The Most Disappointing Movies #3-Will the real Eragon please stand up?

Eragon is a derivative and damp re-spin of all those old fantasy epics that you’ve definitely seen. It generally feels like a cheap Vegas Star Wars tribute act, with a dragon playing the Millennium Falcon. Want a inept blond farmboy hero-figure with daddy issues? You got it. He even has a disposable uncle and a sunset to mope at which rivals that of Tatooine. How about a wise old wizard who sets our hero on the path to power before being popped off? Yep, that’s here too. A feisty princess who gets imprisoned early on and has to be rescued with a taboo-esque romantic hints with our hero? Take a wild guess.

It’s easy to lay all the blame at the door of Christopher Paolini, who wrote the source novel when he was 15 — and that becomes clearly apparent. But it’s director Stefen Fangmeier on whose doorstep the real blame lies. A former ILM FX supervisor, his first directing job betrays his origins, as he shows more interest in the CG dragon, Saphira (a half decent job at that) than he does in conjuring a fresh take on fantasy. This is the sort of movie where you know the villain  is evil because he broods on his throne in a dark, cavernous room. The only thing he could have done to make it more apparent was eat an apple in a shady manner. Plot holes abound, and it’s visually repetitive; if it weren’t for the plethora of sweeping shots of guys sweeping along on horseback(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uE-1RPDqJAY), the movie would be less than half an hour long.

As for Fangmeier’s treatment of his non-CG actors, they’re hung out to dry with shit-you-can’t–say-out-loud dialogue like, “Taste the blood of your dragon!” As for Edward Speleers, the Brit debutant in the title role, he’s gives his best into the role, but sadly he also is pretty bland, his blank stare multi-tasking furiously as it brings us barely discernible differences on happy, sad and heroic.

Ultimately, with a human hero impossible to invest in and a CG dragon that doesn’t make one ooh and aah (it doesn’t help that Rachel Weisz, a competent actress at best, phones in her turn as Saphira’s voice), Eragon just doesn’t catch fire.

The book Eragon is nothing short of a fantasy cult classic as is its young author Christopher Paolini. First published by his parents’ small private press in 2002, when Paolini was 18 years old, the book was picked up by Knopf and has dug its heels in on the New York Times bestseller list for years at this point.

Although the books have received mixed reviews for a storyline heavily influenced by Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and even the King Arthur legend, the appeal to younger readers willing to march through their lengthy contents is undeniable. I won’t admit I didn’t.

Paolini has made it clear from the very beginning that he had very little to do with the construction of the movie version of his story. . It’s not a surprise to learn that director Stefen Fangmeir has spent the bulk of his career providing visual effects for a wide variety of blockbuster films, seeing as how Eragon feels like a C-movie with A-movie CGI. Its dragon is fully realized and believable in thrilling flight sequences and battle scenes, especially in the film’s last act. With support from both Industrial Light & Magic (responsible for making Star Wars lore and legend) and Weta Workshop (Lord of the Rings), the quality look of these moments is understandable.

It’s in the barely understandable script, shoddy editing, low-budget sets and half-hearted plotting that Eragon fails to take off. For starters, essential parts of the book are sacrificed to the film’s running time, leaving the final act suffering from a series of unheralded character introductions and abrupt actions sequences. It’s unclear, though, that more minutes would make for a more watchable film. Several scenes provide unintentional humor, especially those featuring John Malkovich as the evil king in his throne room who opens the film with the ignonimous words, “I suffer without my stone! Do not prolong my suffering!” Even the exceptional Jeremy Irons can do little to save his screen time from the overall awfulness that permeates throughout this film.

Given Paolini’s text, Eragon could have easily been developed as a much darker, more gruesome and more violent spectacle perhaps even Rated R to drive home the point.

And you know what the worst part is. I really want to see a good Eragon. Its films like these that need good reboots. Not already great movies like Ghostbusters. Eragon can be so much better. Will the real Eragon please stand up?

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5 thoughts on “The Most Disappointing Movies #3-Will the real Eragon please stand up?

  1. I can’t believe you’re yet to include the Percy Jackson movies. They should have been the first ones. As awful as the Deathly Hallows movie was, it wasn’t diametric opposite to the book in terms of how it made you feel (and I say this with pure loathing). A concotion of anxiety and sadness, a deep sense of loss, an ache for what once was and will never be. I can sincerely say the ghost of Fred Weasley’s laugh has haunted me as much as Lupin and Nymphadora’s fate has tormented me (no apologies to the eye rollers). Innocence was bid a hasty farewell as it plummeted to the depths with Hedwig for company, the exhilaration of wind in your hair and skies in your palms can wait, this is serious, you could be dead before you can say Quidditch (get it?). So no one was expecting the same old, same old and the movie just lived down to the already low expectations. But Percy Jackson? When I first paid a visit to Camp Half Blood, I was about to become a teen, now I am on the threshold of becoming an adult, so when I recently again paid a visit, the wit, the sarcasm didn’t quite hold the same appeal, and yet I finished the entire series all the same (also the Kane Chronicles, the Magnus Chase duology and The Trials of Apollo, but I digress). I still haven’t gotten over the shock of watching The Lightening Thief movie. It was an unadulterated horror. The plot was messed beyond recognition, Percy (shabbily cast) and Annabeth were busy checking each other out, and the mighty Poseidon was reduced to an unfunny joke. No witty banter or the great one liners or the brilliant interspersing of the past and present. The Studio got to capitalise on a hugely popular series and the already established fan base kept the cash registers ringing. They laughed all the way to the bank and we trudged back home, dripping with disappointment.

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    1. The Percy Jackson movies honestly tear at my heart more than I’d like them too. They are the absolute dribbling shits of pop culture cinema and they’re better forgotten than tragically reminisced on. To be absolutely honest though, I’ve always felt that the entire series with the spin-offs a la Heroes of Olympus would have been so much better suited in the form of a TV series. Awesome chapter names being the titles of individual episodes with an entire book being one season. Give it a super huge budget not unlike Stranger Things and just let it run. The sass and wit that epitomize Percy Jackson suit an episodic format much more, I personally feel.

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    2. Nah, the blog is effortlessly eloquent. I like how you write, Vedaarth17. Why don’t you write book reviews too? You’d be good at it.

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      1. Flattery, thy name is Aanya. Seriously though, thanks. Sadly college life is too hectic for regular articles. Hopefully I’ll have enough time in a couple of months to fully commit to something and review it.

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