movie review

TV and Movies: Occupying my Time

Posted on October 19, 2009 at 9:11 am

Last week, in preparation for my surgery, which is now postponed a month, I increased my Netflix account to 8 DVDs (from 3). Much I’ve what I watch on Netflix is old TV shows — La Femme Nikita, Highlander, etc. — and I’ve been enjoying the 1st season of The Profiler. Burn Notice’s1st season continues to be truly magnificent, with the BEST EVER season finale. I may remember all of the plot lines, but I’m still enjoying the ride. I think I have Dexter coming in this next week.

As well, I’ve been rolling through some movies, including The Seeker: The Dark is Rising. I actively avoided this movie when it was released, because I’d seen the news that it was deliberately being purged of ‘pagan’ references. Since those same pagan references being a key component of the storyline, I didn’t care to support the movie’s release directly. As Jason Pitzl-Waters said, “they didn’t respect the original story.”

And they didn’t.

The original story is book two in a series, all featuring young adult/children (8 to 16 yrs old) who are caught up in a series of tests and battles between the Light and the Dark. Two of the books (Over Sea Under Stone and Greenwitch)  feature ordinary children, Barney, Jane and Simon. Two are based on Will Stanton (The Dark is Rising, The Grey King), and the fifth (Silver on the Tree ) brings them all together for the final battle. These books are gorgeous, magical, and based on Celtic mythology.

The Dark is Rising book tells the story of how Will Stanton, youngest and last-born of the Old Ones, comes into his power on his eleventh birthday as he finds the six signs of Light, long hidden in time. His only clues are the poem

When the Dark comes rising, six shall turn it back;
Three from the circle, three from the track;
Wood, bronze, iron; water, fire, stone;
Five will return, and one go alone.

Iron for the birthday, bronze carried long;
Wood from the burning, stone out of song;
Fire in the candle-ring, water from the thaw;
Six Signs the circle, and the grail gone before.

Fire on the mountain shall find the harp of gold
Played to wake the Sleepers, oldest of the old;
Power from the green witch, lost beneath the sea;
All shall find the light at last, silver on the tree.

The signs are all shaped in the form of the sun cross — a circle crossed by equal-armed lines.

In the movie, the Stantons have moved to a village outside London from California. I’m not at all sure why that was necessary, unless some dweeb decided that it would make the storyline accessible to more Americans. I appreciated the updating into modern life with ipods and the like all around, it doesn’t touch the core elements of the story. I also thought the time travel element was well-handled, and the girl they found to be the betrayer was perfect. Actually, all the actors were great (with what-his-name playing Will Stanton the poorest, but still serviceable).

But there’s a confused attempt at merging physics into the (cough) equation, and while I’d be ok with that in most circumstances, I am offended that it comes at the expense of the spirituality. Even the one scene in a church lacks all sense of the sacred, of the eternal grappling of the soul to live a good life in trying circumstances. And why they chose to make Will a twin whose a brother was stolen from the family and14 years old (instead of 11) I truly don’t understand. Moreover, two of his sisters are replaced/merged into just one and his family seems to think of him as an afterthought, with most of them forgetting his birthday and when he does get a gift its a single sock (the 2nd will be for Christmas). This is not the loving, close, supportive Stanton family of the books.

One of the things I liked about the book was that the hero (Will) was an ordinary, loved, boy. Most young adults advertyure stories have a misfit as their hero.

Moreover, the six signs are violated — instead of being elemental, they are more like game tokens acquired in a video game. In the book, iron is crafted by a blacksmith, bronze from The Walker, wood from the Yule log, stone in the walls of a church, fire from the Great Hall’s candleholder, but water was found in a circumstance similar to the movie.

I can see (although I think its a bad idea) cutting Herne from the storyline — as Cooper herself said, “You do have to do violence to a book to make it into a screenplay – the two mediums are so different.” to reproduce the book faithfully would be too long a visual feast.

On it’s own, this was not a bad movie. But it wasn’t a good one either. But when compared with the magnificence of the original story, it is a flatulent misguided, poorly-conceived, and worthless piece of dreck.

Poor Susan Cooper. Maybe someone will tell another of hers stories, and this time, get it right.

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