Take the story ideas from Star Wars, Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and mash them all together. Now, condense that all down to 100 minutes. Next add a dash of Narnia for the kids along with the love for a young adult fantasy novel, ie. “Harry Potter,” and you have Eragon. The biggest difference with this film and the others is that instead of the massive amount of time and effort put in to make those you get Eragon‘s production schedule, which was originally deemed to be one year long. That just doesn’t work. Neither does a one-time visual effects guy turned first time director in Stefen Fangmeier or the writing team that orginally brought us Jurassic Park III, Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, Planet of the Apes (2001) and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. However, it isn’t as bad as this first paragraph may make it out to be… it’s a smidge better.
Based on the novel written by Christopher Paolini when he was a young teen Eragon has the feel of just that. Whether that is due to the novel or the poor screen adaptation I am not sure, but it is evident from the first moment of dialogue when John Malkovich as the evil King Galbatorix says, “I am lost without my rock,” or something like that, but we will dig into Malko in just a bit.
Here we have the story of AlagaÃƒÂ«sia, a land that was once populated by Dragon Riders, a group of people responsible for peace in all the land. Unfortunately, one day Galbatorix, a Dragon Rider himself, wiped out the last of the Riders and declared himself king of AlagaÃƒÂ«sia. There are still those that oppose him called the Varden and they wait for the prophecy of another Dragon Rider to be fulfilled, and you guessed it, that would be Eragon.
Playing Eragon is newcomer Ed Speleers and it would be senseless to go into how good or bad he is considering the material he was given to work with was so poor. To make matters worse, Eragon is able to speak to his dragon, Saphira, using mental powers. Voiced by Rachel Weisz, Saphira is given some of the worst dialogue I have heard in a long time and it seems Fox knows this considering Saphira’s voice is not used in any of the clips online or in the trailers, and some of the scenes online are actually scenes in which she has lines.
However, when it comes to lines of dialogue all is lost when it comes to John Malkovich. What happened since the days of Teddy KGB John? I am not asking because he can’t act, I am asking because he accepted this role and agreed to say these lines (example here).
As for the translation of the book I cannot say if it is faithful or not as I have not yet read either of the two books. I have read some reviews saying it is a terrible adaptation and I have heard word second-hand that a couple of 11-year-old boys liked it and thought it was faithful. This is the key, can Eragon find its audience, which is young kids and fans of the Paolini books.
Looking past the bad dialogue, amateur directing and terrible editing I was able to actually enjoy this movie for what it is. To draw a comparison I would have to say it is every fantasy movie you have ever seen with the adult aspects ripped out of it. The action, the violence and the drama is all dumbed down for a younger audience and I think that audience will eat it up, and I don’t think adults will be too upset with seeing it considering it does have a 100 minute running time. The effects are great, which is to be expected as Fangmeir is an ILM alum, and the costumes look great, but we have all seen just about enough sweeping landscapes and swordfights to hold us over for a while, especially if nothing all that new is offered.
Eragon is a kids draw and with the way it is entirely watered down it is safe to say the PG rating should allow most any young tike to watch it. All the violence is off screen and scary images are kept to a minimum. Kids may fall in love with this one, but it won’t catch on with adult audiences to warrant too big of a box-office return.