Here, There be a Writer

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Review: "The Seeker"

I don't know why I do this to myself. I start off thinking that this is a good idea, and then WHAM 99 minutes later I am sitting in my living with David going, WHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHY? I guess it's the inherit English major in me. I like to compare and contrast to the detriment of my movie watching at times.

When I did my Eragon review a few months ago, I knew that i was probably going to hate the movie afterward. See, I saw Eragon in movie format before I read the book and thought it was a cute dragon movie, if a little influenced by other books. It became more obvious after I read the book, where the influences come from, but the movie suddenly seemed less 'good' (for a lack of better terms). When I re-read the book and then watched the movie, taking notes, I discovered how different the movie was to book. I had to restraint myself after I yelled at my poor tv about the rather drastic changes and edits made to the book. Some people asked me why I chose to put myself through that, 'torture', 'waste of time', or maybe better that 'weird thing that English majors sometimes do.'

It gives me perspective to use my writing and intuitive skills in such a way. i know that might confuse some people, but I really enjoy it. I also don't tell people what they can or cannot watch. I know some folks who prefer the movie versions and that is fine. I just like to give a bit of perspective.

Movie Poster
Book Cover
Now that the air is cleared, onward to "The Seeker" review. The movie was released in 2007 and is based on the book, "The Dark is Rising" by Susan Cooper, which is the second book of the "The Dark is Rising Sequence". I was introduced to this series when I was in Middle School by my local library. I was a library kid, meaning I spent my Saturdays in the library. I believe it was Yvonne who pointed me in the direction of "The Dark is Rising". I read all 4 books, devouring them like I was starving. It was a fascinating read filled with adventure and folklore. I should note that "Over Sea, Under Stone" is the actual first book in the series and it some ways not as crucial, but that is a matter of opinion. "The Dark is Rising" is the story of Will Stanton, the 7th son of a 7th son, who upon his 14th (11th in the book) birthday comes into his inheritance, that of the battle between the Light and the Dark. He is an Old One. A warrior of the Light that battles against the Dark and has to collect the 6 signs of power to battle the Dark.

Upon the opening to the movie I am very aware of the number of semantic changes that was changed  to the story. I can understand some change to a story that is being adapted for a movie, but what i cannot understand is why there was so much disregard for Susan Cooper's work. Instead of going through the WHOLE story which might take awhile, I will stick to the main points.


First, there are extraneous plots written into the story, where previously none existed.

1. Forced Love Interest between Maggie and Will. Maggie, a real character is the book and tweaked for the movie in a quasi-half assed attempt at a relationship. The set up is that Will sees Maggie on the bus, but doesn't speak to her. She ends with Max, one of Will's older brothers, yet there is still that indication that Will and Maggie are destiny to be together. In the book, she is attracted to Max, while an agent of the dark, her role was much smaller in the book, that of a simple traitor that Merriman and Will discover while looking for the 6 signs of power.
2. Identical Twin subplot. Will is a twin! This he learns that he is actually a 7th son, where is believed before that he was the 6th son when Merriman, Miss. Greythorne, Mr. Dawson, and George reveal that Will is an Old One . By the end Will now has Tom (his twin brother) that he brings home. It is unnecessary and very distracting to to now have this extra character that was only slightly mentioned earlier in the movie- who didn't even exist in the book-who had been captured by the Rider and held prisoner for 14 years.
3. Merriman the Teacher. The use of Merriman as a teacher is all but left out of the movie. He was Will primary teacher in the book, but in the movie is more like a whiny partner that works with the other Old Ones: Miss Greythorne, Mr. Dawson, and George.
4. The 6th Sign is the Soul. This is kind of cliched and very over done. It's not even correct. The movie has 5 of the 6 signs as actual objects and the 6th is the soul of the Young Old One, Will Stanton. In the story  there are 6 signs of power, each a different element that Will has to find: Wood, Bronze, Iron, Fire, Water, Stone. I find this very lazy and almost cheating in the storytelling. Also, in the movie, as Will find each of the signs there is no mention of which sign is found each time a sign is found.
5. Will's family never knew of the Old Ones. They never knew of the battle between the Light and the Dark. The movie makes Will's father a Professor of Physics who had originally wrote a paper of this VERY SAME PRINCIPLE. In the book, everything that happens to Will as an Old One happens in another time or place, with no other family present. The family is unaware that Will has any special powers or has this unique birth right. Of course there are times, in the book, when Will does things that don't always make sense, but it's written as if the world is blissfully unaware of the war commencing on their doorstep.
6. The Stanton's are American. The movie make Will and his family Americans living in England, when the book has the Stanton's are already English, with the back story that the family had relocated after the last great battle between the Light and the Dark, only to have Will return to England on his 14th birthday
7. Set in Modern times. The movie is set in the 2000's where there are cell phones, skype, and all the major technological advances, while the original story is set in the 1970's and the Stanton's lived in a small town, where they grew their own vegetables and raised rabbits and chickens. The times were tough and they had to eke out a living on the father's meager earnings as a jeweler and what they could sell. This I can sort of understand, as the demographics for the movie are kids 10 to 16 (roughly) and if it's 2007, then maybe one needs to modernize it a tad. I am NOT fond of this change myself, but it's a lesser of the MANY evils that director, Marc Platt presents in his movie.

Christopher Eccleston as the Dark Rider ensconced in feathers and furs.
Now, with all that being said, I didn't completely hate this movie. I am glad that I only paid 3.50 for the crappy American DVD I brought. But, positively Christopher Eccleston, who plays the Dark Rider (who rides a WHITE horse, not correct) is probably the single best reason for this movie. His overacting and goofy persona were quite enjoyable as the Dark Rider, the force of the Dark trying to get the 6 signs of power from Will. I loved Christopher Eccleston! He was MY first doctor and will always hold a special place in my heart. As much as this movie got wrong, , Eccleston got it right (well sort of). I could and can count on Chris to make the Dark Rider all the more silly. He overacts the part, majorly, whether intention or not, I care not, he is FANTASTIC!

Also, I will give credit to the screenwriter, there were a number of details that I wouldn't have thought that they would include, starting with the rooks in the trees to the family dogs noticing something is different with Will on his birthday. It's not much, when they massacred a wonderful fantasy novel that uses a lot of Celtic, Norse, and Arthurian Legend, you have to find something good about it. After all I did pay 3.50  for the DVD. Note: The British release of this movie, titled as "The Dark is Rising" is an extended edition with bonus and deleted scenes and included the forgotten character, 'The Walker' from the book, not the movie, which I should add as number eight on the list. The Walker is a critical character to the plot, as he is a fallen character that is trying to redeem himself by baring on of the signs until the Seeker (as Will Stanton is called) comes to claim the sign. It's very heavy to The Walker, yet quite light for Will.

The books are a different kind of story, but enjoyable ones. I recommend the whole "Dark is Rising Sequence" series to anyone who loves to read. As for the movie, well, I think anyone who like bad movies might enjoy it for the Christopher Eccleston performance. It might make for a decent riff project. I would watch that, cause I already had the DVD.

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