Dear Chris Columbus,
Thank you for not only ruining one of my favorite books, but also for just making a bad movie. When I saw your name attached to The Lightning Thief, I didn't worry. After all, you are the man who brought us Harry Potter. I didn't think it was possible to satisfy fans of the boy who lived; Rowling had created such vivid characters and intricate plots. But you surprised me and gave me some of my favorite movies, only better because they are of my favorite books. When I walked into the theater to see Percy Jackson, I was excited, knowing that you would deliver something spectacular: something visually stunning and enjoyable, while still being faithful to us fans who put our trust in you. My faith was misplaced.
Now, I realize a movie is going to be different from the book it is based on. That is a given. Screenplays are more structured and shorter, often requiring compression of story lines or characters. Internal problems need to be externalized and sometimes things need to happen in a more exciting way so that you can give us viewers our fourteen dollars worth. I understand that. Adaptation is way more complicated that I have room (or desire) to discuss in this blog. That being said, I have a few grievances.
Annabeth is a main character throughout the books and in your film. In the books she is smart (after all she is the daughter of the goddess of wisdom), she loves to read, and she has her own personal issues. In the movie the only thing about her that isn't flat is her chest. She is a bimbo of the highest order, who can fight, but really just stands around and looks pretty. She's also in love with Luke, which provides conflict. She loves him even when she's learned he's betrayed her. This brings us to:
Luke is just as one dimensional. Without Annabeth's love and the back story (he saved her as a child and is the only family she has ever known), he has no redeeming qualities. His daddy-issues aren't developed enough in the film for me to really buy that he would hatch a plan to destroy the gods. Speaking of which...
Where's Kronos? It's been a while since I read the books, so correct me if I'm wrong. In the books, the plan to evoke war between the god's is hatched by Kronos as part of a large plot to escape Tartarus. He uses Luke's sense of abandonment to turn his mind against the gods. This gives us a well-rounded villain in Luke, a more understandable reason for his actions, and our series-arching villain. Kronos is Voldemort to Percy's Harry. Sure Harry had to face some death eaters, but at the end of the day it was all about whether or not he could defeat Voldemort when the time came. His story would not be the same without he-who-must-not-be-named.
Without Kronos, some things just seem silly. For example, in the book Luke gives Percy his winged shoes so that they will drag him to tartarus with the lightning bolt and strengthen Kronos. In the movie, he apparently only gives them to Percy so that he can lose a very theatrical fight above New York City. Even if you are playing friendly with your enemies, you don't give them flying shoes. The shield with the lightning bolt would have sufficed, but the shoes are overkill. There was no reason for Luke to give them to Percy.
Speaking of things done just so that the movie could look cool (which by the way it didn't, the effects were reminiscent of Anaconda) why would Percy put Medusa's head, uncovered in the fridge? And why did the eyes open on their own. I don't think I really need to explain how silly this is.
In the movie, Percy sneaks away from camp. This would have been an exciting change from the book, where he is sent on a legitimate quest, if he doesn't sneak away from camp in the second book. Seriously? How many times are you going to pull that one before we say, enough we get it: Percy Jackson is a badass who doesn't need to follow any rules.
And these are just the icing on the cake. The books were full of cinematic potential that was completely abandoned. Whenever Percy needed to know something, someone would tell him, nobody ever really tried to manipulate him, and it seemed like everybody liked him. It would have been nice for Ares or Clarisse or someone who legitimately hated him to come along and provide some conflict. It also might have made the spoon-ladled plot more palatable. There never felt to be any real personal conflict. Yeah, Percy felt abandoned by his dad, but in the book, the big three were forbidden from even having children. Having all those kids in Hermes who never knew who their fathers were could have made a huge difference in us really understanding where Luke was coming from. But no, everyone just knows who their father or mother is.
PS--At least you included Thalia's tree. Thanks for that.