Review: The Seeker

Rating: 2 monkeys, 1 pixie, 1 nit

The Seeker is a special child, an inheritor of special powers of the Ancients of Light, who has to find six signs of power in order to defeat the rising powers of Darkness. The trick, though, is that the signs are buried in time, and the Seeker must venture through variety of adventures to uncover them. This of course means that young Will Stanton, played by Alexander Ludwig, travels through medieval times, Viking raids, barn fights, and secret chambers to pinpoint the signs. In present time though, he is a snotty adolescent, not entirely likable, who also must confront his painful reality consisting of being shuffled amongst numerous siblings, living with an exhausted mother and a disinterested father. The only people who pay attention to young Will are the Ancients, disguised as wealthy neighbours, and they too do not appear entirely trustworthy or kind.

There is a sense of urgency, as The Rider of Darkness, played by Christopher Eccleston, is approaching, gaining strength and threatening the world as we know it. Will must confront his traps and challenges, and gain the powers of the Light, ultimately meant to help him defeat Darkness in a final battle.

As a first installment of what is potentially a lucrative franchise based on Susan Cooper’s novels, The Seeker: The Dark is Rising begs a comparison to Harry Potter. This, of course, is damning, because Potter films and book franchise allows for the kind of funding that in reality only Peter Jackson would deserve. Let’s just say, that it is an unfair starting point.

That aside, this Susan Cooper’s novel has received a bit of peculiar treatment by the screenplay writer John Hodge, whose hand has brought us such hits as Trainspotting, A Life Less Ordinary, and The Beach. For some reason, trying to mount Cooper’s creation onto a two hour feature, proved to be no easy task for Hodge, as various bits and pieces of the novel were shuffled, changed, or lost, making me once again painfully aware of the fact that some things should really go the miniseries way, rather than large screen releases.

As a result, The Seeker: The Dark is Rising suffers from fragmented story-telling, trying to squeeze in forcefully too many events and too many characters that never truly get a lot of screen time, and thus suffer from severe underdevelopment.

David L. Cunningham does not fail as a director, but does not win the audience either. The film itself is very rich in visual cues and colours, and his keen eye for subjects allows Will to be captured as a conflicted character. On the other hand, few minor visual distractions were enough to tear me away. For one, Will’s hair had too much gel, making his hair the primary protagonist of the film, and then there was the continuous appearance of a stark red shawl, the kind that I expect to see this winter at GAP (in fact, now that I think of it, this was probably the product placement for it). It may seem picky of me to point these out, but the spiky hair and the red shawl were in such dire contrast of the grey Romanian countryside, that it clashed against the motifs of Light vs Dark, white against black…

If you are a fan of The Seeker novels, then by all means this film is for you. If you are a parent, this would make for an excellent way to spend some time in the cinema. For the rest of us though, renting a DVD after reading the novels, might be a better way to spend our money and time.