brother is pretty bummed out about the whole thing with The Flash, where Shawn Levy has somehow gotten to be the director of the film version of his favorite comic book character. Maybe he can take some comfort in knowing that a decent actor – Ian McShane in this case – is attached to the film version of one of his favorite childhood fantasy novel series, The Dark is Rising.

The five book series by Susan Cooper is what they call “high fantasy” (I think this is like “confirmed bachelor”), and it’s based on Arthurian legends. There are five books in all, and the first one being filmed is the second in the series – apparently this is because book 2 introduces the main character, 11 year old Will Stanton, who learns that he’s part of a great cosmic struggle between the Light and the Dark.

McShane will be playing Merriman Lyon, an ancient immortal being who may in fact be Merlin. He plays the Yoda to young Will Stanton, training him up to be a hero in the subsequent books (and, the studio hopes, movies) and save the world.

The Dark is Rising is the latest fantasy film from Walden Media, who have brought us Narnia. It’s a co-production with Fox, one of the first to be handled in a new deal between the two. The director is David Cunningham, who raised liberal hackles (like mine) when he directed The Path to 9/11, a miniseries that laid the blame for 9/11 on the Clinton administration. It’s being written by John Hodge, best known not for his kiddie movies but his collaborations with Danny Boyle, such as Trainspotting and Shallow Grave.

The Dark is Rising films in Romania this month.