Thursday, December 14, 2006
A long time ago in a land far, far away, Eragon began production without any ideas to call its own and no sense of pride in what’s being created. The result is a movie that feels more familiar than it does new: everything from the costumes, location and sets to the story and characters is blatantly stolen from other, better fantasy movies that were no doubt the inspiration for this pitiful effort.
The story is a cheap rip-off of Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings, with Tolkien-inspired names (Eragon & Aragorn?), sorcery, swordfights and an elvish language but no elves. In the land of Alagaesia, the teenage farmer Eragon (Edward Speleers) happens upon a large blue stone that is coveted by the evil king, Galbatorix (John Malkovich). “I suffer without my stone. Do not prolong my suffering,” Galbatorix tells the demonic sorcerer Durza (Robert Carlyle) as he sends him after the stone.
The importance of the stone is unknown to Eragon, even after he learns it’s really an egg and it hatches a baby dragon. After Eragon finds his uncle (Alun Armstrong) murdered he begins to believe the old legends spouted by the sage elder Brom (Jeremy Irons), which say that Dragon Riders once ruled Alagaesia during a time of peace and that one day a new Rider will restore order. Eragon then travels with Brom and the dragon (voiced by Rachel Weisz) to the land of Varden, where a new hope can inspire the rebellious Varden warriors to victory over the Emperor Galbatorix. Along the way they fight off Durza’s Orc-like henchmen and must rescue the beautiful princess, Arya (Sienna Guillory), from danger.
The film was directed by Stefen Fangmeier, who made his name as a visual effects supervisor for Twister and The Perfect Storm, among other films. Given his background one would expect the look of the movie to be its most promising asset, but Fangmeier fails with a lot of murky, unclear visuals and a dragon that’s less impressive than the dinosaurs he helped create in Jurassic Park. Also not helping is the fact that it took four screenwriters (more than two is always bad) to craft the script, causing the dialogue to lack fluidity and consistency.
As for the acting, Malkovich is wasted with only five minutes of screen time and Speleers, in his first screen role, looks just as wide-eyed and overwhelmed as his character. One could say this is part of the role, but the main character is the anchor around which we get involved in the story; if he never gets a sense of direction, neither can we. Only Irons’ attempt to channel his inner Alec Guinness works for any effectiveness, but like Obi-Wan he’s around for too short a time.
The story is based on the novel Eragon by Christopher Paolini, who wrote it as part of his Inheritance trilogy. The second book, Eldest, is currently in development for the big screen, while the third book has yet to be released. Fans of the books may be more agreeable to the hackneyed goings-on than the rest of us, but the movie is so insistently mediocre that it’s doubtful anyone will care.
ERAGON ( * 1/2)
Directed by Stefen Fangmeier. • Starring Edward Speleers, Jeremy Irons and John Malkovich. • PG, 104 min. • At the Century Cinemas Del Monte Center, Maya Cinemas, Northridge Cinemas.