Sunday, December 17, 2006

Review of ERAGON

"I liked the part where Darth Vader rides the Balrog."

A long time ago and far, far away, there was an empire ruled by a cruel tyrant. It had been a realm that was originally looked after and protected by an order of mystical warriors, until they were betrayed and wiped out years before by the dark lord. The emperor ruled with an iron fist... but an alliance of rebels threatened his power. As the story begins, a beautiful princess is attempting to deliver something important out of the grasp of the evil forces. She is captured by a malevolent henchman, but not before sending what she is carrying out of harm's way. Her package falls into the possession of a young farm boy who lives with his uncle on a remote homestead. And then the young man is told by a wise hermit that he is destined to be a great warrior, and that a magic force flows through him...

The point where I started giggling during the movie Eragon was when the namesake character (Edward Speleers) is standing outside the farmhouse at dusk and wistfully looking at the setting sun. They should have just went ahead and made it a dual sunset and gotten it over with, because Eragon is not just kinda like Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope... IT IS STAR WARS EPISODE IV!

I'm sorry... I just can't get that thought out of my head. Lisa and I saw Eragon at the Carousel Grande in Greensboro this afternoon and from the very first moments of the movie, the parallels to Star Wars Episode IV were blaringly obvious. Let's see: evil empire, check. Princess on a mission, check. Farm boy dreaming of adventure, check. Evil right-hand lackey to the emperor who can choke people without touching them, check. Rebel alliance, check. Grizzled warrior who has been living the life of an exile while waiting for a new hope, check...

...It was so bad that when Eragon is trying to rescue Lei... I mean Arya (Sienna Guillory) I was almost expecting him to plop on an Imperial Stormtrooper helmet before walking into the place.

Oh yeah, the burning homestead with the dead uncle: that's in Eragon too. So is the trip into – and daring escape out of – Mos Eisley.

The plot may have been ripped-off from Star Wars Episode IV but a lot of the visual elements seem to have been at least partly inspired by The Lord of the Rings movies. There are these guys, I think they're called Ogres in the movie – there are also evil beings called Rajas and Urkels – but they look too much like the Orcs from Peter Jackson's trilogy. There's also this entire horde of big bald guys, I don't know what they’re supposed to be. And then there's that thing that Darza (who's something called a "Shade" and is played by Robert Carlyle made up to look like the moldering corpse of Lucius Malfoy from the Harry Potter movies) is riding on. It looks so much like the Balrog from The Fellowship of the Ring that all that was missing was Gandalf screaming "YOU SHALL NOT PASS!"

The effects were great. Not the best I've seen though. So far as onscreen dragons go the Hungarian Horntail from last year's Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire felt more convincing than Saphira (voiced by Rachel Weisz... which to me sounded way too sweet for a dragon) does here.

The thing that I liked most about Eragon was Jeremy Irons. Which Jeremy Irons is one of my all-time favorite actors anyway, so maybe I'm being biased. But here in Eragon Irons is doing his darned bloody best to convince us that not only is his character Brom real, but so is this world around him. Brom was my very favorite character in Eragon. And Jeremy Irons is really good here, even when he's forced to speak dialogue that sounds more like something out of Krull or Yor: Hunter from the Future or one of those other Eighties-era fantasy flicks than from a best-selling novel of the early 21st Century.

No, I haven't actually read the novel, although plenty of people – including Lisa and "Weird" Ed – have told me that I should. I did start reading Christopher Paolini's book several months ago but couldn't get past the first few chapters: think I only got as far as Eragon getting tutored by Brom about the history of the Dragon Riders. I was so occupied with the school board campaign the past few months that time for pleasurable reading was very hard to come by. At the time I really did find it to be a pretty hard book to find very appealing... but maybe I'll give Eragon the book another chance. And perhaps after that the movie will be a lot more fun to watch.

So... did I actually like Eragon the movie?

It was an okay way to spend a Sunday afternoon. But I wasn't overwhelmed nearly as much as I would have hoped. I'm not going to say I was completely "underwhelmed" by Eragon either, though. It was nothing like a Star Wars or Harry Potter movie, but I don't regret seeing it, even though I just wish that I could have enjoyed it more and especially for feeling like there was something here that I hadn't already seen before. Unfortunately, Eragon was way too predictable.

But for a movie that I was constantly snickering at, I have to say that I'm compelled to give Eragon another chance to win me over. Which is something that I normally wouldn't do for a movie like this. And the only reason I'm going to give that much grace to Eragon is because of that very last scene in the movie, when Galbatorix the evil king (played by John Malkovich) slashes the giant map with his sword and what we see behind it. That final scene shows a LOT of promise. For that reason alone would I not only try to watch Eragon again, but I would even say that I hope this merits a sequel.

It would have to be one heckuva good second chapter though, to make this adaptation of the first installment from Paolini's "Inheritance Trilogy" worth watching again in the years to come. I sincerely hope that the producers of this film can pull that off.


Anonymous said...

I'm so happy, after flitting about different blogs, to know I'm far from the only one to go "lol sunset!" and other things while looking at the shot-by-shot reconstruction of other movies here. Ohboy.