It’s not, but it should be. The crime? Bad screenwriting.
It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of the Percy Jackson series. Or that I was counting down until the film. Or even, that I have no patience for people who without fail come out of a book-to-film adaptation saying, “It wasn’t as good as the book.” Of course, now I am going to look like a complete douche when I tell you how terrible the film was.
Before you jump to conclusions the actors were fine (actually, the guy that plays Grover was perfect) and the special effects were beautiful and seamless. What turned the film into a suckfest was Craig Titley’s screenwriting.
I thought the screenplay was so terribly written that I assumed, Craig Titley, was not a real name. Surely it was one of those legendary pen names that was whacked on to hide the identities of the writers really involved. Turns out I was wrong. Craig Titley has written Scooby Doo, Cheaper by the Dozen, Cheaper by the Dozen 2 and a single Star Wars TV episode. Hmmm…something’s fishy. How does someone go from writing slapstick rubbish like Cheaper by the Dozen and get handed Percy Jackson on a silver plate?
Either way, the writing speaks for itself. And it’s bad. Craig Titley broke the number one rule from writing101: Show, don’t tell.
I can’t even begin to describe how much exposition is in this screenplay. Mostly because it is the screenplay. I got nervous from the opening scene where Zeus and Poseidon deliver a menacing exchange which explains the entire movie. *winces* Shortly, I realised that when the characters spoke to each other they also gave reasons for why they were feeling that way, and unpacked their actions and emotions. WTF? No one does that outside of therapy. It was all downhill from there – right to the ‘yes, I am the bad guy because my dad doesn’t love me’ part. (I can’t remember Luke’s exact line but that was pretty close. Rarr! Bad guys don’t think they’re bad guys!)
For those that need it, the freedictionary describes exposition as ‘the part of a play that provides the background information needed to understand the characters and the action’. Notice that it says ‘part’ of a play – not the entire thing. Now there’s a gazillion reasons why the ‘show, don’t tell’ rule exists but for me it comes down to emotion and respect for the audience.
When characters describe their actions and emotions only through dialogue it’s jarring. It takes me out of the magic of the story for the simple reason that it’s not truthful. (Note: that’s what you’re supposed to be bringing to your writing – the truth.) More so, if the characters are just empty husks for narration, then I can’t connect to them. If I can’t connect to them, then I’m not emotionally involved in the story and don’t care what happens to them. Do I need to continue?
As for respecting the audience? Well, I don’t like being treated like an idiot. I’m going to live dangerously and assume you don’t either. Even if I wasn’t a writer, I wouldn’t need the whole story neatly summed up… especially through dialogue exchanges. I read people’s body language everyday to see how they really feel and I’ve learned how to hide my most private thoughts and feelings from others. If I can do all that in my day-to-day life, then I can definitely do it for a ninety minute film. I don’t need to be bludgeoned with the back story or character motivations. In fact, I shouldn’t even be thinking about them while I’m watching the film.
There are two things about all of this that I really take offense to. First, that every critic out there who hasn’t bothered to read the books is jibing about it being Harry Potter’s deformed twin. Read Rick Riordan’s books. It’s nothing like Harry Potter, except that it started as a YA series and has a boy in the lead (although that describes a whole lot of books).
Secondly, that his IMDB page claims that he is writing the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea remake for Sam Raimi. That’s right, one of my all time childhood favourites…
Excuse me while I hide under my bed and sob. Could someone please tell me when this nightmare is over?