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?