Eragon Review: Only Part One of Fantasy Disaster
by Alex Billington
December 15, 2006
Eragon, the latest dragon film to be seen in recent years (last with Reign of Fire in 2002), is the greatly anticipated adaptation of a highly acclaimed fantasy book series. Fox put about as much care and effort into making Eragon as they did with the terrible The Marine, and in turn first-time director Stefen Fangmeier (previously best known as an ILM visual effects man) has introduced us to a shameful world of only marginal entertainment and otherwise poor storytelling. It's a PG film with PG-required editing cuts and is an experience that is pretty grueling to withstand.
The story introduces us to a 17-year-old farm boy named Eragon (Edward Speleers) in a medieval fantasy land where the dragons who used to defend the inhabitants have been killed by the deranged King Galbatorix (John Malkovich), who now controls the only dragon left. A dragon egg is stolen from the King's control and ends up in Eragon's hands. A dragon egg only hatches when it has found its rider, a person who was chosen by fate, so only when Eragon receives this egg does it finally open. The newborn dragon named Saphira (voiced by Rachel Weisz) and her rider Eragon get thrown into the treacherous world of the mad King who has already sent his magical and villainous "Shade" named Durza (Robert Carlyle) to bring back the egg.
Eragon truly tries to be epic, and I mean it tries hard: the locations are grand, the battles are massive, and even the character names sound great when spoken in dramatic baritone voices, but it is clear that this is a film led by a better visual effects specialist than a director. It's a combination of Lord of the Rings, Dragonheart, and an unfortunate mix of Dungeons and Dragons, all packed into a part-one-of-three film. There is fairly well-done CGI throughout and teen actor Ed Speleers, in his first professional acting role, performs quite well in the role of Eragon. As the "times of past" guide Brom (Jeremy Irons) tells the titular character about himself, Eragon's producers are also one-part brave, for attempting to make such an epic film, and three-parts fool, for simply forgetting to care about making a good movie.
The visual side, including the dragon, was a much "grungier" back-to-basics CGI look that doesn't have a shining plastic-coated blockbuster feel, but still isn't anything outstanding. The other mythical characters and landscapes are nothing special in the fantasy genre that now more than ever cries out for Peter Jackson's guiding hand. It's obvious every bit of care and concern went into the look of the dragon, and that nearly none went into anything else. The sound effects only seemed partially complete as well. Without epic sound, you don't have an epic movie.
Even the costumes were ridiculous and overly lavish. It was another not so subtle attempt at achieving the same level of brilliance that Lord of the Rings did, but with half as much care and half as much expertise. Yes, it's a trilogy, and yes, Fox expects fans to wait several years for another few movies just to finally see the end. All Fox did was slap a big "to be continued" (not literally, thankfully) on the end of a mediocre film, and then they release Eragon. The only fans I would expect to return for Eragon's sequels would be those who idolize the hunky young Mr. Speleers, who already graces dozens of MySpace pages with just one film credit.
As much as I can speak negatively on Eragon, it wasn't the worst movie of the year (that award has been taken). Although not amazing, it does have beautiful imagery and scenery, and the CGI is complete enough, although far from incredible, not to detract from the film. Ed Speleers deserves to be given some credit for achieving the most enduring role above such well-known other actors as Jeremy Irons, John Malkovich, and Djimon Hounsou, who all deliver flaccid and laugh-out-loud bad performances.
Along with already many negatives, Eragon is chopped up so much to get a PG rating, that half or more of the story, and anything entertaining, is left out. The film is far too poorly conceived to gain any more hope than being viewed quickly by those interested and then never again. It has its level of entertainment, above some other far worse films of 2006, but really seems like nothing more than one long video game cinematic with just a tiny bit of extra effort added. After this film, how will the second and third films even get a release in theaters - I definitely do not know.