Are you a 14-year-old boy? A 33-year-old who has never had a date and lives in your mother’s basement? Then this may be the movie for you.
Eragon is the CGI-tastic screen adaptation of the best-selling dragon story for young adults. It was written by Christopher Paolini when he was only 15 years old and spent more than a year on the New York Times Bestseller List.
It is set in a mythical land called Alagaësia, where the evil King Galbatorix (John Malkovich) has taken control by killing all the dragons and their riders. One day, a humble farm boy named Eragon (Edward Speleers) happens upon a giant blue stone. When it hatches, he realizes it wasn’t a stone at all, but a dragon’s egg. The dragon inside, named Saphira (voiced by Rachel Weisz), waited years and years to hatch until she sensed she was in the presence of her rider. It turns out the Eragon is more special than he realized. Now that there’s a Dragon Rider in the world again, the Varden rebels have a chance at rising up against Galbatorix. But not if the powerful shade Durza and his henchmen reach Eragon first.
For my money, Eragon not only was it totally predictable, but also overtly ripped off several other of its predecessors in the fantasy genre. From the Lord of the Rings trilogy it takes the idealized farm life disrupted by power-hungry magicians and the pseudo-English Middle Ages vibe embellished with dragons, elves, and other magical creatures. From Harry Potter it borrows the archetype of the average boy who discovers he is actually the special savior of the world, as well as the obvious rip off of the scar mark what throbs when the being to whom it links is near. And from the Star Wars series Eragon steals the wise sensei figure who teaches the young apprentice how to use his powers and the ways of the resistance.
Jeremy Irons (Reversal of Fortune, Stealing Beauty) and Robert Carlyle (Trainspotting, The Full Monty) were surprisingly good in their respective roles as Brom, the former Dragon Rider, and Durza, Galbatorix’s evil right-hand man. They both commit absolutely wholeheartedly to their parts. John Malkovich, on the other hand, is completely miscast as Galbatorix. While his inherent quirkiness works perfectly for creepy villains like the Vicomte de Valmont in Dangerous Liaisons, he is all-wrong for the straight-up terrifying devil that is Galbatorix.
And although newcomer Edward Speleers might have the fresh-faced British country boy/leading man looks, his acting is pretty amateurish—at least for working against a green screen. All too often, I could basically hear the director in my head instructing him—“Okay, now you see the egg. You’re surprised!” while he crept along the hay in the barn.
For all those problems, first-time director Stefen Fangmeier has put together an aesthetically appealing movie. And would you expect any less from the man who was the visual effects supervisor on movies like Saving Private Ryan and Master and Commander? The sets, costumes, and makeup capture this fantasy world quite well—at times even better than I thought Peter Jackson did in Lord of the Rings. And the CGI animation is terrific, especially for the all-important Saphira, who is downright cute during her baby dragon scenes.
Overall though, I felt Eragon came off like a big-budget Xena retread. Then again, the story of Eragon was originally intended for a young adult audience, and I think that is a crucial point here. As I am neither a young adult, nor someone prone to spending any time playing Final Fantasy or Magic the Gathering, I’m not exactly the movie’s target demographic. To that end, I suspect that the gamers and fantasy-philes out there will find more of value to Eragon than I did. At the very least, it will be a quick fix to get them through until the next Renaissance festival comes to town.
What's on the Disc
True to their visual backgrounds, the team behind Eragon worked hard at making some cool looking extras for the DVD.
The special features menu lays out on a rather Middle-Earth like map (although of Alagaësia, of course) and the features are in Alagaësian. So now I will decipher them for you.
Carvahall - An in-depth making-of type featurette called "Inside the Inheritance Trilogy: The Magic of Eragon" with interviews of the book's author, the director, and the screenwriter, as well as the text of the first two chapters of Eldest, the second book in the series, for you to scroll through.
Daret - "The Inhabitants of Alagaësia" featurettes on bringing the various characters to the screen. Includes director's commentary and lots of illustrations, photos, and designs that went into the final versions of what you see in the movie.
The Spine - "Vision of Eragon" featurette showing a presentation Fangmeier did for Twentieth Century Fox to pitch his visual concept Eragon, with or without commentary.
Extended and Deleted Scenes (with and without commentary) for those who just can't get enough Eragon.
Teirm - A text Pronunciation Guide for common Alagaësian words (okay, kinda cool), Original Storyboards and The Lost Storyboards of sequences that didn't make it into the final movie.
Hadarac Desert - Saphira's Animation Guide, which includes illustrations of the concepts used to create the dragon, with director's commentary.
Urû'baen - A featurette of an interview with braces-clad Eragon book author Christopher Paolini on the second book in the series, Eldest.
Beor Mountains - Theatrical and teaser trailers of Eragon, promotions for other Fox DVDs, and a featurette on translating Eragon the movie into Eragon the video game entitled "Become the Dragon Rider - Creating the Video Game."
Farthen Dûr - The Secreets of&