Movie Review: Eragon

Well, as part of writing TUT I’m taking a look at modern fantasy writing, and certainly the Eragon “Inheritance Cycle” books are popular. I read Eragon (first book) and expressed some frustration and yet admiration in this post. The next step was to watch the movie. (Yeah, I know I’m four years late.)

NetFlix delivered and my wife and I watched. I could recognize some of the book, but the book is a lengthy epic and the movie tries to squash that into than 1 hour, 45 minutes. Good grief, even the Potter movies are 2:15 to 2:30. The directors left a good 45 minutes of storytelling on the cutting room floor. And it wouldn’t have cost any more money if they’d used the time to show Eragon’s emotional growth—all they needed was a bunch of close-ups letting him show his feelings.

What frustrated me about the movie is that it’s overstated. Eragon is too happy at first and smiles way more than a teen living under subsistence conditions has any right to. The evil king’s troops are pressing anyone they can find into the army, and yet he all but skips and hops home to have a friendly tussle with his cousin after which they grin and grin some more.

The dragon grows too quickly—from babe to teen in one flight. That seriously strained my willing suspension of disbelief. Why not have Saphira grow all the way up? Why stop her prior to her fire breathing stage? I suppose they wanted to collapse a rather interesting part of the book, Eragon’s growing relationship with the dragon, into about ten seconds.

The evil king’s castle looks like a comic book set piece. C’mon, no one lives in a castle like that. The art director would have done well to take lessons from Prince Caspian, which featured another evil king but did so in a believable way. I mean, there’s hardly any light in the Rider-gone-bad’s palace. How do his minions find their way?

And what really set me on edge was the final battle, which looked more like a series of comic book panels than a motion picture. Eragon’s armor is completely out of hand, looking like it’s made of thousands of jewels, not like standard mail at all. And the armor doesn’t cover his face, nor anything below the waist. Huh? And a lot of the fighters don’t look like they’re fighting—they’re just waiting to be blown up. No one shows any fear. No one struggles with anything. And when it’s over, no one mourns.

The movie neatly sets itself up for a sequel, except there won’t be one. IMDB would indicate the movie lost $25 million. With that sort of track record, the franchise ends right there.

What was really missing was any sense of growing up. After all, this is a coming of age book in which Eragon starts a boy and ends a man. But there’s no sense of this in the movie—he’s just a poor farm boy (as often mentioned) all the way through. Sad.

Alas, the movie could’ve been much better, even with the same script, if they’d just dialed back on the glitz and made it a gritty, real-life, believable movie. Eragon (Edward Speleers) shows he’s capable of real emotion, but isn’t given a chance to make anything of it.

This movie would make a great Saturday morning cartoon series for five-year-olds, but as it is it stamps the life out of Paolini’s narrative. At least the written word is authentically described from a teen’s point of view.

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