‘Percy Jackson and the Olympians’ tells a demigod origin story that isn’t half-bad

PERCY JACKSON & THE OLYMPIANS - Disney's "Percy Jackson and the Olympians" stars Walker Scobell as Percy Jackson, Leah Sava Jeffries as Annabeth, and Aryan Simhadri as Grover. (Disney)

Leah Sava Jeffries, Aryan Simhadri and Walker Scobell in “Percy Jackson and the Olympians.”DisneyCNN — 

“Percy Jackson and the Olympians” comes roaring out of the starting gate like a raging minotaur, before settling into a slower-moving groove that plays a little too much like another Harry Potter wannabe, only for demigods instead of wizards. Still generally fun, the Disney+ series doesn’t quite catch lightning in a bottle, but as coming-of-age sagas go this half-blood isn’t half bad.

The series follows movies in 2010 and 2013, and comes with the pedigree of Rick Riordan, who authored the books, serving as an executive producer along with Jonathan E. Steinberg (“The Old Man”). That suggests a fidelity to the source material, which also translates into a little bit of preciousness around the familiar “kid with a destiny” construct at its core.

Said kid, Percy (Walker Scobell, featured in “The Adam Project”), narrates his story, noting that as a 12 year old he has dealt with “bad grades, bullies, all the normal stuff” before the abnormal part of his story kicks into gear, as if puberty wasn’t tough enough.

Specifically, Percy discovers that his single mom (Virginia Kull) has been shielding him from the fact that he’s the son of a Greek god – hence the “half-blood” designation – which means he possesses unusual powers, has monsters trying to kill him and will soon by shipped off to a school for those with similar backgrounds.

It is, naturally, a lot to take in, and Scobell conveys the boy’s confusion and gradually his growing resolve admirably. Before the four episodes made available for preview are over, he’s also dispatched on a quest, joined by his guide Grover (Aryan Simhadri) and the capable Annabeth (Leah Sava Jeffries), while various allies and creatures (played by an amusing assortment of guest stars) populating his path, which include in the early stages Glynn Turman, Megan Mullally, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and later, the late Lance Reddick.

The writers do have some fun with the basic premise, as well as little flourishes, like the portal to Hades running through Los Angeles – something that anyone who has tried to navigate the Santa Monica Freeway already knows. That said, the pacing bogs down after the opening episode in a way that dampens enthusiasm for what’s to come.

“Percy Jackson” comes into the Disney+ fold in somewhat roundabout fashion, since the movies were produced by 20th Century Fox before the studio, which publishes the books, acquired its entertainment assets in 2019. Still, the show represents a logical fit for Disney’s brand https://belakangan.com of teen-skewing fantasy, while boasting a slightly more ambitious backdrop and mythological underpinnings than would normally be associated with Disney Channel fare.

If that doesn’t qualify as a gift from the gods, exploring the progeny of Mt. Olympus serves as a solid addition to the Disney+ arsenal, just one that doesn’t throw off as many sparks as it could.

“Percy Jackson and the Olympians” premieres December 20 on Disney+.

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