‘Dark Is Rising’ Screenwriter Explains Why He Took The Job

John Hodge is an Oscar-nominated screenwriter best known for his collaborations with Danny Boyle on “Trainspotting” and “Shallow Grave.” His latest film is the ambitious fantasy “The Dark is Rising.” In an exclusive piece for MTV below, Hodge explains why he took on the project.

I wasn’t going to do “The Dark Is Rising.” It’s not that I dislike fantasy but I wouldn’t class myself as a devotee. The Potter books and films are obviously very good (that many people can’t be wrong) but nothing is for everyone and they don’t do it for me. But then I got to thinking about the story of DIR and it seems to me that the fantasy is not what it’s about. It’s about a boy finding his place in a large family, or more than that, starting to think about his place in the adult world in general. And once I found that perspective, I really wanted to do it.

On one level, that interpretation might make no sense to someone looking at the bare facts of the novel, but I think it’s what gives the book its human appeal. Without that, the tale of the battle between good and evil has no impact. So I focused on the boy and tried find ways to dramatize his problems in a cinematic way.

The word cinematic is crucial here. Previous attempts to turn this book into a film have been unsuccessful for thirty years. Simply realigning the prose into script form will not work. You have to think about what the audience is seeing and how the images and events add up. Either that or use a ton of voice over.

The most basic aspect of drama is conflict. A relationship in which two people are unfailingly polite and decent towards each other is not very dramatic. Nor, let’s be honest, is it an accurate reflection of most family life. We’re all human and the petty squabbles and jostling in any family are all just part of the process. I didn’t want to portray the Stantons as wildly dysfunctional, because they’re not, but there is an issue that looms over them, quite realistically: the loss of a young baby boy.

In the book, this is sort of shrugged off, but how can it be? A human being is gone and no one talks about it. So I think a lot of the tension in the family, a lot of the friction, stems from that event. And at a certain point in his life, reaching adolescence, Will is dealing with that problem, drawing the family back together. OK, so he’s saving the world and all its inhabitants at the same time from the universal power of evil, but the way I see it – that’s the easy bit.

I hope you enjoy the movie.