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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising (review)

The series of young-adult fantasy novels this flick is based upon long predate Harry Potter — they were written in the 1960s and 70s — but this dramatically altered movie adaptation is a clear example of jumping on the Harry bandwagon… one that stumbles dangerously in the process. In fact: Remember hearing that the early studio inclination with Harry was to Americanize him? This tedious, plodding, thoroughly unmagical movie could well be what that Hollywood Harry might have been. Teen Will Stanton — British in the book, American here, and played by Canadian Alexander Ludwig — discovers, on his 13th birthday, that he’s got magic powers and must save the world from evil by seeking out six enchanted doodads that do something or other — it’s never clear what, just that they’ll save the world. How? Why, they’re magic! Internal consistency is less important here than merely keeping the by-the-numbers plot moving, never mind what it’s all supposed to mean — stuff just happens to Will because he’s the Seeker of the doodads, and he’s the Seeker because, well, pseudo-mysterious dudes like Ian McShane (Hot Rod) tell him things like “You are Will Stanton, you are the Seeker.” Keep saying it, and maybe we’ll believe it eventually. But probably not. Oh, and if you’re thinking of checking this out for the awesome Christopher Eccleston (Heroes), who plays the supernaturally evil bad guy in the big black cape and threatening black boots, don’t bother: he looks just as bored as we are.

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MPAA: rated PG for fantasy action and some scary images

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb
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  • Grace

    Mary Ann, I wish you’d stop saying “Ian McShane (Hot Rod)”. We all know it’s “Ian McShane (Deadwood)”, and it’s a tragedy that his career will probably never reach those heights again.

  • rabidsamfan

    Thank you so much for linking to the books! I’ve been looking at review after review which seems to imply the flaws of the movie derive from the source material and not from the trainwreck they made of the script.

  • MaryAnn

    Mary Ann, I wish you’d stop saying “Ian McShane (Hot Rod)”.

    What, are you implying that McShane should be ashamed of his appearance in *Hot Rod*? :->

    Look: I can’t link to a review of *Deadwood.* Those “also appearing in” references I do are excuses to link to other reviews of mine.

    Someone wants to send me some box sets of *Deadwood,* I’ll take a look at it.

  • mjk

    Bleah… I LOVE the book series, but seeing the trailer made me nervous. I was hoping for a Harry-level adaptation – or at least equal to tLtW&tW, but it looks like I’m in for a disappointment. :(

  • Grace

    I wish I could afford to send you box sets of Deadwood. I bet you’d love it. :)

  • Alan Slipp

    Wasn’t this movie produced by Walden Media? I thought I remembered seeing that on the trailer. Anyway, the books are classics, but anything I’ve ever seen Walden put out has been more or less preachy and overly earnest. And what’s Eccleston doing making stuff like this, anyway?

  • lar

    Most likely the British actors signed on for an adaptation of the original books long before everything that was part of the books got lost, and then they were stuck. After all, it wasn’t a wrong move to sign up for the first HP book, even though that could’ve gone just as bad as this did.

    Now, signing up for a second, if they make one (which they probably will, alas) – *that* would be a bad move.

  • Oo, I just knew it was going to be crap. I saw the trailer and I was all ‘Is that The Dark is Rising’? Ugh, how could they do that to such a brilliant series?

  • I wasted a nice, sunny Saturday morning, the last of my holidays, and
    $15.50 to see this travesty! Yes, it’s definitely what could have happened to Harry Potter if JKR had sold her rights like poor Susan Cooper. The Americanising of the characters, the turning of Merriman from dignified mentor to silly man who has to have Miss Greythorne explain about teenagers, turning Will’s family from closeknit to dysfunctional, Robin and Paul as pseudo-Weasley twins, the twin brother being held by the Dark (and no one actually bothers to blackmail Will till the very last minute…), the useless Old Ones who twiddle their thumbs and nag – and then attack the Rider physically – and, oh, yes, he offers his soul (“Harry is a horcrux”?) but all it actually does is make him glow so he can declare, “I em Will Stenton!” … No. I don’t think they’ll make another movie. It won’t last that long. Besides, they’d have to fit in Simon, Jane and Breny Drew and bring back the Arthurian elements – how would they do that?

    Don’t go, anyone reading this! Wait for The Golden Compass. From the trailer, it looks like a movie made by someone who loved the book, Northern Lights. Keep your money for that.

  • Drave

    I could smack Brian Henson for letting the rights to this movie expire. *sigh* I am SURE a Jim Henson Co. version would have been much better.

    I’m looking forward to Golden Compass, but I don’t see how they are going to do the other two, since they’ve removed all the religious content. It’s not such a big deal for the first book, which works fine as a simple adventure tale, but the other two are going to be problematic. Then again, the first one is the only one of the three that I think is really good, so maybe the de-anti-churchifying of the other two will result in a story I like more? Who knows.

  • Arwen

    The movie got it all wrong!!!! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Will Stanton did not have a twin brother, though two of his older brothers are twins. Neither of them got kidnapped by the way. He is the youngest of a very close and tight knit family. Will, always felt loved, supported, and protected. No dysfunction there! Imagine that!!! The oldest, Tom, died in infancy, the second to the oldest, Steven, is in the British Royal Navy. Will was 11 years old when the story took place and had no interest in girls at the time. He found his abilities, at times, a burden. Unlike in the movie, Will takes Merriman’s advice and teachings very seriously. He is British, NOT an American. The movie does not resemble the book at all, not even close!! Did the producers and directors even read the book!! I think not. Didn’t they forget a very important rule, (Never Americanize British Novels!!) Those who have not read the books are in for a surprise when they do. “Is this the same story?” they will ask. Those who have read the books will be sorely disappointed. I don’t mind movie adaptations of books. Quite of few are very well done such as “Lord of the Rings”, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” and they even did a fair job with “Harry Potter.” But the producers and Director really butchered the “Dark is Rising.” There are 5 books in the complete story of the “Dark is Rising.” The 1st one is called, “Over the Sea, Under the Stone”, the 2nd, “The Dark is Rising,” The 3rd, ‘the Green Witch”, The 4th, “The Grey King”– Newberry award winner, and the last book is called “Silver on the Tree.” Very excellent books and a wonderful read. Skip the movie. Read the books!!

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