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I was beside myself with glee when I first heard of this movie. The
book it is based on has been a book I have read and reread as well as
given to children and adults alike over the years. So I was HORRIBLY
disappointed at the changes made in this adaptation. Key elements left
out, characterizations gutted, the mythos it was based on trivialized.
After such great adaptations as LotR, Narnia and the Potter books to see this classic ruined was a sad sight.
The books concepts depend on British folktales and legends (Arthurian based) and the movie seems to have tossed that aside in an attempt to woo American audiences. The family is changed, leaving out the close knit structure that is the basis of the story.
Don't see this movie. Don't let your kids see this movie. Do yourselves a favor and read the book.
Someday someone will make this movie with an eye to the source material.
That should just about sum it up, but I'll continue. There were about 3
things about Susan Cooper's magnificent book that were preserved in
this movie: a couple of names (but certainly not all of them--where was
the difficulty in letting his father be named "Roger" rather than
changing it to "John"??), a rook feather in the snow, and... that's
about it. Sorry, couldn't think of a third. From the color of the
Rider's horse to the number (AND AGE) of Will's siblings, from the
abilities of the Old Ones (Swords and crossbows? Really?) to the utter
importance of the Walker (I wanted to scream)... nothing nothing
nothing was safe from being altered, disregarded, obliterated, and
out-and-out ignored. I wasted $7.50, but had to be sure that it was as
awful as I feared. It was worse. The last time a superb
book-turned-rubbish-movie angered me this much was when I was forced to
see Jim Carrey prance around as Count Olaf, who should've been one of
the greatest villains to scare the wits out of little kids everywhere.
I'd like to say I'm done with adaptations, but The Golden Compass is coming out, and that one looks like more than the gaffer actually read the bloody book.
Awful, awful, awful - from screenplay to casting to effects. Should one be surprised considering the director announced in the past that he thought the books did not give good movie material and that he dislikes fantasy/children's movies to begin with? Did he pick them up in the end after all to ride the Harry Potter wave? Announcing at the same time that he changed the script from younger British boy to older American boy to avoid having yet another Harry... Well, Susan Cooper's book series the Rising of the Dark sequence was written long before Harry Potter and it has all the material for a good movie. If you like Britain. Its landscape and people. And history, as the background of the book is the King Arthur legend. Unfortunately, the original book has been butchered to the point that the story is unrecognizable. That does not necessarily make a movie bad, just different. However, in this case, as a result of the butchering, the story does not make sense, lacks any depth, and is a disappointment from A to Z which the director tries to hide by using cheap effects and repetitive and lame shooting angles. Save yourself the theater ticket fees and buy those wonderful books from Susan Cooper instead.
If you saw the preview and thought "Pass", I would call you prudent. If
you have been a fan of Susan Cooper's beloved book series since you
were a kid, saw the preview and thought "Maybe it won't be as bad as it
seems...", then I weep for your broken childhood love. If you were like
me and thought "Even if it is cheesy, it might turn out to be fun",
then I'm giving you a Get Out Of Jail Free card with this review. It is
not enough that we must be subjected to one-dimensional characters,
painfully predictable dialogue, hackneyed plot lines, cliché villains,
headache-inducing camera work, and one of the worst climaxes ever
recorded. No. Not by a long shot. The atrocity here runs deeper. Our
intelligence is insulted, our tastes are ridiculed, and our freedom of
choice turns on us and squeezes its fist around our throats. This film
registers as a negative, a black hole, in the canon of cinematic
creations. There were parts where I imagined the producers saying,
"Just leave it that way. They'll never notice" or "You don't have to
explain that, it'll fly right over their heads." I understand that the
budget for this film was (gasp) a measly 20 million dollars, but lack
of financial resources is NEVER, EVER an excuse to feed gold-plated
crap to the masses. Christopher Eccleston fans may get a slight quiver
of a laugh out of his (failed) quirky turn as The Rider, the
wraith-like shape shifting ambassador of "The Dark". But in all
seriousness, I think he may have just needed a few extra bucks for a
down payment on an Aston Martin he might have had his eye on. Otherwise
the acting is not even a subject to be brought up, since cardboard
cutouts don't require much effort to portray. The special effects are
where all the money went, and they're fairly decent. Though I refuse to
count this as praise, any more than I would appreciate a smattering of
whipped cream on the top of a rancid pile of stinking, eight-week old
In any fantasy, there are rules that must be set and limitations where magic is to be found. Otherwise, the whole thing becomes a free-for-all that never holds any kind of credibility. I don't think I have the time or the energy to describe all of the problems, violations, and inconsistencies I saw occur within this film that barely topped two hours. It would be a real challenge for someone to sit down and try to catch them all. There was no respect for the genre here, just a seemingly voracious need to exploit the current fantasy craze. If after The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, and Harry Potter, the bigwigs in the studios think that this sort of thing can pass as acceptable, then the legacy of Story is over already. Yes, I am being overly dramatic, but at this point, it's too late to turn back. Time once lost is not recoverable, money once spent requires more labor to regain, and the wish to walk away from a story feeling like we've been entertained, had our minds and hearts opened, once dashed is hard pressed to be soothed back again from boundless feelings of deep discontent and a sense that we have been robbed. It breaks my heart, and I left this film genuinely livid.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
If you were to take the Harry Potter film franchise and remove all the
memorable characters, fun, adventure, and coherent narrative
storytelling, you would get The Seeker: The Dark is Rising. While not
completely unwatchable and competently made, the film has no sense of
wonder. That's quite an amazing feat when you consider it centers
around a kid with numerous superhuman powers, and surrounds said kid
with themes of time travel, villains who can summon swarms of crows and
snakes in an instant, and an apocalyptic snow storm that could bring
about the end of the world.
Our young hero is Will Shanton (Alexander Ludwig). Will is your average awkward teen struggling to fit in after his father's job forced the family to move overseas from America to England. He's just turned 14, and has also just discovered that he's part of a prophecy that he never knew about. Supposedly, thousands of years ago, there was a great battle between the forces of Light and Darkness for control of the world. Light won out in the end, but Dark is vying to make a comeback. The Dark is represented by a villain called The Rider (Christopher Eccleston), named so because he rides around on horseback. The Rider keeps on appearing before our young hero, and sending demonic mall security guards and evil grannies who can summon snakes after him. He claims to be looking for "the Signs", but Will doesn't know what he's talking about. Fortunately, there are some people to help explain Will's destiny, and explain the plot (but do little else). They represent the "Light", and inform Will that he is the "Seeker", and that only he has the power to seek out six Signs - powerful artifacts from the past that hold the fate of the world. As the Seeker, Will gains various powers including super strength and traveling through time, of which only the time travel one seems to be of any use to him in his search.
All the ingredients are here for a fun fantasy adventure, but The Seeker: The Dark is Rising doesn't even seem interested in itself. This movie has such a shocking lack of wonder and whimsy, two things all fantasy adventures must have. The incredible keeps on showing its face throughout the story, but the movie forgets to allow the characters to react or even respond to it. At one point, Will's younger sister discovers her brother's power first hand when she accidentally travels through time with him. How does she react to this? She doesn't. She finds herself transported thousands of years in the past in the middle of a battle, and all she cares about is that she rescued a kitten from the battlefield. She doesn't even ask her brother what's going on, nor does she ever bring it up again in a later scene. She does, however, keep on clutching to that little kitten she found for the rest of the movie. I guess time travel, super powers, and the fate of the world itself just can't hold a candle to the adorableness of a kitty cat.
The storytelling employed here is of the most basic and episodic quality. Things happen out of sheer coincidence or dumb luck. I mean, what are the odds that all of these Signs Will is supposed to be looking for all seem to be within a three mile radius from his house? He doesn't so much "seek" these things out, rather he stumbles upon them. He goes to church for Sunday service, and wow, there's one of the Signs he's looking for! Whatever the case, can it really be qualified as an adventure if the hero is hardly forced to leave his own house? For all the characters' talk of prophecies and darkness destroying the world, everyone in this movie sure seems to be taking it in stride. They even still have time to celebrate Christmas, even the ones who know the world could end in five days.
For all its mistakes, The Seeker is not without some merit. The opening moments has a mysterious atmosphere, and got me interested before the movie decided to brush off its own explanations. It's kind of like finding a beautifully wrapped package, opening it, and finding a ball of lint inside. It's at least interesting before the disappointment hits. The first 20 minutes or so have hope and the promise of wonder, then the movie just kind of craps out and loses interest in itself. It's odd to think that The Seeker is more comfortable dealing with the ordinary rather than the extraordinary. If the people behind this film were behind the Harry Potter series, the "Muggle" world would be more interesting than Hogwarts. I don't think I even have to explain what would be wrong with that picture.
The Seeker: The Dark is Rising is based on a very famous children's novel by Susan Cooper. I have not read this book, but I have a feeling that this adaptation is missing what made the story so interesting in the first place. Here is a story that cries out for the fantastic, and gives us people who don't even seem to notice it. Those kind of people don't deserve to inhabit a story like this. We need a hero who shares our sense of wonder. All we get with Will is someone who discovers he has the power to change the world, and says "that's nice", then walks away.
If you read the book, skip the movie. If you did not read the book,
still skip the movie. I saw this with a group in which some of us had
read the book and some of us had not. Everybody disliked it.
The story was confusing, disjointed, and eventually pointless. Even if you had read the book, it appeared that the screenwriter was taking scenes from Harry Potter, scenes from the Fifth Element, and a few scenes from Cooper's original novels then patching them together. This led to an incoherent story line.
The biggest question is what were they thinking when they disregarded the story contained in the book? In an episode of "all things considered" on NPR, screenwriter John Hodge asserted that he was trying to distance this movie from Harry Potter. If so, he failed miserably because the massive changes made this look more like a bad Harry Potter knock-off than a separate film. From the NPR interviews, it appears that Ms. Cooper had little or no input in the film. I suspect that the filmmakers were trying to make a Harry Potter-like film out of Susan Cooper's story so they could avoid copyright infringement. Unfortunately, they were trying to fit a square peg into the round hole and it did not work.
To whoever made this movie: I congratulate you. The only redeeming
factor in this poor excuse for a film is that it will be nearly
impossible to produce any of the sequels. (Though I'm sure that won't
stop you.) You have managed to destroy anything and everything that
made the book wonderful and unique. To be able to something this awful
with such great source material surely takes a great amount of planning
What, it was on accident? That is impressive.
Honestly, if you're not going to do it right, don't do it - screenwriters, directors, actors - was there anyone who felt the need to perhaps point out that this thing was a piece of crap? My father, who has never read the books, said the movie was awful, and I would dearly love the home address of the people who destroyed my favorite fantasy series.
Rarely have I been so disappointed, I actually walked out of this film
half way through, not caring how they end this debacle. With such a
rich text to draw from, this movie could have been awesome, the plot is
pathetic, the characterisation all wrong, the dialogue clichéd drivel,
what were they thinking.
Why they had to change the setting away from Celtic countries & Saxon mythology I have no idea. The whole heart & soul is missing from the story.
Everyone involved in the production of this film should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves, they've chipped away at a cherished bit of thousands of peoples childhood memories by squeezing out this arse-gravy onto celluloid.
The Seeker is not only one of the worst films I have ever seen it is
probably the worst movie of all time. PT Barnum said there is one fool
born every minute so I ask why were they all involved in making this
pile of utter crap? It doesn't matter if it had followed the book (it
woefully doesn't) but it isn't a good movie in any respect at all. This
was a money grabbing, farce of a movie, with terrible plotting,
terrible casting and even worse directing.
It insulted, the readers of the books, children's intelligences worldwide and the movie industry in general. I wouldn't trust the writer nor the director to sit the right way on a toilet.
If you ever read Ian Fleming's work you'd know that the books and film stories are totally different but they manage to convey the ruthlessness, the style and epic quality of the books and add their own style of fun to generate the longest running successful sequels in history.
With the care and attention to detail put into the filming of the Lord of the Rings I honestly thought we were past the limitations that dogged fantasy films in older days but Fox proved us wrong, I can only surmise, that the financial and marketing people don't read, watch good movies or even have decent IQ's.
How is this for a financial idea: Susan Cooper wrote a 5 book masterpiece that works for kids and adults alike. If we cast it properly, plan out a set of films to bring the books that brought joy to millions out to billions we could if done properly be in the money for years to come and rule the Christmas films for the next 5 years. Hmm who do we get to produce it, screen-write it and direct it for us.
I know, how about we get a successful producer, can we get the one who did that massively acclaimed hit "Legally Blonde 2", a screenwriter who can't write for children and a director who admits he doesn't like the fantasy genre.
I'm trying to work out if movies qualify under the Sale of Goods Act here in Britain. Calling the film "The Dark is Rising" might just be considered as false advertising or at least an infringement of the trade descriptions act. I can then claim my money back and clear the way for everyone else to get theirs back too.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I first came across this sequence of books as an eleven-year-old boy myself, in 1980, 7 years after the book on which the eponymous book was published. The storyline and writing style is a breath of fresh air and the book, "the Dark is Rising" rapidly became my favourite read. Even now, 27 years later it has lost none of its appeal and my own children are enjoying it too. The secret of success is in the way it creates magic not out of stereotyped wizards (a la Harry Potter), but out of the honest descriptions of the events that unfold for Will Stanton. The description of his village and countryside and how they change as Will himself develops. Above all it is quintessentially English and far from being dated it is a timeless masterpiece as relevant to children now as 30 years ago. The interweaving of Arthurian legend with local Chiltern folk-lore does not need special effects and the story itself is perfect for a film without plot changes. So, to make a film that changes characters as significantly as this does, omitting some, radically altering others, changing the whole substance of Will's family is unforgivable. The casting is poor - Ian McShane is no Merriman. Avoid this like the plague - it should have been a film to bring a new generation of readers to Susan Coopers masterpiece (a sequence of books that shows J K Rowling's Potter saga for the dross that it is). How sad to waste such an opportunity
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