The Austin Chronicle

The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising

Rated PG, 94 min. Directed by David L. Cunningham. Starring Alexander Ludwig, Ian McShane, Frances Conroy, Christopher Eccleston, Gary Entin, Wendy Crewson, John Benjamin Hickey.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Oct. 5, 2007

It is to be feared that The Seeker, which is adapted from British author Susan Cooper's five-volume series of children's fantasy novels, is but the opening cinematic salvo in what can charitably be described as the best way to get your kids to crack open Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur and Frazer's The Golden Bough before they opt for the CliffsNotes versions once they hit university. Cooper herself has acknowledged a debt to both of those classics of man's most abiding literary mythos, and her books may, indeed, be ripping good, young-adult yarns. As scripted by, of all people, Trainspotting's John Hodge and helmed with all the subtlety of a morning star to the corpus maxillae, this is a fantasy film utterly devoid of all but the most bombastically simplistic notions of what true fantasy can ignite within the imaginations of both young and somewhat-less young. Throughout its interminable and steadfastly, maniacally bewildering running time, neither the cast nor director Cunningham appear to have even the most rudimentary idea of what is going on from one sequence to the next. Adolescent Yank expat Will Stanton (Ludwig, who should immediately seek out the nearest Child Protective Services office to ensure that this sort of horrific résumé-killer never blackens his future again) is living with his scholarly parents (Hickey, Crewson) when one Merriman Lyon (McShane, clearly in need of a scotch and water or less gravitas by any means necessary) arrives and promptly names poor Will the Seeker of the title. Lyon is a self-styled "immortal," and he turns up with a coterie of like-minded magical eccentrics who demand that Will, the prophesied warrior of the Light, posthaste gird his puberty-stricken loins for the imminent apocalyptic battle with the Dark. And who better to essay the role of the Darkness incarnate than this season's Doctor Who, aka Christopher Eccleston – heck, he's already a Time Lord, so why not? None of this made a lick of sense to me, nor did it appear to be all that obvious to either the cast or screenwriter Hodge, whose work here feels as though he'd given up in frustration halfway through before deciding to see how far he could push the vaguely Harry Potter-esque shenanigans before getting sacked. Lesson learned: Seek not, lest you find Doctor Who is, in point of fact, a total rotter.

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