Percy Jackson and the Olympians First Reviews: 'Quick-Witted,' 'The Perfect Adaptation,' Critics Say

"Visually, it's a gem," "fantastic performances," and more of what critics are saying about Disney+'s new adaptation of Rick Riordan's beloved YA book series.

by | December 14, 2023 | Comments

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Percy Jackson and the Olympians, the new live-action television series based on Rick Riordan‘s popular young adult book series, tells the story of Percy (Walker Scobell), a young boy who discovers his father is actually the Greek god Poseidon. In short: He’s half human, half Greek god.

Starring alongside Scobell is Leah Jeffries as Annabeth; Aryan Simhadri, who plays Grover; Virginia Kull as Sally Jackson; Glynn Turman as Chiron; Jason Mantzoukas as Dionysus; Megan Mullally, who plays Alecto; Timm Sharp as Gabe Ugliano; Charlie Bushnell as Luke Castellan, and Adam Copeland, who plays Ares. Lin-Manuel Miranda guest stars along with Jay Duplass, Toby Stephens, Lance Reddick, Timothy Omundson, Olivea Morton, Suzanne Cryer, and Jessica Parker Kennedy.

Disney+ is hoping the series will respect the subject matter with a more faithful telling of Percy’s adventures than the 2010 movie adaptations. Riordan has been heavy involved in the project as both co-writer and executive producer.

The program will premiere on December 20, dropping its first episode to Hulu with a simultaneous premiere of the first two of the season on Disney+.

Here’s what critics are saying about season 1 of Percy Jackson and the Olympians:

How does it compare to the books and movies?

(Photo by Disney/David Bukach)

Unlike the Percy films, which aged the characters up, launching the show with younger actors spotlights a unique period while establishing a solid framework that will allow the story to expand as the leading trio ages.
Aramide Tinubu, Variety

For the first time, the lightning in a bottle that was the simple yet sturdy series of books has actually been captured on screen.
Chase Hutchinson, Collider

Some of the best casting ever in a television series, fantastic performances, and even the magic of the visuals and world-building, the series is about as perfect a television adaptation as you can get, as if it’s been favored by the gods themselves.
Nicole Drum,

It’s an adaptation that takes its source material seriously — and that just might be its biggest fault. — Petrana Radulovic, Polygon

How is the cast?

(Photo by Disney/David Bukach)

Walker Scobell (The Adam Project), who has been a fan of the series since third grade, shines as our favorite seaweed brain. The 14-year-old effortlessly plays the brave hero and the scared child. And on top of that, he’s funny. His timing is impeccable, and his expressions are animated.
Rihaana Stark, Geeks of Color

As Percy, Scobell has a snark and cynicism that perfectly encapsulates the experiences of a defiant boy. In contrast, Jefferies’ Hermione Granger-like Annabeth is a badass warrior. Bold and unafraid, she has an intensity beyond her years. Balancing out the pair is Simhadri’s Grover. Gentle and thoughtful, he often plays the mediator between the two, bringing a wisdom and calm neither of the demigods has grasped yet.
Aramide Tinubu, Variety

And Percy’s mom Sally (a soulful Virginia Kull) is bound to capture attention, especially considering her plight serves as a major plot thread in Percy. And it’s her deep connection with her son that anchors Percy’s motive (and the audience’s empathy)
Dominic Baez, Seattle Times

Walker Scobell captures Percy in all his snarkiness, but also his unflinching devotion to the people he cares about. Aryan Simhadri does a phenomenal job with Grover, a character that could simply be comedic relief, but in this version gets a deep vulnerability and almost awkward earnestness. We don’t see much of Leah Jeffries’ Annabeth in the first two episodes, but in those brief scenes she already conveys the character’s quiet strength.
Petrana Radulovic, Polygon

Timothy Odmunson’s Dionysus is perfectly irreverent with just a touch of “don’t push me too far”, Virginia Kull as Sally Jackson is perfection-the perfect embodiment of a mother who only wants the best for her child-and will do whatever it takes to make sure they have it and Glynn Turman’s Chiron is exactly what you’d expect a seasoned hero’s coach to be.
Aprillé Morris,

What about the writing and directing?

(Photo by Disney/David Bukach)

The writers don’t seem settled into the rhythms of what’s essentially an eight-episode miniseries. There’s a simultaneous sense of frantically cramming content and stalling for time.
Dan Rubins, Slant Magazine

The writing… is quick-witted, the action is stellar, and making Percy’s journey an episodic tale helps to propel the young character forward in exciting directions.
Matthew Creith, TheWrap

Early episodes, especially the pilot, suffer from stifling expositional dialogue and voiceover, but once the series fully establishes its world, we’re off to the races with a solid adventure-of-the-week format.
Belen Edwards, Mashable

At times it feels like an overcorrection, cramming in as many details from the book as it can to the detriment of the series’ pacing.
Tyler Robertson, IGN Movies

Do the special effects and action sequences deliver?

(Photo by Disney/David Bukach)

Visually, it’s a gem. From lashing storms to creative monster designs and the show’s focus on natural spaces (I could be convinced Camp Half-Blood was set in the PNW), “Percy’s” world is a character all its own.
Dominic Baez, Seattle Times

The special effects, too, are genuinely pretty damn good (see the rampage in the first episode if you don’t believe us).
Kayleigh Dray, AV Club

The action sequences aren’t as long or heavily choreographed as in other Disney+ shows, but they’re still just as exciting and show how natural a fighter Percy is.
Rihaana Stark, Geeks of Color

the CG, of which there is quite a bit thanks to all the magical creatures, is well done throughout. It’s only in the one-per-episode dream sequences where the use of LED-screen backdrops – the so-called Volume popularized by The Mandalorian – is glaringly obvious and brings the quality down.
Tyler Robertson, IGN Movies

While the special effects and CGI are a bit hard to decipher with screeners and a small screen, they seem riveting enough that I’d personally love to rewatch when the show is on air. It’s certainly not perfect, but it scratches the itch for fantasy, and it does so with minimal effort.
Gissane Sophia, Marvelous Geeks Media

Any final thoughts?

(Photo by Disney+)

The fact that author Rick Riordan is involved with the TV series adaptation of Percy Jackson and the Olympians should be reason enough to give the series a chance.
Danielle Solzman, Solzy at the Movies

Percy Jackson and the Olympians is the perfect adaptation. It’s faithful to the source material but still leaves room for surprises. It’s a heartfelt adventure that will get even the most jaded viewers hooked.
Rihaana Stark, Geeks of Color

Full of action, and all of those magnificent revelations of adolescence, “Percy Jackson” is one of the strongest YA television outings in a long time. The series has the same captivating elements that made the “Harry Potter” film franchise successful.
Aramide Tinubu, Variety

Largely missing from the series is the coherent world-building and quicksilver pacing of the novels.
Dan Rubins, Slant Magazine

Just like it’s protagonist, Disney’s ‘Percy Jackson’ suffers from some growing pains, but its good intentions and genuine love for the lore eventually help it find its footing.
Francisca Tinoco, We Got This Covered

Sure, it’s aimed at a younger audience than those who originally grew up obsessing over the books. But the result is something that feels like it has some staying power—and like it will, just as the books did all those years ago, grow up alongside its audience. That’s no small feat in an age of regularly canceled shows and standalone miniseries.
Kayleigh Dray, AV Club

91% Percy Jackson and the Olympians: Season 1 (2023) will drop its first episode on Wednesday, December 20 on Hulu; its first two episodes will premiere the same day on Disney+.

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