May 29, 2018
The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising (2007) (part 1 of 14)
The Cast of Characters:
Will Stanton, aka The Seeker (Alexander Ludwig). The seventh son of a seventh son, and therefore blessed with great powers. He’s supposed to seek out seven “signs,” none of which are ever actually used for anything, and which doesn’t seem to require much in the way of hard work. Being the last of a magical group called “The Old Ones” means he can do all kinds of nifty stuff including summoning fire and moving stuff with his mind, but he doesn’t actually use those powers for anything remotely useful. In the book he was British; here he’s been changed into a transplanted American for absolutely no reason. Likes to complain a lot.
The Rider (Christopher Eccleston). The big cheese of Evil. Well, actually, he’s the only evil character in the movie, pretty much. Aside from the evil old lady who only appears in one scene, and the traitor-in-the-ranks whose identity can be spotted within ten seconds. The Rider likes to, well, ride around on a scary white horse, wearing a big cloak and spouting eeeevil dialogue, although just what he wants to achieve isn’t clear. The rest of the time he’s masquerading as the friendly village doctor, which I found freaking hilarious.
Maggie (Amelia Warner). A local hot chick (well, Pioneertown Hot, anyway), whom Will has a very inappropriate crush on. She goes off with his older brother while smirking a lot and looking suspiciously unsuspicious. Since she has pretty much no purpose in the story, I figured out her real reasons for being there very quickly (aside from “add some sex appeal to the movie,” of course).
Will’s Brothers (Drew Tyler Bell, Edmund Entin, Gary Entin, Gregory Smith, etc.). I put them all together since they don’t have that much personality or impact on the plot. Reviewers have said they act an awful lot like the Weasley family in Harry Potter, and I’m sorta forced to agree—the twins (the Entins, I presume) act almost exactly like a less charming version of Fred ‘n’ George Weasley, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Mostly they’re just around to prove that Will is, indeed, the seventh son, and they’re almost universally annoying or boring (often both).
Will’s Mum and Dad (Wendy Crewson and John Benjamin Hickey). For no reason they’ve changed Dad’s first name from “Roger” to “John.” Dad is a burnt-out university scholar busy writing a nonsensical thesis, and Mum is your typical caring mother trying to deal with too many children, etc.
Gwen Stanton (Emma Lockhart). Will’s adorable sister, and pretty much the only person in his family who’s got time for him. She doesn’t do much except look adorable, rescue a kitten and be astonishingly calm about her bother’s sudden manifestation of incredible powers.
The Old Ones (Ian McShane, Frances Conroy, etc.). A bunch of local eccentrics who turn out to be part of some kind of secret group of powerful freedom f- uh, defenders of the forces of Light, or some damn thing. They don’t do much except give Will some rather half-hearted mentoring, drop in and out of the plot willy-nilly and recite “you are the Seeker” eight thousand times. Oh, and they also have the good luck to appear in one of the most memorably stupid scenes in the whole movie.
Alexander Ludwig’s Smirk (himself). This little fella appears so often in the movie I thought he deserved his own credit. It was a toss-up between that and the Ominous Crows.
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The Critics Rave about The Seeker: The Dark is Rising!
“Sloppy, lifeless storytelling so limp it guarantees no sequels will be made.”
—David Cornelius, DVDTalk.com
“Imagine Time Bandits confined to a boring Berkshire village and drained of colour, and you can see why this pig’s ear of Susan Cooper’s well-received children’s story went belly-up at the US box office.”
—Elliott Noble, Sky Movies
“Off-the-shelf teen fantasy not likely to satisfy the post-Potter/LoTR crowd but guaranteed to enrage fans of the source novel. The newly added quasi-religious overtones don’t help either.”
—Helen Ohara, Empire Magazine
“The excessive strobe effects may trigger epileptic fits, but the movie itself will induce narcolepsy.”
—Jamie Russell, thelondonpaper
“By Americanising the hero and grotesquely distorting the plot, they can only alienate the fan-base and confuse the newcomer.”
—Robert Hanks, Independent
“Given superpowers, Will does approximately nothing with them (he can command fire, but uses it mainly to throw cool supertantrums). He’s as passive as a dead mackerel.” —Kyle Smith, New York Post
“That seventh-son-of-a-seventh-son business sounds like Muddy Waters singing, ‘Got my Mojo Workin’.'”
—Lawrence Toppman, Charlotte Observer
“The ultimate question is, was the movie purposefully made into a blur to play directly into the pockets of the fans, or do we chalk this up to standard-issue directorial incompetence? I vote the latter.”
—Brian Orndorf, OhmyNews.com
(Thanks to Mark “Scooter” Wilson for helping out with the formatting.)
It’s an interesting thing to contemplate. Within a year or so of this writing it’ll be 2010. Ten years into, not just a new century, but a new millennium. I mean, for crying out loud—once upon a time, our ancestors thought the world would end when the year 1000 rolled around, and here we are, 1000 years on from then and still kicking. And they still haven’t invented the flying car.
So it’s a little odd that we’re spending so much of this new millennium watching fantasy movies and reading fantasy books. Given that fantasy, by definition, is stuck in the past, it’s a strange contrast to the fact that we’re meant to be living in THE FUTURE! Maybe if we’re still around in the year 3000, we’ll be watching lots of movies about the Iraq War and those quaint devices called “iPods” (an appropriate device to pick, as we’ll see).
Anyway, 2007 saw the release of at least one great fantasy movie—Stardust—and to balance it out they also released, well, this one. Again, this is a good comparison, because it was Stardust that indirectly led me to watch The Seeker. I was on holiday, and bored, and went to the local shopping maul to catch a movie. I was planning to watch Stardust again since I loved it so much, but found I’d come too late and they wouldn’t be showing it again for hours. But while I was in the process of discovering this, I found out they’d just released this other fantasy movie that looked interesting, so I bought a ticket.
I went into The Seeker having not read the book it was based on, and also not having read or heard a single review. This is an unusual state of affairs, since I watch At The Movies religiously every week, and almost never go to see something unless I’ve seen it discussed by Margaret and David (the Australian versions of Ebert and Roeper). At the very least, I look up reviews on RottenTomatoes.
So I went in with a clean slate. Hell, I didn’t even know the movie was out until I saw it on the board. The movie lost me about twenty minutes in, and after that I whiled away the rest of the time giggling behind my hand.
By the time we got to the big “climax,” I was laughing my arse off and having a damn good time about it too. I left the cinema nearly crying with mirth, having openly riffed the movie once or twice and actually gotten some laughs from the other viewers, and thinking “man, I had so much fun hating that movie.” Well, okay, I thought that after I’d thought “I wonder if they’re selling commemorative snow globes?”
I wish they had. I totally would have bought one. Mind you, I’m a sucker for movie merchandise. In fact, later on I bought a poster for The Dark is Rising, which is now in a place of pride on my bedroom door.
Sadly, it’s not likely there’ll be anything else in the way of merchandise, because this movie tanked. Hard. In fact, it actually set a record for the worst opening weekend ever, which shocked me a bit because I didn’t think it was all that bad. But in retrospect I have to concede that it probably was.
Why? Well, for one thing (and I could tell this long before I read it), it completely butchers the book it’s based on. To the point, in fact, that there is virtually nothing of the source material left aside from a couple of names. I actually sought out and read the book just to confirm those suspicions, and boy were they ever. I didn’t actually like the book much; in fact I prefer the movie. The book was too boring and entirely too Postmodernist for my liking (sorry, that’s my literature major talking again), whereas the movie at least had plenty of delightful absurdity to keep me entertained.
For another, the acting is pretty bad. Some people claimed that Alexander Ludwig, the tow-headed kid playing the lead role, provided the only good performance. I beg to differ: he provided the absolute worst performance in the whole movie. The “best performance” wreath goes to the always-charming Christopher Eccleston as the villain (in fact, I was rooting for him by the end—anything to shut the protagonist up). I suppose one reason why I couldn’t like Ludwig’s character is that he reminds me way too much of Eragon—a blonde, whiny, ungrateful lunkhead who just won’t keep his eye on the ball. And who likes to smirk at a chick who’s way, way too old for him.
And finally, the movie is hopelessly over-directed. The director, apparently thinking the story didn’t have enough “energy,” threw in the current favourite “slo-mo followed by instant fast forward, then back to normal just as fast” gimmick, and then used it over and over again until it becomes distinctly comical. Slo-mo is overused in many of the action scenes too, and there’s a memorable shot where the camera actually turns upside-down. Oh, and there’s the poignant bouncy-balls. Can’t forget those. You’ll see what I’m talking about later.
Anyway, let’s get on with it.