The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising (2007) (part 2 of 14)
The movie opens rather oddly with some shots of some brightly-lit windows moving rapidly past the camera, creating a “barred light” effect while the opening credits appear, eventually followed by the title. This choice of opening shots confused me no end the second time I watched the movie—mostly because they were so “un-fantasy” they had me wondering if I’d accidentally rented some drama movie instead.
Anyway, so the title appears in a blaze of golden light (how subtle), followed by more windows streaking past. One thing a lot of people complained about was the movie’s long, nonsensical title. The book was just called The Dark is Rising, but apparently the moviemakers decided to add “The Seeker” on to that because they were afraid the original title sounded too much like a horror movie. Unfortunately the new title looked unwieldy and proved very awkward to say, meaning that most people shortened it to “the Dark is Rising” anyway. Another problem is that when you say “The Seeker,” people are immediately likely to think Harry Potter and Quidditch, even though The Dark is Rising book predated HP by decades (and in fact some people claim that Rowling ripped off Dark is Rising, which I can now reveal is utter bollocks).
The movie proper opens when one of the “windows” is opened from the other side, showing it to have been the door to a locker all along. On the other side is the pasty, cherubic face of Alexander Ludwig (whose name just happens to appear on screen at this moment).
He takes some stuff out of his locker, including an obnoxiously obvious iPod (told you so), before we cut to him strolling off down a crowded corridor on what is obviously the last day of school for the fall term, judging by the Christmas decorations and excited students running about. We get a rather strange slo-mo shot of a bunch of kids all flipping their mobile phones open at the same time, something which will not become important but which does serve to shove it in the viewer’s face that the story has been “modernised” (the book was written in the 70s but read as if it were set even earlier than that). And let me tell you, mobile phones and iPods do not belong in a fantasy movie. You didn’t see anyone using one in the Harry Potter movies, and there’s a damn good reason for it—for one thing it’s horribly jarring, especially when the ZOMGsMagick! shows up, and for another it dates the movie about two minutes after it comes out.
Our hero keeps going, while we get a shot of him (I think) SMSing someone (and it just gets better, folks!). He’s then bailed up by his obnoxious twin bothers, one of whom shouts (in an American accent, of course), that “school is out!” Did I call it, or did I call it?
This, of course, is yet another jarring moment. First, the twins may look identical to each other, but neither of them look anything like their supposed brother. And second, phrases like “school is out!” belong far, far away from a classic British fantasy book. Gods, and the twins are even carrying skateboards.
Our hero pretty much ignores them, much as I’d like to do, and suddenly slows down his walk as something catches his eye. It’s a red scarf, which we watch sway around in slo-mo for a few moments (more slo-mo!) before we figure out it’s being worn by someone. Namely, a cute chick whom Will eyeballs for a good long moment before she sees him and gives him a sweet smile before walking off.
Unfortunately our hero’s adolescent mooning is interrupted a moment later by his adorable little sister (who, once again, looks nothing like him), who greets him in front of a ridiculously elaborate display of Christmas decorations (what sort of school has the time or money for this sort of thing? I went to a freaking private school, and the only tree they put up at Christmas was the Giving Tree in the library! Oh, wait—these guys have a crew of set decorators. Never mind).
Our hero says hi back, and they dash off to the bus together while rather inappropriate piano music of the sort that usually features in, well, exactly the sort of teen movie this one looks like right now, plays. As Will sits down, he sees Cute Chick get on the bus as well and gives her this look like he’s never even seen a girl before (later on we’ll find out he’s about to turn fourteen, which is when all his powers suddenly start to kick in—subtlety!).
He’s interrupted yet again by the obnoxious twins, one of whom now waves a video camera in his face (what sort of high school student can afford one of these?) and asks him an Expository Question which reveals that he’s just finished his first semester “as an American overseas” (wow, the exposition is so seamless!).
Will gets shirty and shoves the camera away so he can ogle Cute Chick again (all right, we get it!). The twins persist, and one of them now helpfully specifies that they’re in England (actually this thing was filmed in Romania). According to some pre-release interviews, the director said they made Will American to “emphasise the fact that, like, he’s in, like, a different world!” (edited for truth). Um, yeah, because the fact that he discovers a secret magical dimension hidden behind the real world won’t give that impression at all. It’s pretty obvious that the real reason they did it was because they were scared that American audiences wouldn’t be able to sympathise with a main character who was British. I mean, like, if he had a British accent, it would be, like, soooo weird! British people are, like, aliens and stuff, dude! (Don’t you just love moviemakers who respect their audiences?).
Anyway, so the Twins continue with their annoying banter until Will tells them to shut up (wow, he totally channelled me for a moment there! Wait, he didn’t punch their teeth in. Never mind). They notice him staring at Cute Chick, whom someone now identifies as “the new girl,” and Gwen suggests he go and talk to her (yeah, right. If he had any self confidence or social courage, he wouldn’t be “likeable”). Predictably, Will just ignores her. At that moment Cute Chick gets off the bus, dropping her scarf on the way, and he picks it up. She leaves before he can get her attention, though. Returning to his seat, Will looks out the window, taking in various sights like street signs, English bobbies and people actually driving on the correct side of the road, etc. Yeah, yeah, blah blah, he’s in a different world. You’d think that after at least six months he’d barely notice this stuff any more.
Eventually the bus drives into an English village of the “quaint” variety (you know the sort I mean), and we get a brief shot of a crow perched on a tree. Dear readers, prepare for many, many shots of crows in this movie.
The bus drives past a quaint village church that’s being renovated, and we see a couple of guys busy working on it, both of whom give Will a pair of good hard stares as he goes past. Uh-oh, look out kid—the village perverts are on to you! (Only slightly kidding there—they both have beards and look rather seedy, and their interest in him actually does start to feel a bit creepy after a while).
Will, now walking along beside the road, is distracted as a rather more neat-looking bearded guy pulls up beside him and his siblings. This is Ian MacShane, called “Merriman” in the movie, and in the back seat he’s got a distinguished looking lady whom he identifies as a local toff by the name of Miss Greythorne (just a heads-up: he’s actually her butler. When I first watched the movie I didn’t pick up on this at all and thought they were husband and wife).
Anyway, Merriman hands Will an invitation for him and his family to come to a Christmas party at his mistress’ manor. Will promises to be there and walks on, still oblivious to the Perv Patrol checking him out from the scaffolding. Geez, guys, there’s no need to be so subtle. Nobody’s going to notice you staring at him for an entire five minutes.
Will gets home and is greeted by his standard issue Loving But Distracted Parents, along with Max (Gregory Smith), his “roughishly handsome” adult brother (seriously, I added the part about his looks there because that’s obviously supposed to be his main appeal—even though he’s a very minor character they included him on the movie poster for just that reason). Everyone acts surprised to see him, and we find out he’s come home from “college” for a family Christmas—which Gwen is surprised by since he didn’t come home for the last one, or the one before (plot point!). We also (plot point!) find out that he studies Tae Kwan Do.
Will acts rather uninterested while some tedious Sibling Banter goes on between his three brothers and goes to say hi to his mother instead. Max returns the favour by only addressing him in order to reveal that he’s taken over Will’s room without asking (man, what a nice guy!). Will heads into it to find that it’s now strewn with Max’s junk, and Max happily tells him he’s going to be there for about a week and Will can just go sleep in the attic (come on—is anyone this rude to a family member they haven’t seen in months?). During the conversation, it’s revealed that Will’s fourteenth birthday is coming up (must be why everyone’s being extra nice to him). In the book he was actually turning eleven, but again, easier to relate to, blah blah blah. Not to mention the “just turning eleven” bit might sound familiar to certain viewers for some reason.