I wrote a post back in August last year decrying the movie The Dark is Rising, after just seeing the movie poster and watching a trailer, possibly a bit extreme considering I hadn’t actually seen the film but it was clear that they were riding roughshod over my favourite book series from childhood. Well, the movie eventually came to the top of our DVD rental list and we watched it last night and I’ll admit I was biased and was prepared to really hate it before I even put it in the DVD player but it actually *shock* wasn’t as bad as I thought it’d be, on one condition though, you try and put all thoughts of it actually being connected to Susan Cooper’s wonderful sequence of books out of your mind, the movie in that respect completely lacked the books atmosphere and magic. One of the great things about the Susan Cooper books are that they are so totally english / welsh and this movie was just pretending to be ‘english’, from the moment the main character Will is featured leaving school for the Christmas holidays in the opening sequence I thought they’d actually gone and set the film in America as the school didn’t look like any British comprehensive I know, it was distinctly based (I’ll go as far as saying they probably filmed on one) an American campus. So it was only when they showed a British road sign did I think “?!%& so they’re actually in Britain are they?”. I also have the same criticism from the Stanton’s house to the village they lived in, it was so an American’s perception of what Britain is like and something just seemed not quite right (and yes I know it was filmed in Romania). Sorry to sound a bit anti-American here but like I’ve said, the Dark is Rising series is so quintessentially British it’s an important part of the books, it would be like us Brits filming Huckleberry Finn on the Thames and pretending it’s Missouri.
Other than that the film wasn’t that bad (if you tried desperately to forget about the books), the scene with the security guards come crows I thought was quite chilling and the whole sub-story about Will Stanton’s dad’s research as a physicist into Dark and Light was I thought potentially quite interesting and could have been gone into greater depth (in the books Will’s dad is I think a jeweller(?)).
For me Ian McShane just about managed to shake off his Lovejoy connotations for me, although I can think of a million other actors who would have been better as Merriman. Christopher Eccleston wasn’t too bad either, I preferred his incarnation as a Doctor (no not the Doctor) who kept cropping up sinisterly.
So overall I think they had the makings of a good movie if they had completely forgotten about the books and just made a straight off movie instead of an adaptation, they could have perhaps have gone deeper into the physics aspect which like I said would have been interesting. That way they could have left The Dark is Rising sequence alone, ready for a beautiful adaptation to be made of it one day, one that was a lot more truthful to the books and actually filmed in this country, making the most of our beautiful scenery and heritage. I can imagine the sequence would work far better as a TV series, a BBC/HBO Christmas tea time visual treat, I still hope that one day that will happen as I can’t imagine Walden making anymore movies from this series.
PS And a brief review from someone who actually hasn’t read the books (Mr. Lacer) – “the movie didn’t engage me”. I’d say that was pretty damming.