Instead of those amazing not-so-meet-cutes, the movie’s version of Percy’s first glimpse of Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario) is simply that he sees her sparring at camp. Given this different meeting, and the fact that the characters are 16 rather than 12, the film misses out on a lot of the fun pre-teen dynamic between Annabeth and Percy – and it also misses their cute nicknames for each other, “Wise Girl” and “Seaweed Brain.”

5. Percy Gifts Medusa’s Head To His Mom

Photo: Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief / 20th Century Fox

Grover becomes the keeper of Medusa’s (Uma Thurman) head as they hunt for the last two pearls in the first movie. He even uses her gaze to defeat the Hydra. At the end, Percy leaves the head as a warning to Gabe, who ignores it and turns to stone, in a way that’s partly his own fault.

In the book, these events play out slightly differently, highlighting Percy’s defiant personality in greater detail. Percy mails the Gorgon’s head to his dad at Mount Olympus as a metaphorical middle finger for how unhelpful Poseidon had been throughout the quest – and Percy’s entire life. Poseidon doesn’t take it personally, then returns it, telling Percy he has a choice to make. Though Percy offers to use the head to turn Gabe to stone, Sally doesn’t want her son to have to do that. Percy leaves the head with Sally for protection in case Gabe tries to hurt her again. After he’s back at Camp Half-Blood, she writes to him to report that Gabe “went missing” – and that she got a lot of money for her ultra realistic “sculpture” of an ugly man.

6. The Oracle And Great Prophecy Are Missing

Photo: Percy Jackson: Sea Of Monsters / 20th Century Fox

The Oracle of Delphi is quite the looker despite being an old mummy. She also gives baby Percy the creeps when green mist swirls out of her mouth as she delivers her prophecy: “You shall go west, and face the god who has turned. / You shall find what was stolen, and see it safely returned. / You shall be betrayed by one who calls you a friend. / And you shall fail to save what matters most in the end.” 

In the books, the Oracle plays a key role in giving our prophecies to guide young demigods on their quests. However, the Oracle doesn’t appear in the first movie at all. In the novel, she gives Percy the above prophecy to guide his quest to retrieve the Master Bolt, and Percy and his friends hinge on the wording to make key choices.

Additionally, the Great Prophecy – which states a child of the Big Three gods (Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades) who reaches the age of 16 will be responsible for saving or destroying Olympus – is a major factor throughout the series, and Percy learns about it in the first book (though the full text of the prophecy isn’t revealed until the fifth book, The Last Olympian). This prophecy is never mentioned in the film of The Lightning Thief, though, and only comes up in the second movie, Sea of Monsters

7. Luke And Annabeth Go Way Back

Photo: Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief / 20th Century Fox

In both the books and the film, Luke, son of Hermes, is roughly 19 years old. Since Annabeth is younger in the books – 12 years old as of The Lightning Thief – she looks up to Luke, and even has a small crush on him. This crush isn’t evident in the film, which also leaves out the key backstory of how long Luke and Annabeth have known each other. 

The books reveal that she trusts and admires Luke because he helped a 7-year-old Annabeth find her way to Camp Half-Blood after she ran away from home. Together with Grover Underwood and Thalia Grace, they fought dozens of monsters to survive until they made it to the camp, where Thalia sacrificed herself to distract a group of monsters and let the others get to safety (she was transformed into the pine tree that marks the protective border of the camp). 

In the film, Luke doesn’t appear to care about Annabeth in any special way; he’s just another camper that Annabeth can trust. Though it’s still awful when he betrays her and the camp as a whole, it doesn’t sting as much as it does in the books. In the novels, Annabeth and Luke’s much deeper relationship remains significant throughout the series as Luke stays a main antagonist and even becomes possessed by the Titan Kronos.

8. Ares, The God Of War, Had A Larger Book Role

Photo: Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief / 20th Century Fox

Just as Clarisse, the daughter of Ares, was left out of the film version of The Lightning Thief, so was the war god’s major role in the plot. The book has Percy learn that, despite Chiron’s suspicions, Hades never stole the Master Bolt – it was Luke who took the Bolt, along with Hades’s Helm of Darkness. Ares caught him, but Luke managed to convince Ares to help with the plan to pit the elder Olympians against each other and start a war. Throughout the quest, Ares delays Percy and friends several times as they travel west toward the Underworld. When the god’s treachery is revealed, a 12-year-old Percy fights Ares in a one-on-one battle and successfully makes him bleed ichor – an incredible feat.

Shortly after their battle, it’s revealed that Ares wasn’t completely in control of himself – the Titan Kronos was controlling Ares through his dreams to encourage him to follow the plan. Still, the fact that Percy makes an enemy of Ares continues to be relevant for the rest of the book series.

In the movie, Percy doesn’t get a cool battle against a god, and Ares (Ray Winstone) only appears in passing at the end of the film. Perhaps the filmmakers didn’t want to complicate the plot by adding another god into the mix, but it’s a shame that a compelling antagonist was lost.

9. Blue Food Was Nowhere To Be Seen

Photo: Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief / 20th Century Fox

Percy’s relationship with his mother, Sally, is incredibly important in every version of the story, but it has a lot more detail in the books. Sally Jackson is an incredibly sweet parent who strives to give Percy the best life she can, although it’s tough with him being a demigod. One charming detail is that, after her rude husband Gabe declared blue food doesn’t exist, Sally went out of her way to make as much blue food as possible, to Percy’s delight. Throughout the books, Percy and Sally bond over blue food, and Percy even asks the magical goblets at Camp Half-Blood to create blue cherry Coke to make him feel more at home.

Along with many other small details that flesh out the characters, blue food is completely absent from the film adaptation. Actor Logan Lerman, who plays Percy, seemed to not understand a reference to blue food in an interview, suggesting it never came up throughout the filming process.

10. Purposefully Excluding The Central Antagonist

Photo: Percy Jackson: Sea Of Monsters / 20th Century Fox

Cutting Kronos, the king of the Titans, as Luke’s boss in The Lightning Thief is one of the biggest mistakes the film adaptation makes. Kronos finally becomes a major part of the story in the second film, Sea of Monsters, but it strays further from the books’ plot and creates confusion since Luke never mentions Kronos in the first film. 

The novels make it clear from the end of the first book that Kronos is the overarching villain of the series. The Titan, who is also the father of the eldest six Olympian gods, longs to return to power after being cast into Tartarus. Kronos uses his influence to recruit and control several people to do his bidding, whether demigods like Luke, or even gods like Ares. Over the course of the series, he gains more followers and power, and ends up possessing Luke’s body to return to physical form. Although the movies may not have planned to adapt all five of the original novels, cutting out Kronos’s involvement makes The Lightning Thief film’s resolution murkier.

11. Percy Discovers His Powers Long Before Camp Half-Blood

Photo: Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief / 20th Century Fox

If any character deserves to be doused in a fountain, it’s Nancy Bobofit, the resident bully at Percy and Grover’s school, Yancy Academy. She never gets reprimanded for her behavior, which enrages Percy. When she bullies Grover on a school field trip, Percy snaps, and Nancy is suddenly grabbed by water from a nearby fountain.

This hilarious incident that also marks the first time Percy uses his powers as the son of Poseidon (even if he doesn’t yet understand why he has them) is absent from the movie, and Nancy Bobofit doesn’t exist at all.

In the book, the fountain incident is what confirms to Mrs. Dodds, or Alecto, the Fury from the Underworld, that Percy is in fact the demigod they’re looking for. In the film, he alerts Mrs. Dodds (Maria Olsen) by reading ancient Greek. 

12. The Pearls Of Persephone Were Less Important

Photo: Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief / 20th Century Fox

Much of Percy’s quest in the film version of The Lightning Thief is spent searching for three pearls of Persephone that will help the trio escape from the Underworld. That plot is invented almost entirely for the movie, which also plays up Hades’s role as a villain. The scenes to obtain the pearls also replace several different challenges and beloved scenes from the novel.

The pearls do exist in the book, though they’re said to belong to Poseidon, not Persephone, and obtaining them is much simpler. They’re a gift from a Nereid (a sea nymph) whom Percy visits in the Pacific Ocean, after encountering her earlier when he jumped into a river from the St. Louis Arch. Although gods like Poseidon are forbidden from directly assisting demigods in quests, minor powers like Nereids are not. She gives Percy all three of Poseidon’s pearls and shows him that his father does care about him, even if he can’t show it directly.

13. The Ages Don’t Exactly Match Up

Photo: Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief / 20th Century Fox

In the books, Percy and Annabeth are 12 years old at he start of the series. The first movie, by contrast, depicts Percy (Logan Lerman) and Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario) as 16-year-olds. On the other hand, Grover (Brandon T. Jackson) is the closest to his actual age, since the books note that he is truly 28, but looks only 14 due to being a satyr.

Changing the characters’ ages might not seem like a big deal, but it’s a lot more overwhelming to imagine 12-year-olds embarking on a quest across the country and fighting terrible monsters, compared to 16-year-olds, who are still young, but much closer to adulthood. Additionally, the age change conflicts with the books’ major arc that centers around the anticipation of Percy reaching the age of 16 and triggering the Great Prophecy. 

Allegedly, the author was against the change, as Rick Riordan released his emails with the movie producers wherein he explained that changing Percy’s age impacts the Prophecy (hindering a potential movie franchise) and alienates the target audience of middle-grade readers.

One of the key selling points of the Disney+ TV adaptation of Percy Jackson is that it will stick closer to the books – including with the characters’ ages.

14. Camp Half-Blood Looks Completely Different

Photo: Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief / 20th Century Fox

The movie set for Camp Half-Blood boasts a stunning beach house of sorts for the Poseidon cabin, which is very cool, but doesn’t match the book’s description of all the cabins for each god arranged in a U-shape. The movie also lacks the beautiful strawberry fields, the camp necklaces with the beads for each summer, Thalia’s pine tree (which is very important in Sea of Monsters), and camp director Dionysius (AKA Mr. D), who oversees the camp as a punishment from Zeus. Also, the movie shows characters using electronics occasionally, which is a big no-no in the books, where technology is said to attract monsters. 

Changing the layout of the camp and adding an iPod aren’t major issues, but leaving out Dionysis and Thalia’s tree are both significant holes, since they bear importance to the rest of the series.

15. The Book Features More Monsters

Photo: Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief / 20th Century Fox

Though the battle with Furies, Medusa, and the Hydra are incredibly cool in the film adaptation, only two of those two monsters are in the first book. Although Percy encounters a Hydra in the second book, he doesn’t fight one in the novel of The Lightning Thief. Instead, Percy encounters Echidna, a half-woman, half-snake, and her Chimera while visiting The Gateway Arch in St. Louis. Later on, he and his friends also meet Procrustes, another son of Poseidon, who stretches his victims to death in a mattress store – but “Crusty” isn’t seen in the film.

Sadly, time is limited in a feature film, and it’s not always possible to include every scene from a beloved book. It’s still a shame to lose some of these notable monster encounters from Percy’s first quest, as it misses out on some character development as Percy figures out how to harness his demigod powers.

16. Percy’s Camp Bully Was Mostly Missing

Photo: Percy Jackson: Sea Of Monsters / 20th Century Fox

Clarisse La Rue, a daughter of Ares, is one of Percy’s main rivals at Camp Half-Blood. She tries to welcome him with a toilet swirly, but Percy’s powers (though he still doesn’t know their source) protect him by bursting the pipes and dousing her with water. Furious, Clarisse decides to target Percy in the camp-wide game of Capture the Flag, leading all the Ares campers against him. Though she’s a bully at first, she has a great character arc throughout the series, and plays a key role in the battles of the fifth book, The Last Olympian.

Sadly, the first film cuts Clarisse entirely. Annabeth takes over aspects of her role, being slightly more confrontational with Percy than she is in the books, and fighting Percy during Capture the Flag. However, Clarisse (Leven Rambin) is rightfully introduced in the second movie, Sea of Monsters, since she’s one of the most important characters in that book.