OK, so a few years later, Peter Jackson's ludicrous success with "The Lord of the Rings" is turning out to be a double-edged sword.
He made it OK to love hobbits and wizards. He made it OK for movies to be 200 minutes long if they needed to be 200 minutes long. He's also responsible for the greatest drinking game I've ever participated in. Not the brightest idea, given that the trilogy clocks in somewhere around 11 hours total, but there's no experience in the world quite like starting them up at 3 p.m. and then, after midnight and enough rum and Cokes to lay half of Saruman's army low, trying to maintain the focus to take a sip whenever one of the hobbits eats or talks about lembas bread, which it turns out is approximately always for the final five hours.
Truly, Jackson is responsible for one of mankind's greatest achievements, cinematic or otherwise. But he also opened the door for every piece of intellectual property with spells and a broadsword to get turned into a movie.
"The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising," the latest fantasy entry that probably wouldn't exist without "LOTR," starts off in the thrill-a-minute world of awkward teenage boy Alexander Ludwig and his troubles with girls and being the youngest of six brothers. Several eons of family banter later, malevolent mall security guards detain him and try to make him give them the signs, whatever those may be.
All is revealed when Ludwig attends a Christmas party at Ian McShane's manor and gets chased around the woods by Christopher Eccleston, a mysterious dark rider. McShane and his crew of phlegmatic Brits chase Eccleston off, then let Ludwig know he's the Seeker, the one who must collect the scattered signs of the light before the dark can rise up and consume the world.
This is the point where you'd expect things to kick into high gear, but "The Seeker," possessing about as much narrative horsepower as a tricycle (and not one of them fancy trikes, either), instead follows Ludwig as he Googles "light and dark," sprains an ankle, and wrangles family history out of his mom and dad.
That, to me, is not exactly the proper reaction to finding out the world's going to end in five days and you're the only one who can stop it. The proper reaction is to fill a scuba tank with coffee, knock off a pharmacy for some Adderall, then either get down to saving the damn world, or go out in the biggest blaze of hedonism the planet's ever seen. Attending Christmas Mass? Skippable, I would think, but apparently I would be wrong.
That lack of drive is "The Seeker's" biggest fault. Ludwig is some kind of Chosen One, but he doesn't so much seek the signs as much as blunder into them whenever it's most convenient. Eccleston's going to kill everyone just as soon as he can, but for now his idea of the height of villainy is to kick a teenager, and let's be honest here, everyone wants to do that. Eccleston also schemes as if it'd take a conspiracy to take Ludwig down, forgetting, perhaps, that even if you aren't the lord of all darkness, if you are a grown man with a sword, you should be able to strike down a 14-year-old boy. That's just Evildoer 101 right there. Don't go for elaborate machinations to put the signs in your hands when all you have to do is stick a wedge of steel through some punk's heart.
Also, nondescript names like "the Rider," "the Old Ones," "light and dark" -- that's a problem. Good fantasy walks a thin line in revealing its unique mythology without getting so far into the details that it feels like a history class. "The Dark Is Rising" books blended Arthurian and Celtic legends with its own, but the movie adaptation's been stripped of any and all personality.
Director David L. Cunningham seems to have recognized that and does his best to make up for the movie's total lack of imagination and tension by making sure everything looks really great, then piling on flashy camera tricks and enough slow motion that he must owe royalties to "The Matrix." That's neat and all, and "The Seeker" does manage a minor emotional triumph or two, but the prettiest falling icicles in the world aren't likely to make you forget you haven't cared what's going on since about five minutes into the movie.