Wednesday, November 21, 2007

How to wreck a great story

For those of us who saw the movie The Seeker, we knew that it was supposed to be an adaptation of the classic YA book The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper. In point of fact, other than the names and the idea that Will Stanton is the Sign Seeker, an Old One opposed to the powers of the Dark embodied by the Rider, very little of the original concept remains.

When I saw the film, I thought that it was great, a very well done movie that manages to hit a lot of the notes that Cooper was striving for in her novel. Will Stanton was ably played, and Christopher Eccleston was a fantastic Rider. The effects were good, and the interplay of the characters was worthwhile. The problem is that the film is not about what the book is about.

While the film The Seeker is a coming of age story centered around young Will Stanton, the book has rather a different spin altogether. The Dark is Rising is less about young Will coming of age than it is about the insurmountable task of overcoming a supremely ancient and powerful foe while trying to learn to be an ancient and powerful Old One. The story is not about Will as a callow youth attempting to learn the ways of the force... er, I mean the Light, but rather it is a story of a youth with the mind of a man who is adapting himself to the fight by thinking quickly and behaving as an Old One with the tool thrust so quickly into his hands.

You are not meant to sympathize with Will, but rather you are meant to see Will as just as much of an indomitable figure as the forces that he opposes. If anything, you are meant to feel sympathy for those around Will Stanton. Where the film loses is by making us almost feel sorry for this poor fish out of water and the fact that he is being thrown into the deep-end of the ocean by fate. The novel makes us feel sorry for Will's family, who are unknowingly and unwittingly caught up in the grand struggle of Light vs Dark.

I applaud the filmmakers for making a genuinely interesting and worthwhile film, however I rather wish that they had not tried to pretend that it was a faithful adaptation of the book.

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