Thursday, October 4, 2007

The Seeker: The Dark is Rising

“When the Dark comes rising, six shall turn it back;
Three from the circle, three from the track;
Wood, Bronze, iron, water, fire, stone;
Five will return, and one go alone.”

Based on the second book of a five book series by Susan Cooper comes a tale of a normal young American boy, Will Stanton (Alexander Ludwig), living in London with his five older brothers and young sister (Emma Lockhart). On his 14th birthday Will starts noticing odd events and becomes the focus of several strange adults who call themselves Old Ones (Ian McShane, James Cosmo, Jim Piddock, Frances Conroy).

It seems Will is the seventh son of a seventh son (and if you’ve read Orson Scott Card’s books you know that makes him special). He is also the last of the Old Ones and “the Seeker” of the six signs of power which have been hidden throughout time and only he can find. And find them he must, for unless all signs are united in five days the Rider (Christopher Eccleston) will usher in a new age of shadow and darkness. Will must unite the hidden signs and return the power of the Light before it is lost forever to the Dark. (And if you made your way through that without giggling or scratching your head you did better than me).

The movie just never quite works. The main Light vs. Dark theme is a little too simplistic, even for a kid’s film, and the set-up of the world and the characters is rushed and confused (which is usually what happens when you start with the second novel instead of at the beginning). What exactly are Old Ones? What powers does Will have (and why doesn’t he use them)? Why does the Rider not kill Will on the, countless, opportunities he has? Why isn’t anybody curious or suspicious about all the odd things that keep happening to and around Will? How exactly do these artifacts make Will powerful? How does he use them? Eccleston left Doctor Who for stuff like this? All these questions, and more, are not answered over the course of the film. Add to this some average special effects and lame plot twists you will see coming looooong before they arrive and you’ve got yourself a pretty forgettable film.

Fans of the novels may also be disappointed by several changes including the removal of characters like The Walker (scenes were shot but did not make the final cut of the film), the shift forward in time to make the story more contemporary, aging Will from 11 to 14 and making him American instead of English, the addition of a love interest (Amelia Warner), and more emphasis on stunts and fighting rather than exploring the why’s and wherefore’s of the plot.

Although some pre-teen boys might have an okay time at the theater the film doesn’t deliver what a fantasy should be. Has the Harry Potter franchise raised the stakes on what kid fantasy picture needs to be? Yes, but even if it hadn’t the film doesn’t quite work. It lacks the grandeur and wonder that is necessary to balance against the inherent silliness of such a tale. It’s not quite as good as last winter’s flawed Eragon, but at least it’s better than Narnia.

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