The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising
2007Director: David L. Cunningham
Cast: Christopher Eccleston, Alexander Ludwig, Ian McShane
n general, I don’t like to complain about liberties taken in adapting books for the screen. Books and movies, after all, are very different things, and some of my favorite movies (from The Wizard of Oz and Frankenstein to Children of Men and Mean Girls) are substantially different from the books upon which they are based. But it’s different when the changes are uniformly for the worse, and when they don’t make sense from any reasonable point of view.
The Seeker is based on Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising, which is the second and titular book of her excellent children’s epic fantasy pentalogy. I imagine that the filmmakers skipped over the first book, Over Sea, Under Stone, because it doesn’t actually have any on-screen magic to spend a big special effects budget on. Since they’ve written themselves into a bit of a corner in this movie, I can’t imagine we’ll ever see a movie version of Over Sea, let alone any of the others. This is one of the major things that just don’t make any sense: in the specific details they’ve changed from the source novel, they’ve eliminated all chance of continuity with the other books. You’ve got a ready-made franchise—why destroy it before it starts?
For that matter, I don’t really understand why they bothered acquiring the rights to The Dark Is Risingat all, when it’s clear that all they wanted to was cash in on the Harry Potter audience. Neither Susan Cooper nor J.K. Rowling, nor anyone else for that matter, has a copyright on the “kid finds out he’s special and magic stuff happens” idea, so why not just create an original story? The books are old enough that their original fans are out of the target audience, and they’ve been pretty effectively alienated by the changes in the story, anyway, so it couldn’t be that they wanted to guarantee themselves a built-in audience, and creating a new story from scrap sounds easier to me than changing a pre-existing one so completely.
Anyway, as I said before, I could live with any number of changes if they resulted in a good movie. Sadly, this is not the case. The Seeker goes beyond being a bad movie and pushes into the realm of completely and totally inept movies.
No amount of swoopy camera shots will make a movie exciting if what’s happening isn’t exciting. Portentous speeches alone don’t make a movie epic. Christopher Eccleston (poor guy deserves better) can make as many scary faces as you want him to, and it won’t be enough to create a sense of foreboding. It’s the kind of movie that thinks “wet and dark” is the same thing as “dank.” If it were a comedy, it would be the kind that thinks funny situations can substitute for funny writing.
A major problem is that many of the big action sequences occur long before we have any idea why they’re happening. If this is done in such a way as to help us identify with the main character’s fear and bewilderment, it can work, but here it just makes them nonsensical. These sequences aren’t helped Michael Bay school of thought, which the director seems to buy into, that says that the less the audience can understand what’s going on, the better.
If you must see this movie, I recommend going to a weekday matinee. Children will be in school, so you’ll probably be alone in the theater, and free to scream and yell at the screen as much as you like.
The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising is currently in wide release.
By: Ethan Robinson
Published on: 2007-10-26