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Reviews » Theatrical Reviews » The Seeker: The Dark is Rising
The Seeker: The Dark is Rising
Fox // PG // October 5, 2007
Review by Brian Orndorf | posted October 5, 2007 | E-mail the Author
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Between now and February three movie studios have armed themselves with family-oriented epics to sweep up whatever coin has been left behind by the likes of the "Narnia" franchise and especially "Harry Potter." It's an awfully transparent way to conduct business, but hey, that's Hollywood.

On his 14th birthday, Will Stanton (Alexander Ludwig) finds he's the savior of the universe; a boy entrusted with preserving the forces of the Light (including Ian McShane and Frances Conroy) against the growing persistence of the Dark (led by Christopher Eccleston). Uncomfortable with his new powers, Will hunts for special signs and artifacts to help the cause, bending time to achieve his quest to become the great power on which so many are depending to help banish the Dark forever.

The first "alternate world" production to reach theaters is "The Seeker" (the others being December's "Golden Compass" and February's "Spiderwick Chronicles"), an adaptation of the popular 70's fantasy books written by Susan Cooper. Not having had the pleasure of reading the source material, "Seeker" holds some high-flying aspirations to become a snappy fantastical franchise, yet a majority of it was lost on me. I can only imagine I will not be alone in that reaction.

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, since helmer David L. Cunningham doesn't exhibit much skill gluing sequences together in "Seeker." Cunningham is thirsting for a more visually spastic direction, pumping up the light shows and overtaxing smoke machines to give "Seeker" otherworldly menace. Frankly, it looks more like Duran Duran's "Wild Boys" video.

On one side we have a director with a sweet tooth for frame clutter and an exasperating reliance on clich├ęd artifice; on the other side, a script that requires a PHD in "Dark is Rising" backstory, which pulls the film in a far more lethargic direction. The exposition is piled dangerously high in "Seeker," threatening to suffocate the film under the mass of characters and histories the film fails to properly introduce. Watching the feature stop itself over and over to carefully explain just what in the hell is going on is tiring, making me reflect fondly on how the "Harry Potter" films were executed to Muggles like me. It doesn't have to be a flawless immersion, just engaging. "Seeker" doesn't invite the audience to participate in the fun. Instead the feature drones on about events and people we barely understand in the first place.

Also baffling are the multitude of twists and turns in the script. Most of the big reveals of "Seeker" can be telegraphed a mile away, but is this in service of the younger viewers or does the film truly believe in its lackluster misdirection?

"Seeker" soon sputters off into a showdown of Light and Dark for the future of the world. Heavy, huh? Unfortunately most of the dramatic execution is left to Alexander Ludwig, who isn't the most striking onscreen personality. I kept hoping McShane would shove the boy aside and take "Seeker" for a spin with his enchanting Shakespearian acting tics, matching the apocalyptic tone of the finale assault more comfortably than a skinny blonde teenage acting novice. That drastic (and needed) change of focus never comes to fruition.


For further online adventure, please visit brianorndorf.com
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