Edward Speleers as Eragon
Jeremy Irons as Brom
Sienna Guillory as Arya
Robert Carlyle as Durza
John Malkovich as King Galbatorix
Garrett Hedlund as Murtagh
Alun Armstrong as Uncle Garrow
Christopher Egan as Roran
Gary Lewis as King Hrothgar
Djimon Hounsou as Ajihad
Rachel Weisz as Saphira (voice)
Richard Rifkin as Horst
Steve Speirs as Sloan
Joss Stone as Angela
Tamsin Egerton as Katrina

While “Eragon” will probably please young fans of the book, cool special effects can’t help the fact that the story isn’t all that original.

“Eragon” is based on the children’s book by Christopher Paolini (who happened to be 15 when he wrote the book).

In this fantasy realm, the kingdom has entered dark times. King Galbatorix has slaughtered all the legendary dragons and their riders, driven the rebels into hiding, and taken over the towns of his subjects. However, hope remains. Princess Arya is able to smuggle out the last remaining dragon egg from Galbatorix. Through a series of chance happenings, the egg ends up in the possession of Eragon, a mere farm boy.

The egg hatches and the dragon, named Saphira, immediately bonds with Eragon. Unfortunately this makes him a target for King Galbatorix and his sorcerer henchman, Durza. Eragon soon finds himself and his family under attack, but he’s rescued by Brom, a warrior with a mysterious past. Brom leads him on a journey to meet with the rebels and along the way teaches him the ways of dragons and magic. But will Eragon rush into danger before he’s ready to face it?

“Eragon” is rated PG for fantasy violence, intense battle sequences and some frightening images.

What Worked:
I think the most notable thing about “Eragon” is the special effects. When Eragon and Saphira are in flight or in battle, this movie is at its most engaging. And considering how director Stefen Fangmeier used to work at ILM, it’s not surprising the visual effects are well done. Saphira is the centerpiece of that work and her design is quite unique. She has a combination of scales and feathers that give her a look unlike any other movie dragon. Her animation alone makes Eragon worth checking out. The closing battle scene alone is quite impressive.

Pre-teen fans of the book and fantasy aficionados will probably enjoy this movie on a whole other level than general audiences. They’ll certainly be more forgiving of the movie’s flaws.

What Didn’t Work:
I intended to read the “Eragon” book before viewing the movie, but my daughter stole it and read it before I got a chance to. She was eagerly anticipating the film along with her classmates. So I went into the movie knowing very little about it. Unfortunately, I didn’t find very much that was original. The plot seemed to copy numerous elements from “Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope.” Both films have farm boy heroes, both have uncles killed by the villain’s henchmen, both have princesses that must be rescued, both have crazy old hermits that teach the heroes the ways of magic / the Force, both films have rebels that the hero joins, etc etc etc. There are numerous other similarities. There are also many similarities to “The Lord of the Rings” and “Willow.” This total lack of originality made it very hard for me to enjoy the movie.

The movie also has huge plot holes. It is never explained why Arya has the dragon egg in the first place. There is mention of dwarves and elves but you never see any. Durza appears normal in one scene and almost vampire-like in another scene. In another great leap, Saphira grows from infancy to adolescence over the course of a single flight. This doesn’t seem to be for any reason other than to skip from her interesting birth to her interesting adulthood. Maybe you can chalk these inconsistencies up to the fact that a 15-year-old wrote it, but you’d think the movie could have cleaned some of that up.

The acting is also barely mediocre. I normally love all the actors in this movie, but their talents were wasted here. John Malkovich is barely seen at all as King Galbatorix, but that may be a good thing as he seems sorely miscast. Djimon Hounsou is also really awkward as Ajihad, the leader of the rebels. He looks very uncomfortable in the fantasy setting. Jeremy Irons does his best to bring dignity to his role as Brom, but his best efforts aren’t enough to raise the quality of the story or dialogue.

In the end, “Eragon” is a lot like a Ferrari that the driver keeps well below the speed limit. It looks great but is never used to its full potential, thus rendering it useless. They had a great cast, great effects, and a loyal following, but the story just isn’t there.

The Bottom Line:
Despite my gripes, I’m sure this movie will do well. If every kid that bought the book shows up at theaters, then the movie will rake in the dough. And there are plenty of people out there that didn’t read the book who want to see cool action scenes. Whether or not there’s a sequel, as the end of the movie implies, remains to be seen.