Will “The Seeker” Rise?

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  October 2, 2007 — 7 Comments

Yesterday on NPR, Margot Adler interviewed Susan Cooper about the upcoming movie adaptation of her classic Newbery Medal-winning book “The Dark is Rising”. As you listen to the audio, some portions are almost heartbreaking as you hear Cooper talk about the extreme changes that have been made to the book.

“Cooper has written many screenplays herself, and she hastens to say she hasn’t seen the film yet. She has only seen the trailer and read the screenplay. “You do have to do violence to a book to make it into a screenplay – the two mediums are so different,” Cooper says. “But the alteration is so enormous in this case. It is just different.” … Cooper is waiting for the movie, but with a certain sadness. She says she sent a letter requesting changes to the film’s script, but she’s not sure any alterations were made.”

In a separate essay posted to NPR, Alison MacAdam, a producer with “All Things Considered”, fears that the movie is so different that it won’t encourage children to read the source material.

“Sure, I hope the movie will lead new readers to Cooper’s books. But I fear an opposite scenario: that it will be so unrecognizable from the original story that it won’t drive kids to Cooper’s novels; it will replace the novels. As if to confirm my fears, I got word one week – one week! – before the film’s release on Oct. 5 that its name had been changed. Not that the strangely-punctuated The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising had struck me as a winner, but now the filmmakers have erased The Dark Is Rising altogether: The film will hit theaters as simply The Seeker.”

Also worrisome is the fact that the movie hasn’t been screened for critics yet, even though the film opens in three days. Usually when a smaller film like “The Seeker” cancels advance screenings, it is to avoid bad reviews on opening weekend. Perhaps Walden Media is hoping their core audience of parents and children will trust they are getting a good, safe, family film and will care little about how true to the books the film is.

At this point I hold out little hope that the original spirit of the work has been preserved. It is obvious that anything that was too “difficult”, or embraced themes that weren’t Christian, have been sanitized from the film. So even though “The Dark is Rising” is one of my favorite young-adult novels, I can’t in good conscience recommend seeing it. I suppose that is the end-result when you have a conservative-Christian director and a conservative-Christian owned movie studio get together to film a book chock-full of mythic and pre-Christian themes.

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • datamuse

    I have to admit, I’m not at all a purist when it comes to movie adaptations. I just watched The Two Towers again last night and I still think it’s a very good movie, for all that it substantially altered characters and plot elements from the original novel. Although it seems like The Dark Is Rising comes in for even more, and more substantial changes, that in and of itself doesn’t bother me much. (Admittedly, this may be colored by the fact that I’d pay to listen to Ian McShane and Christopher Eccleston do dramatic readings from the phone book.)What does concern me is that I’m seeing signs that the movie just plain sucks. Last-minute changes, including to the title (!), and no critic screenings often mean bad news. That’s unfortunate, because while a good movie with large-scale changes might not encourage kids to read the book, a bad movie, however faithful an adaptation it may or may not be, definitely won’t.

  • Steve B, UK

    The trailer for the movie actually made several of my friends *cry*. People are very, very attached to these books (on a level with the Earthsea series, which has also been well and truly slapped around in recent years) and feelings are running a bit high over this one.

  • Dru

    This is one of my favorite YA books, and I was appalled by the trailer. I’m afraid this movie is going to disappoint a lot of people. Too bad Susan Cooper can’t take her name off of it in protest!

  • orodemniades

    My apologies if this double posts:I saw the trailer the other day and thought to myself, is that TDIR? I have a feeling that it’ll be completely different from the book, which is unfortunate.And now I have to go find my copy, which I started reading again in January and have since put down somewhere…

  • Anonymous

    To join the chorus here, I too was appalled by the trailer. I actually went online to try to find out more about the movie, and it just got worse. I don’t remember where I read it, but I saw something somewhere that EVERYTHING even hinting at something other than Christian, even solid mythological references, had been scraped from the movie. And judging from the trailer, it’s become another, “awkward adolescent boy wants to impress girls/gets superpowers/saves the world” sort of which there are already far too many. I have the entire book series and have it memorized. I don’t remember a thing about “superpowers” and similar rubbish. This book was the first book that really made me think about the bigger picture as a child, and it still does now. Even the title has been sanitized. It’s a travesty, flat-out. Did the book’s author intend this? Couldn’t she do something about it? But maybe it’s just as well the movie has been retitled. Now there’s a chance people won’t mistake the classic for this drivel as well as the possiblity for someone else to take it up later and do the amazing book justice. Grey

  • Constance Parker

    Thanks so much for posting the link to the interview with Susan Cooper — I’m heartbroken over the changes that are being made, but delighted to hear Adler interview Susan Cooper.The movie is a travesty.

  • Anonymous

    Jeez, you people are too emotional about it. I watched the movie and loved it. I made me to find and read the books. I liked some of the books, others not so much. The reality is that “Dark is Rising” is not as popular as “Narnia” or “Harry Potter” and the style is not really appropriate for adaptation. Still the good people from “Walden” made a nice, cosy movie with charming character and great vision. It is different from the book. So what? If people buy it and read it, like I did, no harm done! If not – well, they wouldn’t have bought the books anyway. Check the DIR books Amazon rating and tell whether this would have been possible without the movie.And, as a movie, this is one of the best Christmas tales I have ever watched, on par with the opening Potter movies, LWW and Eragon.P.S. For truly changed book-to-movie, you have to know Russian and see “Wolfhound”.Alexander Draganov, Bulgaria