Movie News & Reviews

No need to seek out "The Seeker"

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 formovies to be 200 minutes long if they needed to be 200 minutes long.He's also responsible for the greatest drinking game I've everparticipated in. Not the brightest idea, given that the trilogyclocks in somewhere around 11 hours total, but there's no experiencein the world quite like starting them up at 3 p.m. and then, aftermidnight 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 hobbitseats or talks about lembas bread, which it turns out is approximatelyalways for the final five hours.

Truly, Jackson is responsible for one of mankind's greatestachievements, cinematic or otherwise. But he also opened the door forevery piece of intellectual property with spells and a broadsword toget turned into a movie.

"The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising," the latest fantasy entry thatprobably wouldn't exist without "LOTR," starts off in thethrill-a-minute world of awkward teenage boy Alexander Ludwig and histroubles with girls and being the youngest of six brothers. Severaleons of family banter later, malevolent mall security guards detainhim 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'smanor and gets chased around the woods by Christopher Eccleston, amysterious dark rider. McShane and his crew of phlegmatic Brits chaseEccleston off, then let Ludwig know he's the Seeker, the one who mustcollect the scattered signs of the light before the dark can rise upand 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 atricycle (and not one of them fancy trikes, either), instead followsLudwig as he Googles "light and dark," sprains an ankle, and wranglesfamily history out of his mom and dad.

That, to me, is not exactly the proper reaction to finding out theworld's going to end in five days and you're the only one who can stopit. The proper reaction is to fill a scuba tank with coffee, knockoff a pharmacy for some Adderall, then either get down to saving thedamn world, or go out in the biggest blaze of hedonism the planet'sever seen. Attending Christmas Mass? Skippable, I would think, butapparently I would be wrong.

That lack of drive is "The Seeker's" biggest fault. Ludwig is somekind of Chosen One, but he doesn't so much seek the signs as much asblunder into them whenever it's most convenient. Eccleston's going tokill everyone just as soon as he can, but for now his idea of theheight 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 aconspiracy to take Ludwig down, forgetting, perhaps, that even if youaren'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 justEvildoer 101 right there. Don't go for elaborate machinations to putthe signs in your hands when all you have to do is stick a wedge ofsteel through some punk's heart.

Also, nondescript names like "the Rider," "the Old Ones," "light anddark" -- that's a problem. Good fantasy walks a thin line in revealingits unique mythology without getting so far into the details that itfeels like a history class. "The Dark Is Rising" books blendedArthurian and Celtic legends with its own, but the movie adaptation'sbeen stripped of any and all personality.

Director David L. Cunningham seems to have recognized that and doeshis best to make up for the movie's total lack of imagination andtension by making sure everything looks really great, then piling onflashy camera tricks and enough slow motion that he must owe royaltiesto "The Matrix." That's neat and all, and "The Seeker" does manage aminor emotional triumph or two, but the prettiest falling icicles inthe world aren't likely to make you forget you haven't cared what'sgoing on since about five minutes into the movie.

Grade: C-