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The Real Reason We Never Got A Third Percy Jackson Movie

When Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief released in 2010, fan expectations were higher than Mt. Olympus itself for the movie based on the first book in Rick Riordan's YA fantasy series. The story of a young boy who discovers he's the son of Poseidon, the fabled Greek god of the sea, seemed perfectly suited to the big screen — and ripe for sequels, since Riordan had just completed the fifth and final novel the year before. Between the magic, the intrigue, and the training camp for youngsters, some wondered whether the film franchise would become the next Harry Potter.

It didn't.

Indeed, it's a wonder that a sequel, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, ever hit screens. No third installment followed, however. "It's not happening," Percy actor Logan Lerman said in 2014 (via MTV News). "It's been a great experience for me. It's opened up a lot of doors for me, but I don't think it's happening." The reasons for the cancelation definitely hit home, and with a new crack at the material on the horizon, we should probably take a look at what exactly happened the first time around.

Fall from Olympus

Hades is best known as the Greek god of the underworld, but he's often associated with wealth as well. So, he'd be mighty disappointed at the wealth the Percy Jackson franchise failed to amass. On a budget of $95 million, The Lightning Thief made a grand total of $226 million; and on a budget of $90 million, Sea of Monsters ended up with $200 million. It sounds like a lot, but barely making twice what it costs to produce a movie isn't usually considered a win for the film crew.

The films' box office earnings are reflected in the tepid fan and critical reception. Each movie's Rotten Tomatoes score is either slightly above or below 50% — far from an enviable rating. Adaptations don't need to be entirely faithful to the source material to achieve their own degrees of success, but in the case of Percy Jackson's Hollywood outings, it may have helped. Indeed, Riordan has had a thing or two to say about the translation from page to screen, none of them flattering.

Hollywood mangles another adaptation

Riordan may have wrapped up the series with The Last Olympian in 2009, but Percy and friends have remained near and dear to the author's heart over the years. Several of them appear in Riordan's other mythological book series, and his active interactions with fans on social media about his writing make it clear how much he cares. It's no surprise, then, that he's no fan himself of the poorly received films based on his work.

Authors don't often — if ever — retain creative control once Hollywood grabs hold of the rights to one of their works. Honestly, they're lucky if they even get a courtesy glance at the script before pre-production. Riordan was no exception to this rule. Still, the prolific writer threw his hat in the ring, letting the producers know what he thought of the script after he did see it. The advice fell on deaf ears, and so it was that the Percy Jackson films diverged from the books in multiple ways that Riordan believes irrevocably damaged the story. Percy's age, for example, is a major plot point in the novels: He starts at 12 and is 16 by the end, in accordance with an Oracle-sanctioned prophecy. When he first began work on The Lightning Thief movie, Logan Lerman was already older than 16.

To be clear, Riordan doesn't fault the actors. His many tweets on the subject have since become unavailable, but he hasn't seen the movies (and doesn't plan to). His knowledge of the films comes from reading the scripts, which, as he once remarked, felt like his "life's work going through a meat grinder." It's a harsh condemnation, yet one absolutely tied to the unmade third movie's fate. Hollywood changed too much. It didn't take the Oracle of Delphi to see that the unfaithful telling of a beloved story was destined to fail right out of the gate.

Fortunately, Riordan will be much more closely involved with the upcoming Percy Jackson series on Disney+, giving him the chance he always wanted to prove his story is screen-worthy. Details are sparse for now, so Percy Jackson fans can only pray to the Olympian pantheon in the interim between now and the unspecified release date.