I doubt that the forthcoming film The Seeker: The Dark is Rising is particularly good, but it's based on one of my all-time favorite series of fantasy books, The Dark is Rising sequence, by Susan Cooper. That pretty much ensures that I will be watching the Netflix CD of the movie in a few months. (As you know, very few movies will actually persuade me to set foot in a multiplex.)
The movie's trailer is enough to tell me that the story has been bastardized in countless ways, but the film still appeals to me. Oddly enough, I had seen part of a commercial for the movie last week, and I told Darren, "That's the kind of movie that I would have been absolutely crazy for when I was a kid."
I didn't know until Monday, when I heard an interview with Susan Cooper on NPR, that this new movie was, in fact, based on her book, The Dark is Rising. In the interview, Cooper spoke about her misgivings about the many changes her classic novel had undergone in its journey to the big screen, but she also said she felt the movie was a solid effort that remained true to the spirit of her novel, even if it diverged widely in many of its plot details.
I am forever indebted to my fourth grade teacher, Mary Lou Nelson, for first suggesting that I might enjoy these books. I knew that they were all Caldecott award winners, which was a prime criterion I used to choose my reading materials back then.
The first book in the series, Over Sea and Under Stone, held my interest (and taught me that such a place as Cornwall existed), but it was book two, The Dark is Rising, that utterly captivated me.
What eleven year old boy could resist a story in which another eleven year old boy discovers that he's the last of an ancient line of immortal beings with magical powers?
Will Stanton, the novel's protagonist (no longer a Brit, but an American in this new film), discovers on his eleventh birthday that he is an "Old One," destined to use his burgeoning magical powers to tip the scales in an eons-long battle against The Dark.
Cooper's writing is deft and gripping without ever devolving into the formulaic treacle that sometimes mires the otherwise enjoyable Harry Potter novels. I don't mean to diminish what J.K. Rowling has achieved in her work, but even her enormous financial success pales in comparison to the impact Cooper's books had on me.
For a kid like me, who already sensed that he was somehow different than the other boys in his class, The Dark is Rising was powerfully resonant. Many were the nights when I lay in bed, wishing I had magical powers that would let me repay the taunts of the boys who also sensed my difference and singled me out on the playground.
Of course, Will Stanton,the hero of Cooper's books, never used his magical powers for such tawdry purposes as cheap retribution, but I would have hexed the living hell out of my tormentors.
So, if you know a young bookworm who is crestfallen that Harry Potter's adventures have, at LONG last reached their end, I heartily encourage you go present your little reader with Cooper's books, and let him or her discover what magic lies hidden in the rocky crests of Cornwall.