I read the ebook in record time. A middle-grade fantasy with Greek mythology? I couldn't help myself!
It was the first of a series, Percy Jackson and the Olympians, called The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan.
I was wrapped up in the plot, rooting for the vulnerable yet hard-fighting heroes, when I mentioned it to my hubby.
"Oh, yeah. I saw movie just like that on TV at my parents."
Apparently, I am behind the times, 'cause I hadn't heard of the 2010 film of the same title as the book. I finished reading it, then watched the movie, curious to see how the plot had been condensed. I'm not a strong plotter and really enjoyed following the tangles and knots Rick had tied.
I'm a writer, so you no doubt think I'm gonna say the book is better than the movie.
Yes, but I'd like to talk about what I think made the book strong and consequently, the movie weaker. Beware the spoilers - I'll try not to be very specific, so you can still enjoy book and film!
First, characters. Book Percy is twelve. His age, dyslexia, ADHD and the lack of explanation about his history, make him vulnerable and approachable. Yet they also make him fight harder and really search for answers instead of just listening dumbfounded. Movie Percy is about seventeen and a "beau gosse" handsome kid. He fights fewer battles, with more teen bravado. Book Grover, his friend and protector, deals with insecurity over a past failure and has a big dream to bring balance back to the environment. Movie Grover is a cool brother, who likes the ladies and wants to earn a promotion. Lesson? Deep characters are worth it. We identify with them, we love them, we respect them.
Second, mixing the modern with the fantastic is one of my favorite things! I'm trying it in my current work in progress. The book was brilliant. Summer camp with the orange t-shirts, the canoes, the mess hall, the cabins...all there. With a cabin for each of the twelve major deities, in their own style. Where you use real weapons and fight hell hounds in Capture the Flag. Cool. In the film, it was too much like stepping into Ancient Greece. Beautiful, but not as...interesting to me. Lesson? Being creative with the setting and mixing it up. Having a Chihuahua that turns into a Chimera on the Saint Louis Arch, is more interesting than a fight in a random Greek structure. Have fun and think hard!
Third, adults and parents roles. Book adults are a bit incomprehensible to the kids, who treat them with respect, either from love or a bit of fear and awe (even the douche-bag step-dad is treated with restraint for good reasons). Adults point the kids in the right direction, toss them a sword pen, for example, but otherwise, the kids do all the action. Movie adults try to make things easier for teens and apologize a lot. I didn't find hand-wringing a very regal action for a god in front of his human son. The scene was handled with the dignity and distance necessary in the book; definitely hard for the father and difficult to understand for the son. I loved the mom/son relationship in the book - especially in the end, when Percy feels all hero-y and how his mom responds to it. It didn't come off that strong in the film. Lesson? Don't dis the parents/adults, but don't let them take over either!
Third, the jump from a middle-grade book to a more teen audience film meant adding a love interest between two characters that wasn't in the book. I thought it really changed the dynamic of the three friends on their quest, to a couple with a third-wheel best friend. Not as fun. And I didn't think it added anything. Other than mushy stuff. Lesson? Consider relationships between characters carefully. Who is the story for and how will a relationship change the feel of the story.
Fourth, plot. The book plot involves, in one way or another, a bunch of the major deities; Zeus, Poseidon, Hades, Ares, Hephaestus, Aphrodite, Athena...and even the old Titan Father Kronos himself. Comp.li.cat.ed. Who dunnit? And why? The movie need to move faster, I get that. But it cut out the whole under-plot. I was sad; it seemed too easy to solve.
All in all, I think I'll stick to my current rule; if I love the book, I'm not gonna watch the movie. If I see a movie and love it, I'll look up the book and try to read it too. For example, I never have watched the Harry Potter movies, but really want to read Marley and Me, 'cause the film was so fun.
Anywho, I can't wait to start reading the second Percy Jackson and the Olympians...but I think I'll skip the new movie. I love to hear your thoughts on analyzing strengths of books/films/stories/plots.