October 7, 2007

Movie Review: The Seeker: The Dark is Rising

In the weeks leading up to the release of The Seeker: The Dark is Rising there has been a rising force of discontent flowing like a never ending wave across the internet. I did not take the time to read much of it other than to get the gist that this movie is based on a very popular series of fantasy novels and that this adaptation has gone through and changed a lot of what appeared in the book, so as to make the film a very pale shadow of its source. I have not read any of the specifics of their complaints, I think it was for the best. I have never read the books, therefore that baggage did not exist and could not sway me from watching the movie and comparing it to the source. In retrospect my time would probably have been better served staying home and reading said book. The movie is not that good at all. In fact, it works better as a cure for insomnia as it threatened to put me into the land of dreams.

Seriously, I sat in the theater on opening night watching the plot unfold before me and waited for something to happen. I waited for some reasoning behind what was happening. I was waiting for some explanation of who was who and who wanted what. Yes, there was a lot of talking. The problem was that nothing of any importance was said. The story is nothing new. The format follows thusly: young boy comes of age, is informed the fate of the world lies with him, he has to survive some quest or test, has a face off with the bad guy, the end.

In this case the boy is young Will (Alexander Ludwig, a dead ringer for Zachary Ty Bryan), a member of the large Stanton family, recently transplanted from America to England. This was a little confusing at first, I thought he was an adopted family member based on the way he was treated (like a second-class citizen, undesirable step-brother, or the like), and based on his not looking anything (and I mean anything) like the rest of the Stanton clan. Will is on the verge of turning fourteen, a day which will be a memorable one for him.

Strange things begin to happen, like seeing a pattern on a small box move, the faces of mall rent-a-cops reveal a more malevolent visage, and great strength. The family, invited to a Christmas shindig thrown by the wealthy Merriman Lyon (Ian McShane). It turns out that Lyon knows the truth about Will and the changes he is experiencing. Lyon imparts this knowledge on the boy, telling him that he is destined to save the world and give the power back to the light and defeat the forces of Darkness. That's a lot of ands, it's too bad that none of the linking information is revealed, I guess they are saving that fort the inevitable sequel.

About this same time a mysterious man in black shows up on the scene. He wears a scarf over his much of the time and is called The Rider (Christopher Eccleston). I guess this has to do with his riding of a horse most of the time he is on the screen. Apparently, The Rider is the bringer of darkness that will bring about the end of the world. Why he wants this is unclear, as is if there is anyone else on the side of dark.

In order to stop him Will must step through time to find six signs. This search for the six eats up much of he runtime, but has little to offer. His trips through time consist of a camera spin, the grabbing of some item and then back to the present. The reason for this is unclear, it certainly adds nothing to the movie. It is not like the changing time periods are of any real importance. They seem to exist mainly to use some special effects. The same goes for the powers that Will displays are never put to any use. For example, he can control fire but he only uses it to light a room and have a pyrotechnic temper tantrum. You would think an ability like this would come in handy when he faces off with The Rider. I can only imagine that this is dealt with better in book.

The Seeker: The Dark is Rising is a fantasy film that forgot to inject the fantasy. It has no teeth, no depth, no real reason for being. As I sat there, I could not help but think I have seen this before, only better (it's called Harry Potter). The script is all surface, it does not dig into the reason this is happening, what it means, or what anybody wants. It leaves the skilled McShane and Eccleston looking silly as they try to work through ridiculous dialogue with a straight face, although you can see them trying to breath some life into the parts. Meanwhile, the rest of the cast come across as amateurs.

Besides clunky dialogue, try gleaning the purpose of the signs and what needs to be done with them, or what will happen if the Darkness gets them. In other words, good luck piercing the cloak of darkness that surrounds virtually everything. Pretty much the only thing that isn't disguised are the surprise "twists." If you don't see these big reveals coming you either weren't paying attention of have long since given up on caring. I suspect the latter.

Bottomline. In short, this is not a good movie. Fans of Susan Cooper will already know this. In the end it doesn't matter if you are a fan of the book or not, you will be falling asleep or struggling to figure out what the purpose of this was. Now, it isn't nearly as disastrous as Eragon, but it is awfully close. The two seem to be in a race to see who can hit the bottom of the fantasy barrel first. Then again, I would probably rather watch Eragon again than this, if only to make fun of all the Star Wars rips.

Not Recommended.


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