Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising

Beautiful Agenda

The Seeker: The Dark is Rising, no doubt being based on a children's book series, could have come up with a better sounding title than to reinforce the impression rightly that it's for the young ones, with nary any bit of sophistication. Telling the story as is in a straight forward manner, it's filled with tons of cliche thrown in from start to end, and while it does have its moments, on the whole it felt very familiar, with similar plot elements from various fantasy movies contributing to this emotional and action flatliner.

The cliches are obvious with the get go. You have a loner hero, Will Stanton (Alexander Ludwig), who's destined to be The One saviour of the world by virtue of him being the seventh son of the seventh son (you imagine how his mom managed to keep her figure after giving birth to 8 children). Saviours of mankind must always belong to the social outcast clique, unpopular and having a bad time winning over the girls. He has powers beyond his imagination, no thanks to Firestarter, The Force and Gamma-Rays, but the biggest mystery is why these weren't invoke to save the day, but rather to impress girls (OK, so he's only a fourteen year old). Oh, and he can travel through time too, but only as part of his mission to retrieve six items that can defeat The Dark (cue bad guy theme).

In certain sense, it's like National Treasure done in a schizophrenic premise, with the film undecided whether to be fantastical and medieval, or rooted in modernity. With Will's ancestors being the creative one in splitting formidable Light power into six components, you will begin to laugh at its version of prophetic self-fulfillment. Naturally there are obstacles, but these challenges nary tickle the mind, or strain the body. Then there's the usual beware-of-beautiful-girls reminder for a kid with raging hormones, but that's what the guardians' duties would include, to chaperon our young hero.

The supporting cast are indeed laughable. From being labelled literally The Old Ones, they do not possess any powers beyond very cheap weapons that can be bought off the shelf, and neither does the movie have any budget in utilizing the weapons, for fear of breaking the good looking props. They dispensed advice recycled from other movies, of believing in oneself, and with a scene directly lifted from Fellowship of the Ring, where Cate Blanchett tells Eiijah Wood that even the smallest of beings could achieve great things. And the part where I laughed the loudest, was Merriman Lyon (Ian McShane) giving his best impression of a Marlon Brando speaking to Christopher Reeve in a booming voice, and what came after was a scene just dripping with cheese.

There are plot loopholes abound that you'd just want to laugh at, especially when the chief villain known as The Dark Rider played by Christopher Eccleston (hands up all who know where this one came from) never failed to remind everyone how best to destroy him, or just blatantly blind to the fact that he could achieve his objectives earlier on in the movie if he cut down on the needless theatrics. Then again, if we have a smart, realistic villain, we won't have much of a story now, have we? Even his schemes that are hatched, such as the planting of moles, reeks of failure (no thanks to the trailers of course for ruining who that person might be), and with absolutely no flair in character, this villain is truly unmemorable, and one of the worst.

However, to the children out there, this movie will still serve as a rather enjoyable trip to the cinemas. It's almost devoid of sex and hardcore violence that makes it suitable, with a feel good theme and ending, save for one or two creepy moments. Although belonging to the fantasy genre, this is one of the milder, childish ones that anyone weaned (and I hate to use this example but I should) on Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy will find terribly wanting. This is this year's Eragon, which like The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe that preceeded it, are trying just too hard to fill the void left by Jackson's juggernaut. The bar was already raised by the adaptation of a classic, and unless more of these books-to-movies adaptation have something more original to tell, most of them will find themselves languishing in the Forgotten Realms soon enough.

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