And so the floodgates have opened. Dashing in on the same flying broom stick as JK Rowling, CS Lewis, Neil Gaiman and Lemony Snicket; Susan Cooper is the latest fantasy novelist to see her imagined world come to life on the big screen.
Based on her 1970s novel of the same name, 'The Dark is Rising' tells the story of young American teenager Will Stanton (Ludwig), whose family have recently emigrated to a quiet English village. Upon his 14th birthday, Will begins to notice a series of strange events and eventually learns that he is the last of a group of warriors who have dedicated their lives to fighting the forces of the Dark.
These warriors represent the Light and, as the "seventh son of a seventh son", Will has been earmarked from birth as the 'Sign Seeker' - a role which entails travelling back and forth through time to locate six signs in order to save the world from the Dark's evil leader, The Rider (Christopher Eccleston).
Adapted for the screen by John Hodge ('Trainspotting', 'Shallow Grave'), 'The Dark is Rising' is unsurprisingly predictable and follows the well-worn path of the teen adventure movie. Like Kevin in 'Home Alone' or Mickey in 'The Goonies', Will is a kid put upon by his older siblings and depressed by his position in the family hierarchy. His ineffectiveness with the opposite sex and burgeoning puberty is also of concern to him.
However, like Kevin and Mickey before him, great adventure awaits and soon Will is saddled with great responsibility above his years. As he rather cringefully surmises midway through the movie: "How am I supposed to save the world when I can't even talk to a girl."
Despite such formulaic plotting and dialogue however, 'The Dark is Rising' begins entertainingly. Director David L Cunningham infuses the opening scenes with the right amount of eeriness and mystery to keep both adults and children engaged. In particular an early scene involving two security guards is well-handled and, like a number of other scenes in the movie, proves to be scarier than expected. Such scenes may be of concern for parents of younger children however, in the era of Harry Potter, one would assume that the movie's target audience crave such horror.
Oozing evil as The Rider, Christopher Eccleston excels, delving into the dark psychopathic persona he so brilliantly explored in 'Shallow Grave'. Ian McShane too is impressive, though his character Merriman is weighed down by ridiculously cringeful dialogue - "I believe in you Will Stanton", etc.
Where the film really struggles however, is in its myriad of plot lines. Background stories such as love interest Maggie (Warner); a kidnapped twin brother; an older sibling who joins the Dark and an evil messenger are only lightly touched upon and ultimately serve only to clog up the central 'seek and recover' plot line. Thus Will's journeys through time - the crux of the story - are hastily rushed through, lasting only a matter of minutes and devoid of the kind of meaty action sequences one might have expected.
Indeed 'The Dark is Rising' as a whole suffers from an overall lack of action and adventure, while the muddled plotlines may prove difficult to decipher for younger viewers, particularly Will's reasons for journeying through time.
In all not a bad addition to the fantasy genre, though 'The Dark is Rising' could have benefited from tighter editing and longer action sequences. Nonetheless it should keep the kids happy whilst proving relatively watchable for an adult audience.