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Eragon
Reviewed by Gary Mitchel, © 2006

Format: Movie
By:   Stefan Fangmeier
Genre:   Fantasy
Review Date:   December 24, 2006
Audience Rating:   PG
RevSF Rating:   4/10 (What Is This?)

"I expected more". – Eragon

I knew this was going to happen. I just didn't expect it to take three years. But I'm not surprised it was done by Fox. Back in 2003, when Lord of the Rings raked in cash by the truckload, I knew that we would all pay a price for finally getting not only a worthy treatment of Tolkien's works but a top-notch fantasy movie. I knew that price was going to be a flood of dim studio heads buying any popular fantasy book they could, tossing a hack director at it, and unleashing it in the theaters. After three long, fairly quiet years, the first has arrived. I honestly expected Uwe Boll to get out of the gate first, but he was too busy beating up Internet reviewers. So he was beaten to the punch by Fox's Eragon.

What really sucks is that, from what I hear, the Eragon books are pretty enjoyable. Not that you would know that from this movie.

Eragon, the movie, is a pastiche of every fantasy novel written after Tolkien was published, with touches from every other popular geek film mixed in. We have the young hero, the missing parents, the death of loved ones, the grizzled mentor, an evil henchman doing the dirty work for an evil Emperor . . . er, king, massive battles and to top it all off, a dragon.

So, right, the plot. Okay, Eragon (Ed Speleers) is an orphan teen, abandoned by his mother when he was a kid, left to be raised by his poor uncle Alun (Bravehart) Armstrong. They live in an oppressed kingdom ruled by King Galbatorix (John "Being John Malkovich" Malkovich). Ya see, years and years ago, peace was kept in the kingdom by Jed -- er, dragon riders. Then one day, one went bad and Darth Va -- er, Galbatorix turned on the others, killed them and seized the throne. Now the rebels fight a losing battle against his armies to restore freedom, while awaiting the arrival of the prophesied one, Luke -- er, Eragon. In their darkest hour, Eragon finds the last Dragon Egg in the middle of the forest. It had been stolen by Pincess Leia -- er, Ayra (Sienna "Resident Evil: Apocalypse" Guillory) from the King himself.

After a few "what a nice home life" scenes, the egg hatches forth Saphira (voiced by Rachel "The Mummy" Weisz). The dragon quickly, and I mean in the course of what seems to be a few days, goes from cute rat eating whelp to full-sized mature dragon, capable of eating cows. Not that we see her eat a cow. We must honor our PG rating.

Anyway, Obi Wa -- er, Brom (Jeremy "Dungeons & Dragons" Irons) finds Eragon, realizes he's the last hope, and starts training him while leading him off to the rebels. On the way there are fights, foretellings, not-quite orcs, an evil mage, a horde of darkness and a battle to save the day. Your standard fantasy epic.

I will be first to admit that there are some plot bits that you can't help but follow. With no evil King, who will our hero save people from? But the plot elements aren't the only things that you've seen before. Eragon is chock full of what I'm going to call "homages" to other movies. I'll call them that. Someone else might call them "outright theft."

We are treated to, among other things, our young hero Eragon staring wistfully at the sunset from his uncle's moisture . . . er, potato farm; long, sweeping helicopter shots swirling around our heroes as they race over majestic vistas on their journey to Mord . . . er, wherever it is they're going.

Then there's the vision sent to our hero about a captured princess. It practically ended with "Help me Eragon, you're my only hope."

Another thing against this movie is the casting. There are several people here that are great actors, and they're criminally wasted. Malkovich has at most five minutes screen time. Presumably, he'll have a bigger part in the sequel. The leader of the rebels is Djimon Hounsou, of Gladiator and Constantine, and does a whole lot of nothing.

Then there's the miscasting. Weisz is great in the Mummy flicks, but doesn't have the "oomph" that a dragon should have. She's way too soft in her deliveries. She could be voicing a dog, and it would work just as well. Guillory is flat as Arya. The evil wizard Durza is supposed to be creepy but he's inept and just there, and you want to slap Eragon because he's as whiny as those Skywalker boys.

The only decent acting in the whole movie is actually Irons, who breathes life into Brom, and has a real character arc. He's the best part of the movie, and keeps it watchable while he's on screen. I think it's a mix of his trying to atone for all the scenery-chewing he did in the D&D movie, and everyone else is so bad it makes his already great acting look astounding.

As for Saphira, aside from having gryphon-style feathered wings, she's a beauty. The CG is fluid, detailed and she looks fantastic. I can't wait to see what Weta could do for Smaug. It's too bad she doesn't have a voice to go with her looks. Someone with some power and attitude, which Weisz just doesn't have.

Eragon is hackneyed, derivative, poorly directed with either bad acting or wasted actors, and could stand to have about ten to twenty minutes of traveling shots trimmed out. In short, it's everything I was afraid that was going to follow Lord of the Rings.

It's like someone put LotR, the D&D movie and Star Wars into a blender and hit "Crappee".


RevolutionSF staff writer Gary Mitchel suffers without his stone.

 
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