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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Seeker - The Dark is Rising
The Seeker - The Dark is Rising
Fox // PG // March 18, 2008
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by David Cornelius | posted March 12, 2008 | E-mail the Author
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I have never read Susan Cooper's "The Dark Is Rising" book series, but even so, I can tell that something must have gone horribly, horribly wrong in the transition from page to screen. "The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising" adapts the second book in the franchise, but it does so with so little energy, cohesion, or even interest that one wonders why the filmmakers even bothered at all.

Of course, we all know why they bothered - its producers hoped to jump on that gravy train of kid-fantasy adaptations led by such series as "Harry Potter" and "Narnia." But they apparently forgot to include any actual respect for the source material, hoping that some random jumble of genre elements would be enough to rake in the box office cash. From the looks of things, fans of the books are downright outraged, while those unfamiliar with the books were treated to sloppy, lifeless storytelling so limp it guarantees no sequels will be made.

Scripted by John Hodge ("Trainspotting," "The Beach") and directed by David L. Cunningham ("The Path to 9/11," "After..."), "The Seeker" blandly goes through the motions in churning out one generic element after another. Will (Alexander Ludwig) is the overlooked seventh son in a huge American family living inexplicably in England. (The script can't even come up with a good reason why Will should be a Yank, other than an outdated attempt at international appeal that died out long before Harry Potter stayed a Brit.) He just turned 14, which means he's now old enough to learn that he's the chosen Sign-Seeker, some magical being that can spot hidden symbols, which in turn reveal the secret locations of powerful objects that can defeat The Forces Of Darkness.

That's all a bit vague, but then, what took me one sentence to describe takes the film a full hour-and-a-half, and even then, nothing really makes much sense. The script never bothers explaining why Will needs to find these things, only that he does; or what they do, only that they work; or why he gets mystical powers, only that he can use them, but only sometimes, and please don't ask why not all the time, because we were hoping you wouldn't pick up on that. Will is also trained in the ambiguous Sign-Seeker arts by a group of immortals (Ian McShane and Frances Conroy among them), and chased by the villainous Rider (Christopher Eccleston), although the good guys and bad guys just sort of pop in and out of the plot at random, never really attempting to do much of anything.

Oh, movie. How can you let such talent as Eccleston and McShane go to such waste? Both put all they can into their roles, but there's just nothing there for them to do.

The bulk of the picture is spent walking Will through a bunch of mini-adventures, some of which involve time travel (the purpose of which is also underexplained), some of which involve Will using his sorta-kinda-necessary superpowers, and some of which involve him learning about his ancestry. The latter is intended to add some dramatic depth to the proceedings, but guess what? Just like everything else here, it's so undercooked that it never matters much, other than signifying some unearned emotional lift in certain scenes.

It's all such a mess, as if somebody took a handful of fantasy clich├ęs and dropped them in a blender. Nothing really adds up, nothing pays off, and certainly nothing goes anywhere. It's a movie that's as completely bored with itself as we are with it.

The DVD

Update 3/21/08:
In this spot in my original review, there was a lengthy rant about Fox's habit of sending us incomplete screener copies for review. Now Fox has finally sent in a final retail copy to DVD Talk, which makes the entire rant sort of moot. As such, I've removed it from this article (the movie review portion, meanwhile, remains intact) and am replacing it with the following info:

Video & Audio

"The Seeker" arrives on shelves as a flipper disc, with one side featuring the original widescreen version of the film (2.35:1 anamorphic) and the other featuring a pan & scan (1.33:1) version. The widescreen transfer looks very sharp, as expected from a new production. The image is crisply detailed, and the winter-ish colors give the film a deep, moody look that contrasts nicely with the brighter, more colorful scenes. The pan & scan version offers the same transfer, only cropped.

The soundtrack is presented in Dolby 5.1, with a clean, clear mix that keeps most of the action on the front speakers; the rear speakers are used mainly for ambience. Spanish and French dubs, also in Dolby 5.1, are included, as are optional English, Spanish, and French subtitles. (The dubs also kick on alternate Spanish and French subtitles that translate on-screen signage and such.)

Extras

None. Not even previews of other titles. Which is highly unusual for a family film - is Fox assuming that this movie deserves as little effort as possible?

Final Thoughts

Skip It
. With Fox putting zero effort into this disc, it's like they're begging us not to buy it. I can go along with that request.
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