I find myself in an awkward position, you see, cos I actually didn’t mind The Seeker. It wasn’t great, but it was good, and that adjective is the most positive I’ve heard amongst reactions to the film. I’m risking the derision of fellow critics and hatred from long-time fans of Susan Cooper’s classic sequence, but the fact remains that I went into The Seeker preparing to have to choke back bile, and in fact had a pretty good time.
The main problem with the concept is that the book was never going to be easy to adapt. It doesn’t lend itself to the screen the way that The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe or Bridge to Terabithia did, or ‘The Northern Lights’ (The Golden Compass) hopefully will. So changes were necessary. Of course changing the main character and his family to Americans living in England was always going to be a risk. (Why would they do this? Do US audiences really feel that alienated by the English accent? Even the trailer seemed to feature re-dubbed lines with US accents). Screenwriter John Hodge (who wrote Danny Boyle’s first few films) has also injected a little bit more sympathy for Will into the script – there are subplots concerning the difficulties of being a teenager and fitting in, not to mention a love interest. These didn’t particularly concern me, except for their somewhat predictable nature.
Susan Cooper’s novels are at times terrifying. The Dark is/are described as an ever-present threat, and the unpredictable nature of their powers together with their ability to walk amongst us is what made the series so ingenious. That she never clarified just what the Light and the Dark were capable of made for an unpredictable read. All the same, it was frustrating when Will effectively became a superhero overnight, just from reading a really long book. A lot of the criticisms levelled at the film seem to focus on this aspect of the story – one of the ways in which Hodge stuck close to the source.
The performances are pretty darn good. Even Alexander Ludwig (who made me shudder – Jake Lloyd style – when I first saw the trailer) was great in the lead role, even if his Will is a little nicer and more approachable than the glum boy in the book. Christopher Eccleston is perfect as The Rider, and when he weaves his spells his incantations sound the most like Cooper’s dialogue. Ian McShane is of course great, though even he struggles with the most dumbed down aspects of the script. He gets the most exposition, but instead of elaborating on Cooper’s book, it merely reiterates the lack of information she provided, which is much worse than being told nothing. Plus he says ‘you are the Seeker’ a good half dozen times, or so it seems.
The cinematography and set design is perfect, and perhaps the one thing no one could argue against. The manifestations of the Old Ones’ and the Rider’s powers are great also.
I doubt that this series will be furthered, which is probably a good thing, since Cooper’s ‘Greenwitch’ is phenomenal, but would also need delicate tweaking to turn into a film. The prospect of this would probably terrify long-time fans.Rating: