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  Publicity Stills of
"The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising"
(Courtesy from 20th Century Fox)

Genre: Adventure/Fantasy
Director: David L. Cunningham
Cast: Ian McShane, Frances Conroy, Christopher Eccleston, Alexander Ludwig, Jonathan Jackson, Amelia Warner, Gregory Smith, Emma Lockhart, Gary Entin, Edmond Entin, John Benjamin Hickey
RunTime: 1 hr 39 mins
Released By: 20th Century Fox
Rating: PG
Official Website: www.seekthesigns.com

Opening Day: 25 October 2007


THE SEEKER: THE DARK IS RISING is the first film adaptation based on the acclaimed novel ‘The Dark Is Rising’ sequence by Susan Cooper. The film tells the story of Will Stanton, a young man who learns he is the last of a group of warriors who have dedicated their lives to fighting the forces of the Dark. Traveling back and forth through time, Will hunts for a series of mysterious clues and encounters forces of unimaginable evil. With the Dark once again rising, the future of the world rests in Will’s hands.

Movie Review:

Having not read the book it is based upon—"The Dark Is Rising" by Susan Cooper—this big-screen adaptation cannot be fairly compared to its source material except to wager that a fair amount of its nuance and depth probably were sacrificed. Indeed, the screenplay by John Hodge (2000's "The Beach") is pretty dreadful, the dialogue liberally covered in a layer of cheesiness and the plot overly reliant on coincidences and paper-thin "Fantasy for Dummies" supporting characters. The sorry action set-pieces are no help, the few of them that there are only proving to be afterthoughts lacking in scope and elegance. With the camera often jammed too close to the subject, perhaps as a way of shielding the underwhelming production values, the film is claustrophobic at the precise times when it should be building up a sense of grandeur.

Will Stanton (Alexander Ludwig) is a teenage American who has been plucked from his homeland thanks to his professor dad’s job, which has seen he, mum and the rest of his siblings – four elder brothers (a fifth, as per the current American preoccupation with all things war, is serving in the Navy) and a little sister – move to what appears to be the most twee village in middle England. On his 14th birthday he discovers, after a rather unfortunate brush with evil at a local shopping centre, that he is in fact “the seeker” – a chosen one whose duty is to find six signs that will stop evil in the form of Christopher Eccleston from taking over the world and banishing the light forever.

Helping him in his quest are the residents of twee central, the local manor house. Lady of the manor Miss Greythorne (Frances Conroy ditching her American tones for English vowels), gruff butler Merriman (Ian McShane) and groundsmen types Dawson (James Cosmo) and Old George (Jim Piddock) are all ‘old ones’, basically protectors of the light, who’ve been waiting for Will to come along and score a home run for the team. They also tell him the reason for his greatness – he is the seventh son of a seventh son, but a quick count reveals that he only knows about five of his brothers - leading to a rather unnecessary sub-plot about the sixth.

Blandly directed by David L. Cunningham, "The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising" resembles 2006's "Eragon" in quality, if not in story. Both pictures are messy inferior pastiches of better fantasy-laden efforts, and both are tacky and cornball enough to feel right at home in the 1980s. In the twenty-first century, however, they are stylistically and creatively unsophisticated and lackluster. A tale of a young boy on a quest to retrieve a series of so-called "Signs" is well and good, but nothing of interest is done with it. Will too easily tracks most of them down and, without explanation, all happen to be hidden within a radius of what must be less than a mile. This was the one area when some excitement might have been gleaned from the material, but that possibility is rendered moot as Will practically stumbles onto the Signs rather than fights for them. Pitted against Will is the villainous Rider, and he is as forgettable as they come, showing up long enough to prance around on his horse and snarl.

It’s not a total loss. The opening half hour does a pretty darn good job of convincing a viewer that something good might just be going on here. The whole first act is seductively moody with just the right hint of sinister menace, while the always splendid Eccleston was just born to play the playfully murderous villain. Few moments this year have been as giddily terrifying as the sight of an incognito Rider happily singing along to “Joy to the World” at a church service while also giving Will the evil eye, the whole scene so masterful in its bristling malevolence it only makes the utter mediocrity of the rest that much more difficult to take.

But soon “Seeker” sputters off into a showdown of Light and Dark for the future of the world. Heavy, huh? Unfortunately most of the dramatic execution is left to Alexander Ludwig, who isn’t the most striking onscreen personality. I kept hoping McShane would shove the boy aside and take “Seeker” for a spin with his enchanting Shakespearian acting tics, matching the apocalyptic tone of the finale assault more comfortably than a blonde teenage acting novice. That drastic (and needed) change of focus never comes to fruition.

Movie Rating:

(A bland fantasy fix that lacks direction. Seek others)

Review by Lokman BS

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