Fantastic disaster as movie veers from magical book

2008-10-02 08:05

There has been a vogue since the phenomenal success of the Lord of the Rings movies to set fantasy novels to film. We've had Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia, of course, and The Golden Compass will be out soon. And now we have The Dark is Rising: The Seeker.

The Dark is Rising is the name of Susan Cooper's wonderful, award-winning sequence of novels, written in the 1960s and '70s, and also the name of the second book of that sequence. It featured a familiar theme: the battle between good and evil, the outcome of which rests on the shoulders of a young and lonely hero.

This book forms the basis for The Seeker, though instead of “based on”, the movie's credits should read “may bear passing resemblance to”. The filmmakers have changed plot and characters and updated the whole package for today's kids, complete with so much product placement there's no doubt that this one is aimed at impressionable youngsters.

Well, I'm not sure this movie will capture any young minds. It was so boring, the kids in the cinema with me talked the whole way through, and for once I didn't blame them. That's 94 minutes of my life I'm never getting back.

Will Stanton (played by Alexander Ludwig, pictured right) is the youngest son of a large family who have just moved from America to an English village. He is about to turn 14, and feels ignored in such a large brood. As if his problems weren't great enough, suddenly the local yokels are looking at him funny and birds are following him around. He soon discovers that he is the last scion of a race of warriors, has special powers and that only he can save humankind from the darkness, represented by Christopher Eccleston on a horse.

This is a very odd film. The editing is utterly awful, the acting is patchy and the director seems more interested in stylish cinematography and cheesy, self-conscious effects than presenting the great actual story.

The strength of LOTR et al was that they stayed true to the books and projected on screen what readers already saw inside their heads. By straying from the original story, the makers of The Seeker have proved that they are only interested in cashing in on the current fantasy fad, and have made one of the most abysmally banal films I have ever seen. **

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