They say the book is better than the movie, and in the case of this murky, dull-witted muddle of fantasy clichés, it’s a pretty hard point to argue. Not being one of those adults who savor children’s lit about magically inclined teenaged boys, I can’t speak personally about the quality of the source material, but I do know that author Susan Cooper’s five volume mid-’70s The Dark is Rising series has fans, and has won numerous prestigious Newbery Award medals. I can safely report that the movie version is total dross, visually drab, painfully derivative and generally uninspired.
The clunky plot centers on extremely average teen Will Stanton, played with extraordinary blandness by Alexander Ludwig. Shortly after his large yuppie family relocates to merry old England, middle child Will discovers he’s actually the 7th son of a 7th son, and as we know from countless stories and heavy metal lyrics; that’s a very special thing. This curious birthright has endowed our boy with exceptional powers, aside from his deadly anti-charisma and the ability to keep his hair permanently spiked like a Jersey mall girl circa mid ’80s. He also gets his own collection of tweedy mystic overseers called "The Old Ones," consisting of several hammy middle-aged character actors, lead by the ever graceful Ian McShane. Unfortunately the salty Deadwood star is working in a tepid PG environment that prevents him from peppering the script with his trademark vulgarity and entertaining bluster. Our pimply would-be savior needs all the help he can get, since he can’t even muster the courage to talk to his pretty crush (Amelia Warner ), let alone save the world from the nefarious forces of darkness that are busily marshalling for a showdown. Those ill-defined baddies can do fairly cool things like turn into a flock of ravens or a mass of hissing snakes, but they are lead by a dork called "the Rider" (former Dr. Who star Christopher Eccleston), who spends most of his time mumbling ominous gibberish through the bandana over his face. What’s it all mean? Why should we care for a single moment? The Seeker doesn’t even pass the "Would kids like it" sniff test, since I’m fairly certain the average kid can find something more engaging and worthwhile on his PSP, or just maybe, the library.
Corey Hall writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].