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Movie Review: Eragon

Directed by Stefen Fangmeier
Written by Peter Buchman, Lawrence Konner, Mark Rosenthal, and Jesse Wigutow based on the novel by Christopher Paolini

Remember The Fifth Element?  Writer/director Luc Besson wrote the story when he was a teenager, and regardless of what anyone thinks of the movie, one thing is for certain: it displays the hyperactive imagination of a boy, unable to contain itself.  It can lead to an interesting viewing experience, but the story is busy with undeveloped ideas.

I am not familiar with the Christopher Paolini book on which Eragon is based, but the film likely contains, at the very least, his basic ideas even after four screenwriters tackled the adaptation.  Paolini wrote the book at fifteen, and the movie on which it is based contains that youthful exuberance towards fantasy tales, it just doesn’t work hard to earn the fruits of those ideas.

I can see where Fox was going with this: find bestselling source material to make their own Lord of the Rings series, and release it at the same time as those movies did: mid-December.  Paolini is in the middle of a trilogy, with the second, Eldest, coming out last year.  So his trilogy is incomplete at the moment and does not have the following of J.R.R. Tolkien.  A typical audience going into this film doesn’t have the same sort of idea that this is the first chapter in a series, so the movie unfortunately has to hold up on its own; it has to be Star Wars.  This is obviously no Star Wars, but it has bigger problems.

Eragon (Edward Speleers) is hunting one day and happens upon an egg stolen by an elven princess, Arya (Sienna Guillory) from King Galbatorix (John Malkovich).  Arya loses the egg in a skirmish with Galbatorix’ right-hand magician Durza (Robert Carlyle).  Eragon takes the egg home, thinking it’s a valuable stone until it hatches a baby dragon, thus beginning Eragon’s destiny as a dragon rider.  A mysterious man in town, Brom (Jeremy Irons) learns Eragon’s secret and becomes his mentor, for he knows the ways of all things dragon.

Brom wants to take Eragon and his dragon to a distant land where a rebellion is forming against Galbatorix, one which might have credence with a dragon in its army.  So Galbatorix sends Durza to do all the evil he can to stop the dragon rider, which means calling creatures from the underworld (sound familiar?) to do his bidding and hunt the boy down.  Meanwhile, Eragon tries to get a handle on all the powers of being a dragon rider, getting some one-on-one time with his now full-grown dragon Saphira (Rachel Weisz voices).

Detractors of The Lord of the Rings often point to the films’ length.  It’s just two dudes walking the whole time, they say.  Ignoring that ridiculous (highly false and stupid) comment, LOTR was handled with care; the world was built, not force-fed.  It was carefully constructed so that the characters earned their victories, they weren’t just handed to them. 

Eragon makes many mistakes.  It’s obvious there was an attempt to make this short.  That was the first thing on their mind: Let’s be LOTR without the length.  During Eragon’s supposed training, he learns entirely too quickly what it should be difficult to learn: like seeing with dragon’s eyes.  And just in case someone like me wants to make a big deal about this, the rule is set in place that the dragon and dragon rider become one with their thoughts.  To that, I say this: I suppose telekinesis can be learned in the course of an afternoon.  Why not just make him a total Jedi in the first chapter?

Okay, so Eragon isn’t exactly a total badass.  The film does try hard to make him clumsy in a way; this is his first adventure and he does have some learning to do.  But it rings false, considering all the things he learns in the course of no time at all.  On top of that, let’s just throw in that he’s a struggling magician as well.  This guy is going to be God himself by the time it’s over.

All in all, though, what truly makes Eragon not very good is that it’s ordinary.  I didn’t see a new world being created, it didn’t suck me in, and that’s the point.  You have seen movies like Eragon time and time again.  Surely the Paolini novel is something more than just a regular dragon story, or at least hints at better things to come, considering all the sci-fi/fantasy at your local bookstore.  This movie just hints that Fox wants your money, and they’re happy not to spend much of their own to get it.


Comment from KW
Time: December 15, 2006, 1:23 pm

Crap! I knew it. I knew this movie was going to be sucky. I’ve read nothing but negative reviews–most saying this film (and book) are blatant Star Wars rip-offs. Now, I don’t think we should give a 15-year-old kid too hard a time for having his first published novel closely mirror Star Wars.

But we can give a hard time to Fox for rushing this film adaptation.

Again, the girlfriend has a pre-determined plan to see this film, so I can add another wasted two hours to my upcoming schedule.

Double Crap!

Comment from KW
Time: December 22, 2006, 11:08 am

Okay, saw this last night with the girlfriend. Ugh. Not good. I should say, though, that with the film’s current 13% rating on Rotten Tomatoes…it’s not anywhere near as bad as I expected. That’s some high praise, eh?

Here are my gripes:

-Dragon grows from child (dog-sized) to adult (well…dragon-sized) in the course of an afternoon–scratch that…it’s actually during just a single flight. Dragon goes up above clouds….sparks fly….dragon comes back down 100 times bigger than before. No one in the film says a word about this or how strange it is…Eragon himself just smiles wryly.

-Horrible editing. One glaring scene shows nighttime as characters enter a building or a hut…then they have a conversation…and come out…and it’s daytime. What?

-I have never seen Malkovich try less hard. Seriously phoning it in.

-Rushed feel, as you already covered.

-Rachel Weiz was a horrible choice to voice that dragon. It might as well have been Martha Stewart.

It’s not all bad, though. I thought Irons at least tried to give the film some “taking it seriously” moments. I thought some of the action was somewhere between “okay” and “pretty decent.” I thought the set locations were great.

Here’s the best way to describe this film to film geeks like you and me: Sean Connery’s Dragonheart was significantly better than this.

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