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The Dark Is Rising, except on film (Review: The Seeker)

The Dark is Rising sequence

The Dark is Rising sequence

When the Dark comes rising, six shall turn it back;
Three from the circle, three from the track;
Wood, bronze, iron; water, fire, stone;
Five will return, and one go alone.

Iron for the birthday, bronze carried long;
Wood from the burning, stone out of song;
Fire in the candle-ring, water from the thaw;
Six Signs the circle, and the grail gone before.

Fire on the mountain shall find the harp of gold
Played to wake the Sleepers, oldest of the old;
Power from the green witch, lost beneath the sea;
All shall find the light at last, silver on the tree.

That poem is a central piece of Susan Cooper’s award-winning The Dark is Rising (both the book and the sequence with the same name). Each of the six signs must be recovered by Will Stanton, the main character, in the battle against The Dark. This poem is as repeated, and as important to this story, as “One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them / One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them / In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie” is in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

In 2007, Walden Media and 20th Century Fox released The Seeker: The Dark is Rising, adapted from Cooper’s book. “Adapted” turns out to be a pretty loose term, though. That film resembles the book in minor ways only. I’m not going to quibble over the various ways in which it was disappointing. That would take too long (though go see the comments for my pre-release post for some of that). I’ll simply say this: The movie had absolutely none of the elegance nor depth of the book. None. Not even a hint. Nothing felt important or timeless (which is an important concept to portray when dealing with time traveling immortals [and frankly, though accurate, that's a poor and limited description for the Old Ones of the book]). It felt cheap.

The easiest way to summarize the uselessness of the movie is that neither the poem above nor its essence were included. Remove the power of the One Ring from the Lord of the Rings movie, the motivating force behind the whole thing, and you start to see where this film jumped the tracks before it even got off the writer’s hard drive.

For once, I agree with the critics. As summarized in Wikipedia (emphasis added):

The New York Post’s Kyle Smith objected that, “Good and evil don’t seem to be trying to destroy each other so much as come up with cool-looking effects to show off, as if they were competing in a “Project Runway” for wizards… [and] given superpowers, Will does approximately nothing with them.”[24] Gianni Truzzi of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer opined that the movie lacked the “grandiose elements” of “magic rooted in its ties to Arthurian legend and British folklore” that made the books so memorable.[25] The Boston Globe’s Ty Burr panned the movie for not understanding its intended audience of book-readers, saying, “the producers have tried to gin up the story for multiplex audiences. They’ve succeeded in making a movie for no audience at all.”[26] And The New York Timess Jeannette Catsoulis complained that “John Hodge’s screenplay is frequently dreary and overly literal… ‘The Seeker’ feels passé and lacks a charismatic lead.”[27]

It tanked in the theaters, and deservedly so. It took me over a year to watch it, and I ended up having to go read the Wikipedia entry on the book sequence to remind me why I liked the story so I could wipe this bastardization from my memory. If I had the full series on hand I would have started re-reading it again tonight.

Don’t watch the movie. This is the first movie I’ve watched that made me want to communicate directly with the screenwriter and producers to tell them what idiots they are… and I’ve seen some bad movies.

Read the book (you can even get it on Kindle!). Then read the rest of the series.

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