As a stand-alone movie, The Seeker (also called, The Seeker: The Dark is Rising in some parts of the world) is a pretty good movie. It’s set in 2007, so the story is updated from the time period of the novels this movie is taken from (you’ll notice I don’t say based on) to enable the Stanton children to use cell phones and Internet searches to figure out what’s going on. There is quite a bit of time travel in the seeking of the six signs and some rather scary images with snakes and crows which help give the movie its PG rating.
Will (played by Alexander Ludwig) is turning 14 rather than that magic number 11, he is the younger of twins, making him the seventh son of a seventh son. He plays his part well. Merriman (Ian McShane) is not as mysterious as in the books by Susan Cooper but the part is smaller and less mysterious thanks to much material from the book being left out. McShane works well with what he’s given. Christopher Eccleston as The Rider is excellent, and the painting on his horse, very imaginative. Together horse & rider produce some pretty scary scenes. Will’s older brothers (Gregory Smith and Gary Enton) go beyond the teasing camaraderie of siblings to come across rather as bullies, picking on the youngest brother.
If you haven’t read the book and don’t plan on reading it, this is a fine movie. However, if you’ve read the Susan Cooper series, The Dark is Rising, with her vivid descriptions of her characters that make you feel you actually know each of the main players in the quest against the Dark, and recognize their consistency and growth throughout the five books, you will be disappointed that the actors here are nothing like their descriptions. Merriman, who should have a white mane like a lion (King Arthur calls him his lion in the final book), a tall, imposing figure, a large beak of a nose that resembles the profile of a king on a coin, with a long blue hooded cloak which lends mystery and the semblance of magic to his person, is instead, a rather short, dark-haired man, much less imposing, and without a way with children (which Merriman in the books definitely has).
Will in the book, who grew up in the English countryside and understands the behaviour of animals and the natural elements, in the movie is instead a transplant from the U. S. who has lived in England less than a year. He is not the youngest in the movie family as he is in the book, nor does he get taken by security guards in a mall for shoplifting in the book. He is given a twin brother who disappeared at about two weeks old and is magically restored at the end of the movie. (I felt the whole twin idea added nothing to the story and stretched credulity to the breaking point!)
There are some really interesting parts of the book that have been omitted. The character of Herne the Hunter, who plays significantly in the dramatic ending in the book, The Dark is Rising, is completely left out, as is the burial ship of the ancient king. The Celtic myths and poetry are totally absent, leaving out the significance of the different materials of the 6 signs, and the clues that will not only enable Will to find the symbols but give him, and us, the predictions for what is to come in the remainder of this story and the other 3 books. The Walker (Merriman’s liege man) is left out, posing serious gaps in understanding the insidious nature of the Dark, as well as backstory to the Old Ones and the struggle between the Light and the Dark.
I was disappointed that the wonderful, large, antlered carnival mask sent to Will by his brother Steven (serving in Her Majesty’s Navy in the Caribbean), is not included in the movie. It is an amazingly imaginative stroke by Cooper, and, while the belt fits the theme, it can’t compare. (It doesn’t even look like those ‘signs’ are very secure on that belt.) The gripping suspense Cooper developed in her novels just does not exist in this movie — she does with words alone what the movie can’t do with however many nasty-looking snakes are put in to torment the heroes of the Light. In short, it’s a decent movie but it can’t compare with the book. * * 1/2