The Young Adult novel genre had undergone a surge in popularity during the turn of the century and has prospered since. Popular book franchises were rewarded with fandoms that went to extreme lengths to support the brand to its utmost extent. These fandoms dominated the internet and social media, celebrating their love for certain series with hundreds of thousands across the globe. One particular franchise with an unrelenting loyal fanbase is Percy Jackson and the Olympians. Inspiration for Percy Jackson first struck author Rick Riordan after his children had requested that he base his storytelling on Greek myths. It was his son Haley who first suggested that his father expound on common Greek myths by incorporating his own imagination into the time-worn tales. From there, Riordan transformed his oral story into a written one, thus creating Percy Jackson and the Olympians pentalogy. Riordan shared his writing with middle-school-aged children who were instrumental in choosing the series’ name, as well as determining the mechanics behind the pen-sword that the main protagonist wields. Percy Jackson and the Olympians was published in 2005 and has since remained to charm and delight its readers.
The flagship novel Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief was adapted for film in 2010 and later was followed by Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters. The pair of live-action adaptations ended the stint of cinematic adaptations of Riordan’s first novel series, and poor reception from fans and media critics alike tainted the reputation of the Percy Jackson film series altogether. Nonetheless, Riordan continued to publish sequels and spin-offs to his pilot series that tackled popular mythologies through a diverse and original cast of characters. Earlier this year, Disney announced a series order of Percy Jackson and the Olympians, breathing new life for Riordan’s novels. The series will have eight episodes and is set to star The Adam Project‘s Walker Scobell in the titular role. As a Riordan Renaissance is upon us, here’s a look at why the Percy Jackson film franchise ended with Sea of Monsters.
Only two Percy Jackson films were greenlit, produced, and released before the saga was abandoned altogether. Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief attempted to follow the outline of the first novel in the series as it was responsible for introducing the content of the books to a new audience while satisfying an established community of fans, eager for the books to be rightfully honored through the movie adaptation. The first film arrived in 2010, a considerably prime window for the underwhelming adaptation, and shared a fractured retelling of the pilot book. Percy Jackson & the Olympians was first taken under the distribution rights of 20th Century Fox, who once had the intention of a five-picture deal.
Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters was the second and, unfortunately, final movie.The second film in the series shifted past the introductory phases of the first and prepared to launch the budding film series into even deeper conflict as Camp Half-Blood finds itself being preyed upon by mythical creatures. Percy and his friends are sent on another ambitious quest as they are to scour the Bermuda Triangle — the eponymous Sea of Monsters — and retrieve the Golden Fleece. While the quests that Percy and his mythological companions found themselves on seemed like a great epic adventure movie, the page-to-screen adaptation of Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters was ultimately a stopping point for 20th Century Fox.
From a financial standpoint, Percy Jackson & the Olympians underperformed at the box office and disappointed revenue expectations. The Lightning Thief was more profitable, scoring $226 million upon its opening, but Sea of Monsters opened with $200 million. 20th Century Fox was notoriously criticized for its mistreatment of the source material, characters, and interpretation of the story that was known to draw its readers in. Riordan has refused to watch the movies after having minuscule involvement in the development process. According to IndieWire, he was vocal against the creative decisions that warped his source material, and he shared emails from his conversations with producers over his concerns on his personal website. Riordan openly expressed upset over the age differences between The Lightning Thief and Sea of Monsters, where the author was insistent that only a year had passed between the two.
Riordan’s distance from the Percy Jackson & the Olympians live-action movies was obvious. The fans and critics were incredibly unimpressed by the severely butchered adaptations. The absence of creative control from the author and the studio determining the roadmap of these series was set to doom Percy Jackson & the Olympians from its beginning. The drastic, if not jarring, approach to the series was responsible for driving off any interest in watching the saga unfold across the big screen. Percy Jackson & the Olympians has resonated on personal levels with its fandom and has been crafted with such delicate care that it is written with the pure intention of being personal. The total ignorance of the production studio and while omitting the heart of the series from its film cost the franchise.
Direct-to-Video Movies That Deserve More Love
Though often viewed as lesser-than creations, there have been a slew of direct-to-video movies that are worthy of both recognition and praise. For decades, theatrical releases have garnered immense appreciation and attention, constantly being talked about and acknowledged by both critics, fans and award circuits. In many ways thought of as inferior, direct-to-video movies can actually be just as good if not better than big screen, theatrically released pictures, with a handful of sequels going on to be even more well-received than their predecessors. From heartwarming animated flicks to terrifying slashers, action extravaganzas and kung fu comedies, the small screen has proven to be a worthy adversary to cinematic releases.
The 1996 action horror comedy Tremors 2: Aftershocks is heavily considered one of the greatest direct-to-video movies, while the sequel to the great Disney musical The Lion King, 1998’s The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride, went on to gross over $460 million worldwide from sales and rentals alone, proving that there is in fact an eager marketplace for home video releases. These direct-to-video movies deserve more love than they get.
Serving as the standalone sequel to the widely popular Disney film A Goofy Movie, the 2000 animated comedy An Extremely Goofy Movie follows Max Goof as he heads off to college, excited to break free from his bumbling father and enjoy his newfound independence in peace. Max’s plans for some time apart from his dad Goofy hit a snag when the elder Goof loses his job and decides to finish his own degree, resulting in hijinks and misadventures.
The follow-up is a fun and entertaining movie that showcases the endearing father and son duo as their relationship is tested in more ways than one, with Goofy slowly discovering Max may not need him like he used to. Critics praised the straight-to-DVD sequel, with many calling it likable and ambitious; An Extremely Goofy Movie won the award for Best Animated Home Video Production at the 2000 Annie Awards.
Michael Dougherty directed the 2007 anthology horror comedy Trick ‘r Treat, telling four terrifying Halloween horror tales set in the small fictional town of Warren Valley, Ohio; a mysterious trick-or-treater wearing a burlap sack and footie pajamas makes an appearance in each of the interwoven stories. Dougherty had previously created the animated short Season’s Greetings in 1996, which served as a precursor and inspiration for the spooky flick.
With an impressive cast including Anna Paquin, Brian Cox, and Leslie Bibb, Trick ‘r Treat went on to receive critical acclaim during its limited appearance at film festivals like Fangoria, acquiring a strong and passionate cult following in the process. After suffering a pushback, the horror comedy was released on home media to great fanfare and has become a spooky season staple; Dread Central wrote, “Trick ‘r Treat ranks alongside John Carpenter’s Halloween as traditional October viewing and I can’t imagine a single horror fan that won’t fall head over heels in love with it.”
Touting a dynamite cast of talented performers like Parick Wilson, Chris Pine, and Ed Helms, the 2014 comedy crime film Stretch follows the eponymous down-on-his luck lead (Wilson) as he grapples with his addictions to gambling and cocaine; the limousine chauffeur takes on the job of shuttling around a mysterious billionaire, yielding dangerous results. The thrillingly over-the-top action comedy also features cameos by celebrities like Ray Liotta, Norman Reedus, and David Hasselhoff, garnering a lot of anticipation and build-up for its release.
Just one month before its release date, Universal Pictures pulled Stretch from their schedule, and it was instead distributed via video on demand; this decision was called by The Hollywood Reporter as “an apparently unprecedented move.” Regardless of its debut drama, the picture went on to earn glowing reviews from critics and was commended for its bold and refreshing energy and infectious sense of humor, as well as Wilson’s show-stealing performance.
Michael Jai White starred as the titular former CIA agent in the 2009 blaxploitation action comedy Black Dynamite, chronicling the Vietnam War veteran and kung fu fighter as he sets out on a crusade to avenge his little brother’s death and clean up the streets of gangsters and drug dealers. White became inspired to create the idea of the picture after listening to James Brown’s “Super Bad” and because of his love of throwing classic blaxploitation movie parties, eventually pitching the movie’s premise to director Scott Sanders while sporting his blue jumpsuit.
The filmmaker was instantly attracted to the idea, later expressing to The AV Club, “It’s just a little too badass. That’s the tone of the movie. Our humor comes from the fact that the movie is just a little too badass.” Black Dynamite paid homage to the low production values of blaxploitation films, with many filming errors done on purpose; its success led to an animated series, web show, and a follow-up sequel currently in the works.
Widely regarded as one of the best direct-to-video sequels ever created, the 1996 action horror comedy Tremors 2: Aftershocks focuses on Tremors character Earl Bassett (the late great Fred Ward) as he agrees to once again hunt and eliminate an outbreak of deadly subterranean “Graboids” at a Mexico oil refinery. Destroying the creatures proves to be quite the challenge due to the Graboids newfound ability to attack above ground, causing Bassett to enlist the help of superfan Grady Hoover and fellow survivor of the Nevada incident Burt Gummer.
Tremors 2: Aftershocks was set for a straight-to-video release due to its predecessor finding immense success on the home-video rental market rather than in theaters. The fun and wild action comedy was appreciated for its faithfulness to the franchise, with TV Guide saying, “this movie is a rarity among direct-to-video sequels, one that’s not only worthy of its theatrical predecessor but suggest that it too, belongs on the big screen…despite the significantly lower budget, the monsters remain entirely convincing.”
Cuba Gooding Jr. and action legend Dolph Lundgren teamed up for the exciting 2012 flick One in the Chamber, in which the former actor portrays skilled assassin Ray Carver as he works both sides by providing services to two rival mafia families. After a botched job to assassinate a prominent crime boss, Carver attracts the unwanted attention of legendary Russian hitman Aleksey “The Wolf” Andreev, with the two hired killers eventually joining forces to bring the criminal underworld down.
Both of the talented lead actors thrive in their powerful and dangerously gripping roles, giving audiences a thrill ride as they wrack up an ever-growing body count of the Prague mafia members. While it’s no surprise that Lundgren thrived in his action-filled and physically demanding performance, Gooding Jr. also proved to be quite the formidable assassin, showing he can tackle any genre and film style.
The 1998 animated romantic musical drama The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride is the sequel to Disney’s 1994 blockbuster hit The Lion King and centers on the Pride Lands of Africa King Simba and the empowering Queen Nala’s daughter Kiara, as she sets out to end the feud between her father’s pride and the outcast pride who were once loyal to the evil Scar. The headstrong and curious Nala ends up falling in love with the banished rogue lion Kovu, with the pair struggling to unite their warring prides.
Matthew Broderick returned to voice Simba, as did Timon and Pumbaa performers Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella among others. The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride went on to earn positive reviews from both critics and audiences, going on to become and remain one of the top-selling direct-to-video releases of all time, earning a whopping $464.5 million worldwide in sales and rentals.
Joe Lynch directed the 2007 slasher film Wrong Turn 2: Dead End, the second installment in the Wrong Turn franchise that follows a group of strangers who become contestants on a survival-themed reality television show, having to thrive in the West Virginia wilderness for a week; the seemingly innocent challenge takes a turn for the menacing when the group becomes targeted by an inbred family of ghastly cannibals.
Wrong Turn 2: Dead End was screened at the London FrightFest Film Festival and Austin’s Fantastic Fest before being released on DVD, ultimately going on to become the best-reviewed movie from the franchise. Some critics called the slasher superior to the original, with FEARnet’s Scott Weinberg calling it, “A fast-paced and completely unapologetic love-letter to the old-school ‘80s splatter sequels like Friday the 13th 2 and Texas Chainsaw 2 (Gory, too!).”
Better Call Saul's Giancarlo Esposito Explains His Approach To Directing
Giancarlo Esposito contrasted his job as an actor with his one-off turn directing “Better Call Saul.” “To direct well is to direct in a way that allows the audience to see themselves within the story, create tension, create distance and create closeness,” he said. “All of that in a visual way, not just speaking.”
Esposito pointed out that Gus’ tics and mannerisms had become such a big part of his character because of an observation made by “Breaking Bad” director Johan Renck and that he tried to carry that lesson forward in directing “Axe and Grind.” “I wanted to be cognizant that that could happen in my episode with an actor if I observed them properly,” he said. “I saw [Rhea Seehorn and Bob Odenkirk] do things that I wanted to capture with the camera because they were indicative of what the character was doing.”
The episode’s most dramatic scene comes when Lalo is stalking Casper through his darkened barn, with viewers on edge waiting either for Lalo to strike or his prey to jump from the shadows. Esposito exploited Tony Dalton’s ability to carry Lalo’s evil in such a smooth and graceful package, saying it gave him “the opportunity to create that juxtaposition of energy and then to get inside and feel Hitchcockian, feel partly Sam Peckinpah, feel as if something’s about to happen but we don’t know what.”