Sadly, “The Dark is Rising”

When I was younger, I loved Susan Cooper’s fantasy sequence The Dark is Rising. I remember reading a few years ago that some studio had picked up the option to make a cinema-release film out of it and I was just about as enthusiastic as I could be. Then the thing seemed to go quiet (which seems to happen quite a lot with films). Earlier this year, Walden Media of Narnia & Holes fame announced that they were going ahead with the film, based on the second book after which the sequence is named. Naturally I was thrilled. While I didn’t think their first Narnia film was the best thing since, at least it was moderately faithful to the spirit of the author’s created world. And Holes was pretty much spot-on.

Alas, I should have known better than to trust Hollywood. When the trailer appeared on the internet, I scrambled for it and hunched agog over my laptop screen… Well, I nearly cried. About the only thing the film and the book have in common as far as I can see are the title and the names of some of the characters. Will Stanton, that understated but very normal Buckinghamshire lad, youngest son of a boisterous but affectionate family, has become Will Stanton the American schoolboy who discovers superman-like powers under the tutelage of a bunch of frankly weird-looking adults who seem to lack any of the dignity and gravitas of their literary counterparts.

I realise that a film doesn’t have to be — arguably shouldn’t be — a simple rendering of the book onto (digital) celluloid. But surely audiences can appreciate the appeal of something which stands out from the teenage-superhero mould and which shares a background with a host of British folk legends? Obviously I haven’t seen the film, but if the trailer’s anything to go by, we’ve lost any of the magic of the original, to be replaced by nascent telekenesis, pyrokenesis and an apparently obligatory love interest.

Oh well. Another dream bites the dust.

UPDATE: Evidently, I’m not alone.

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