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Peter T Chattaway

The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising

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Fox finds fantasy man

Director David Cunningham has veered from "The Path to 9/11" to "The Dark Is Rising," a fantasy film that kicks off the co-financing alliance Walden Media and 20th Century Fox forged in August.

Walden Media brass are hopeful the new project will have franchise potential similar to that of its last major young adult novel adaptation, "The Chronicles of Narnia." . . .

Cunningham has already headed to Romania, where he'll prep the film for an early 2007 start and a Sept. 28 release. Deal reunites Cunningham with producer Marc Platt, who also produced the controversial ABC mini about the events leading up to the World Trade Center terror attacks. . . .

Variety, October 24

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Just wondering, is there anything Christian about this series? I ask because I know of one other Christian filmmaker that was approached about doing this film, and of course Cunningham directed To End All Wars (as well as the recent mini-series version of Little House on the Prairie; his father was also YWAM founder Loren Cunningham).

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

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It's not explicitly Christian, no. It borrows more from the mythological side of Lewis, if memory serves. But it does have that tenuous connection with Christianity (borrowing from our best) and the author may well be Christian, for all I know.

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I started going through this series a few months ago, and while there are some obvious Christian overtones, the series (so far) is also heavily indebted to Welsh and Celtic mythology, as well as Arthurian legend.

One thing that struck me was it's view of good and evil seemed rather dualistic. There are two opposing forces -- the "Light" and the "Dark" -- but one is not more powerful than the other. Instead, it's up to the so-called "Old Ones" to ensure that a sort of "cosmic balance" is achieved.

Of course, that's just after two books in, so I don't know how things will develop later on in the series. I'll gladly concede my impressions to those who are more familiar with the series.

FWIW, here's Wikipedia's entry on the series. Needless to say, it will contain numerous spoilers.

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There's quite a bit of paganism, as well, especially in the Greenwitch book. There's also a bit that I didn't care for, between a reverend and the Old Ones, where

the Old Ones rather patronizingly allow the reverend his "quaint" beliefs, all the while "knowing the truth of the matter". So that portion to me feels like a slap in the face of Christianity.

.

Other than those two bits, though, I quite like the series.

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An entry in my New Arthurian Dictionary suggests that there are anti-Christian elements in the series.

Edited by SDG

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McShane rises to 'Dark' challenge

Ian McShane is starring in "The Dark Is Rising" for 20th Century Fox and Walden Media. Fantasy pic is being directed by David Cunningham and produced by Marc Platt. Frances Conroy ("The Wicker Man," "Shopgirl") and Alexander Ludwig (Lifetime's "A Little Thing Called Murder") also star. Production begins this month in Romania. . . . McShane will play Merriman Lyon, one of the Old Ones who serves as Stanton's mentor and shield. John Hodge ("Trainspotting") is adapting the project for the bigscreen.

Variety, February 12

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Walden Media brass are hopeful the new project will have franchise potential similar to that of its last major young adult novel adaptation, "The Chronicles of Narnia." . . .

Dream on, Walden Media. They're pretty good books, but don't have nearly the following that Narnia does. Not to mention the dodgy spiritual issues already mentioned.

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I'm already disappointed. Ian McShane is definitely NOT the Merriman I had in mind from the book. It's been a while since I've read TDIR, but for some reason I have in my mind a tall, thin, stately gentleman with white hair, not the more muscular, tough look of McShane. Perhaps more Ian McKellen and less Alfred Molina. Especially in the height department; again, if memory serves me well, Merriman is supposed to be inordinately tall. I don't know why, but it irritates me already.

Another thing: I know that actors and actresses from both sides of the pond can perform any role, but why put so many Americans in the main roles, in a story that takes place predominately in England and Wales? Especially Will Stanton; it seems unusual to pick an American kid for that role.

I'm afraid that this will be a quick-production movie, and could take same path as that of the film rendition of Eragon. That movie was understandably made more cheaply; but TDIRS is a well-loved and time-cherished story. It was brilliant way before Eragon or Harry Potter. This series deserves more time and effor than it appears it's getting. Hopefully I'm wrong. This is a movie I want to be good.

Edited by Joel C

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IGN.com visits the set:

John Hodge (Trainspotting, The Beach), who has been tasked with adapting what Fox and Walden hope will be the first of many of Susan Cooper's popular The Dark books . . . explains . . . the film is going to be quite different from the book in several ways.

"When we started, when I looked at the book, I thought it was going to be tricky to adapt," recalls Hodge. "The book is sort of lyrical and flights of fancy that are taking place inside the young boy Will Stanton's head. And so, as with any adaptation, you're looking for ways to dramatize what is perhaps more internal in the novel. And obviously some novels are sort of more prosaic than others; you can just spit out on the page. But this one called for some rethinking."

For example, the assembled press on set couldn't help but take a peek at the call sheet -- the production's daily itinerary of who, what, and where -- only to see notes about Vikings appearing in the film. Hodge says that while the book version of The Dark Is Rising doesn't actually have any Vikings in it, the film does... but there's a reason for this. . . .

The books were written in the '60s and '70s, but the film will be set in the present day. Additionally, the Will character has been aged a bit from a tender 10 or 11 to the ripe old age of 13. When asked if this was done so that some kind of romance subplot could be added to the film, Hodge says that's not the case, though he does acknowledge that Will has a "crush" on a girl in the film, a character who "has a very important part to play in the story." . . .

Another alteration is that the character -- a Brit in the book -- is now an American living in Britain, an American Old One in London as it were.

"Well, there's an obvious reason [for that] -- commercial -- but actually when I was reading the book and had my reservations about entering into the screenplay, one of the things I thought was that he should be culturally alien to the setting," recalls Hodge. "Because one of the questions I had was, 'Why is this happening to him now?' And he always had that feeling ... if someone's an outsider, then it feels more appropriate that they should be the sort of person to whom these strange things are happening." . . .

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I didn't even grace it by finishing the trailer. From what I saw, this promises to be the single worst butchery of a classic fantasy in film history. There is just no excuse whatsoever for such irresponsibility and lack of respect for the source material.

I like Walden, but either they got sucked into this one and couldn't back out, or they got over-confident in recent successes, or something; all I know is they can't get away with murdering a storyline like this. I'm all of a sudden wishing that Walden wasn't actually in collaboration with the upcoming adaptation of The Giver.

Edited by Joel C

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You know, I never did get past the first book in this series, and it was years ago. I should give it another chance, because I probably won't give the movie much of one. A friend of mine worked for the production company behind this film last year, and she was pretty down on the script, which she'd read. Not as an adaptation, mind you-- she's not read the books-- but as an independent work.

But, for what it's worth, she did think the lead actor was made for stardom.

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Just received this:

Dear Washington, DC Press:

Fox Walden's upcoming release, THE DARK IS RISING is changing slightly. All materials moving forward will reflect the new title - THE SEEKER: THE DARK IS RISING.

As the film is based on a sequence of 5 books and THE SEEKER: THE DARK IS RISING is inspired by the second book. The focus of this story is on the character who is referred to as The Seeker and his quest to "seek" and collect signs hidden throughout time to right the balance between dark and light. THE SEEKER: THE DARK IS RISING more accurately describes the focus of the film.

THE SEEKER: THE DARK IS RISING Opens October 5.

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What idiots. Changing the title AFTER you've already put out the trailer!?

And isn't "The Dark Is Rising" the title of the ENTIRE series, and not just the second book? Isn't calling this movie "The Seeker: The Dark is Rising" kind of like calling one of this summer's bigger movies "At World's End: Pirates of the Caribbean"? Or like calling one of the biggest movies of all time "A New Hope: Star Wars"? It sounds backwards to me. If you want to differentiate this particular story from all the other stories, it seems to me you should preface all the titles with "The Dark Is Rising" and THEN differentiate by adding a secondary title, be it "The Seeker" or whatever.

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Peter, this one's for you. From today's screening roundup:

THE SEEKER: THE DARK IS RISING has changed its title to: THE SEEKER. The film opens Friday, October 5.

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Christian wrote:

: Peter, this one's for you. From today's screening roundup:

: THE SEEKER: THE DARK IS RISING has changed its title to: THE SEEKER. The film opens Friday, October 5.

Bizarre. I got an invitation to the press screening back on Monday and it was still going by the long name. But I see that the design on the official website simply says THE SEEKER. Then again, the trailer embedded on the official website still advertises a film called THE SEEKER: THE DARK IS RISING.

How often, I wonder, has it ever happened that a popular book was turned into a film with a completely different title, and the film turned out to be any good? A Prayer for Owen Meany became Simon Birch. And now The Dark Is Rising has become The Seeker.

Interestingly, my regular secular contacts invited me to a daytime press screening two days before the film's release. A day or two later I got a phone call from a Christian publicity firm inviting me to an evening screening the night before the film's release. Not for the first time, I wonder why the Christian firms don't invite critics to daytime screenings. (And hey, don't most kids' movies get screened the WEEKEND before release? Is this ALSO not a good sign, or am I reading too much into the evening-before screening?)

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Okay, what gives. I saw the film this morning and the title I saw on screen was "THE SEEKER: THE DARK IS RISING". Granted, the words "THE SEEKER" were on the screen by themselves for a few seconds, but the full title IS there. So what is this I hear from you American critics about the title being shortened to just two words?

Fun fact: The publicist told us afterwards that the star of the film -- the guy who plays the titular 14-year-old boy (why do all the reports say he's 13? because the movie begins something like the day before his 14th birthday?) -- was at the screening, though he arrived after all the critics had come into the theatre and sat down, and he apparently left before we got up and left. The actor is a local boy, and this was apparently the first time he had had a chance to see the finished film. I wanted to ask if he had been given the full security treatment on his way into the theatre just like the rest of us (including the publicist) had been.

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I have no idea what's going on with the title, Peter. They've succeeded in confusing me.

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