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Starring: Edward Speleers, Jeremy Irons
Director: Stefen Fangmeier
Rating: 2 / 5
It is not difficult to understand why a movie like Eragon was undertaken, as producers surely had visions of another Lord of the Rings franchise on their hands. With fantasy fans searching for something new to quench their thirst after Peter Jackson’s groundbreaking saga had run its course, it is only natural that film studios would attempt to fill the void. Unfortunately, while occasionally offering glimmers of promise, Eragon, the first – and now likely only – film adapted from writer Christopher Paolini’s novels, fails to capture even a fraction of the wonder – or the box office! – of its forbearer. At just over an hour and a half, the film is actually too short, offering little in the way of story or character development. This tale of wizards and dragons seeks to dazzle the imaginations of its audience, specifically the younger set (as evidenced by a PG rating), but it invariably falls short. What remains is an underdeveloped plot, paper-thin supporting characters, and two woefully underutilized film veterans.
In a mythical world, dragons and their chosen riders have kept peace and order for many, many years. That peace is shattered, however, when a young rider named Galbatorix (John Malkovich) leads an uprising, destroying all the other dragons and installing himself as ruler of the land. Some years later, with resistance efforts scattered and weak, a “legend” – which apparently grew in the twenty- or thirty-year span since Galbatorix took over – appears on the verge of being realized. A dragon’s egg is spirited away from the sinister king, into the hands of a young farm boy named Eragon (newcomer Edward Speleers). When the dragon hatches, it begins to form a powerful bond with Eragon, its chosen rider. The king is not about to surrender his rule to a young boy, however, and he dispatches waves of minions to find and destroy Eragon and his dragon. Only through the aid of the wise Brom (Jeremy Irons) is Eragon able to fend off these attacks. Soon, the two men venture forth to meet up with the last vestiges of the resistance and take the battle to the king.<.p>
In terms of quick back-of-the-book synopses, Eragon does not appear to be any better or worse than the next fantasy epic. It has heroes and villains, it has supernatural elements, and it has adventure. What it does not have, and this, unfortunately, is not apparent until the film begins, are compelling characters. Aside from Eragon, who plays like a young Luke Skywalker without the consequences for his rash actions, the supporting characters are either cardboard cutouts or retreads. Jeremy Irons is slotted into a role Liam Neeson (The Phantom Menace, Kingdom of Heaven) has repeatedly filled over the past decade, and he is underutilized in the film. John Malkovich, on the other hand, is completely wasted, on screen for mere minutes to growl and set up a menacing presence for future films. The rest of the players, including Eragon’s would be “love interest” and his friend with a tortured past, barely even merit a mention, so contrived is their presence in the movie.
The visual effects are impressive, although, with what we have come to expect from films these days, nothing in Eragon can truly be said to be revolutionary. The pacing of the story is less impressive, however, as some initial background gives way to a rushed journey. After mimicking the opening voiceover exposition deployed more effectively in Lord of the Rings, Eragon offers an interesting setup, with a beleaguered people, an unlikely hero, and the promise of excitement. In the blink of an eye – almost literally – the plot skips forward, as a baby dragon instantly grows in size and strength, our young hero takes to his new role, and drab villains are routinely dispatched. The epic journey that Eragon must undertake seems forced, not nearly as torturous as Brom would have us believe, and unoriginal. Worse still, with the movie winding down, it becomes almost painfully apparent that this effort is merely to set the stage for future adventures. If the box office performance of this one is a fair barometer, however, one film may be all there is, and we should all be thankful for that.
Certification: Rated PG for violence.
Running Time: 104 minutes.
Additional Info: Internet Movie Database
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