Eragon (20th Century Fox, PG)

eragonI wanted to totally geek out at this movie. I love this stuff!

 

 

 

film_eragonAfter the epic journey that was the Lord of the Rings trilogy, why would any filmmaker want to touch a sword and sorcery movie? I can't answer that without sounding cynical, but I do know that Eragon tries hard to give the people what they want.

In a land long ago and far away, Eragon (Ed Speleers), a young farm boy, happens upon a dragon egg during a night hunt. His find hatches and quickly brands him with the mark of the Dragon Rider, a long destroyed group of warriors who once protected the land. Eragon soon finds himself on an epic journey to save elfish princess Arya (Sienna Guillory) and fight the evil King Galbatorix (John Malkovich), a former Dragon Rider who turned on his brethren to become ruler.

I swear I wanted to totally geek out at this movie. I love this kind of stuff! Unfortunately, I never felt connected to it and I was certainly never absorbed into the universe the filmmakers were trying to create. There just wasn't enough to grab on to.

We have in Eragon another fantasy film filled with dwarves, elves and bad guys who look like pure evil. Not to mention the young lad of no importance who realizes his great strength (Luke Skywalker and Frodo, meet Eragon) and the wizened-warrior-turned-mentor Brom (Jeremy Irons), previously known as Obi-Wan and Gandalf. Many of these conventions are typical to any "heroes' journey" type of story. And while Eragon won't make your eyes roll while employing these fantasy standards, it won't make your heart flutter either.

Part of the problem is that everything happens so fast. Eragon finds the egg, the egg hatches, he helps his new pet learn to fly and then, literally within a few minutes, the baby dragon becomes the fully grown Saphira (voiced by Rachel Weisz). She and Eragon now have a nearly complete connection after only a few days. It all goes so quickly that (and I know how silly this sounds) it doesn't seem real enough.

All that expeditiousness leads Eragon to be too simplistic. For instance, when Eragon arrives at the mountain hideout of the rebels he intends to fight with, we see people of African, Middle Eastern, and varying degrees of European descent. How did they all get there and why? Are there Dragon Riders from every land? We never find out. We also never find out what made Galbatorix betray his fellow Riders. Before long it all feels very much like the first film of a series, but we're left with character and situation sketches so brief that none of it encourages us to find out more.

The performances and CGI are also underwhelming, as neither lends itself to much praise. Veterans like Irons and Malkovich do their duty, but overall no one is given anything meaty to work with. Saphira looks cool, and I especially liked the leathery feathers of her wings, but none of the effects were so special that I was stunned by the skill used to render them.

Eragon would have benefited from having the physical world and back-stories fleshed out. A clearly defined universe that the audience can truly believe in and become immersed in is what great fantasy films are made of. │Adrienne Jones

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