The Walden Media film adaptation of Susan Cooper’s “The Dark is Rising”, ultimately renamed “The Seeker”, has seemingly flopped with critics and is doing badly at the box-office. While I would like to claim that the reason is due to their decision to remove all pre-Christian references from the work, the most likely culprit is the fact that they didn’t respect the original story.
“‘The Seeker’ is based on the young adult novels written in the 1960s and ’70s by Susan Cooper. Lyrical, magical and steeped in Celtic mythology, Cooper’s beloved series seems like ripe material for audiences hungry for magic and epochal battles between good and evil. But screenwriter John Hodge strips Cooper’s story of its details and charm, reducing it to a kind of characterless, elemental video game – an apocalyptic scavenger hunt punctuated by sonorous pronouncements instead of dialogue: “You and all your kind will be destroyed,” intones The Rider (Christopher Eccleston), the leader of The Dark.”
While author Susan Cooper admits that you “do violence to a book to make it into a screenplay”*, it is usually the films that adhere closely to the spirit of their source material that succeed. This is doubly-true for any film that relies on a “cult” fan-base or fond memories of the original work. It is why Harry Potter films continue to do well, while the horrid remake of “The Wicker Man” did so poorly. In any event, fans of “The Dark is Rising” will most likely not have to worry about a sequel considering the film had “one of the poorest starts for a fantasy on record”, one hopes that the message has been firmly telegraphed: stay true to the story.
* Check out my exclusive interview with Herne the Hunter on why he ultimately decided to drop out of filming “The Seeker”.