DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog: THE SEEKER: DARK IS RISING

Saturday, 12 April 2008


The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising (2007) dir. David L. Cunningham
Starring: Alexander Ludwig, Christopher Eccleston, Ian McShane, Frances Conroy

* stars

Guest Review By Greg Klymkiw

Given the overwhelming commercial success of family-aimed fantasy movies like the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Harry Potter series and The Chronicles of Narnia, it’s actually a bit perplexing to me that we have not had MORE lower budgeted knock-offs with acceptable levels of production value, derivative screenplays and bereft-of-flavour by-the-numbers direction.

The wait is now over.

The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising (one of the more idiotically clumsy titles to grace the silver screen in some time) is just such a motion picture. This dismal cinematic composting toilet boasts an obnoxious lead character, even more obnoxious supporting characters, a just plain simplistic plot, numerous plot holes, inexplicable behaviour, very little in the way of forward-moving character development, stupid dialogue and competent, but ultimately, not too imaginative special effects.

Based upon what must be the first of a series of kids literature that began in the 80s and written by Susan Cooper (who is apparently and especially much-beloved by children that grew up on her work) this actually has to be one of the worst family fantasy movies I have ever seen – so much so, that I am thankful I have not wasted my own child’s time on any of this woman’s books as her writing must make J. K. Rowling and those of her ilk seem like bloody Leo Tolstoy.

I am, of course, assuming the source material is awful without reading it because the screenplay adaptation comes from John Hodge, the masterful author of such screenplays as Shallow Grave and Trainspotting and if he was unable to cobble something together on the page that was even remotely interesting, competent or entertaining, how could I begin to assume the original book was any good to begin with.

The movie tells the story of an obnoxious kid and his obnoxious family who move from America to Britain. The young lad, Will, not unlike a pint-sized Dustin Hoffman from Straw Dogs, is especially weirded out by the odd ways of these wonky English people in their bucolic, whimsical and oh-so quirky English town while conversely, his new friends and some of the townspeople alternate between down-home friendly and inbred, isolationist malevolence. (Much as I’d be tempted to call this a family friendly cross between Harry Potter and Straw Dogs, I won’t, because that actually would make The Seeker sound like a movie worth seeing.)

Soon, Will’s got an incredibly bored-looking Ian MacShane blubbering on to him about some nonsense involving his destiny as the only warrior of the Light who can fight the forces of the Dark in order to keep the world safe forever.

Enter The Rider (Christopher Eccleston), this snarling nasty guy on a horse who looks like a cross between a Thunder Bay rocker dude and a Black Knight by way of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The Rider (a truly boneheaded name) is the prime mover and shaker of the forces of Dark and it’s up to young Will to take him out. In addition to this, Will needs to seek six items of import to keep the Light safe.

This could have been a most challenging treasure hunt for young, obnoxious Will. Thankfully he finds everything rather easily within a block or two of where he lives.

At this point in our review, the best thing I can do is spoil the ending for you, because I am sure you would never guess what happens and I certainly do not want you to have to actually sit through this movie as I did.

Are you ready for it?

Here it is.

The Seeker fulfills his destiny.

The Dark is defeated.

Light rules.

Why anyone would bother to make this picture is beyond me? Why anyone would watch it is an even greater mystery. Why anyone would bother letting their kids read Susan Cooper’s books also mystifies me (at least if this picture is any indication of what they’re like). Then again, why anyone would let their kids read any of the crap out there that’s aimed at kids – especially that Rowling woman – is beyond me since there’s a wealth of great literature for children that already exists from the likes of Roald Dahl, James Fenimore Cooper, Robert Louis Stevenson, Alexander Dumas, Rudyard Kipling and many, many more.

I’d also like to know why the director of this film, one David. L. Cunningham, even bothers to live and breathe since his direction suggests otherwise.

A movie like The Seeker seems so abominable on every level, I’m ashamed to have even bothered writing this much about it, In fact, it’s so execrable that I am ashamed of forcing you to read what I have to say about it, so I think you should really just clean the palate of your eyeballs and mind (so to speak) and stop reading now.

"The Seeker" is available on DVD from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment


Jake said...

You have a very informative entertainment blog - so good I am saving money on not having to see the films because of your expertise in getting the plot across. By the way I love Dustin Hoffman.

Alan Bacchus said...

Thanks Jake. I love Dustin Hoffman too. Check out his hammy but wonderful performance Mr. Magorium!

Charlie said...

Hmm. No disagreement here about *The Seeker*; but you should check out the book before condemning it, unless you want to be as slapdash a blogger as John Hodge has proved himself an adapter. The book is *nothing* like the film, which was a simple case of cynical butchery.

I'd go into details, but they're available all over the web. To use your own analogy, it's more as if they'd taken *War and Peace* and reshot it in the style of *Rambo* as a vehicle for Sylvester Stallone. They wouldn't do that to Tolstoy, of course, but children's books (even classic ones) are unfortunately seen as fair game.

(Not that it matters much, but the series began in the '60s not the '80s, and this is the second book, not the first.)

Klymkiw said...

Thanks for the comments Charlie. The story felt very 80s to me, so I assumed (wrongly) that's where it came from. I really try not to read or know anything about a picture before I see it. Keeps things fresh. I even try to keep that down to a minimum until AFTER I review it. This is obviously easier with contemporary movies than classic ones. Interesting to hear that you say there's lots of info about how the book was "butchered" on the web. At some point I might just take a gander at one of the books in a bookstore to see if it's worth letting my kid read. Again, I'll make no bones about it. I have (as already stated in my review) a bias against contemporary kidlit and prefer to expose the nippers to the true classics before they're exposed to what passes for lit this days. I find it helps the kids develop good taste.