Half way through this movie I suddenly twigged: I’ve seen this film before. No, not Lord of the Rings, but Star Wars. Even right down to the hairstyle of lead actor Edward Speleers—which looks exactly like Mark Hamill’s 70s mop when he played Luke Skywalker—the story arc is a carbon copy of George Lucas’ classic.
Eragon (Speleers) is a young farm boy who discovers a dragon egg, and becomes the first Jedi, sorry, Dragon Rider in a generation. He makes friends with Brom (Jeremy Irons), an Obi-Wan Kenobi figure, who teaches Eragon the ways of the Dragon. While escaping from the evil and repressive King Galbatorix (John Malkovich) and his magician second-in-command Durza (Robert Carlyle) Eragon rescues Arya (Sienna Guillory), a rebel princess held captive on the king’s orders.
There’s a big showdown at the rebel fortress in the mountains, where Eragon manages to show-off his new found dragon skills with Saphira, his fire-breathing dragon voiced by Rachel Weisz. Some of the aerial battle scenes with the dragons look amazing, which shouldn’t be surprising because director Stefen Fangmeier worked as a visual effects supervisor at ILM on movies such as Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004), Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003) and Saving Private Ryan (1998) before stepping behind the camera for the first time with Eragon.
But visual effects aside, there is very little to commend this movie, which is dull beyond belief, with stilted acting from Speleers and b-movie dialogue care of screenwriter Peter Buchman. Even the established actors, such as Jeremy Irons, struggle to mine some kind of depth to the words, and John Malkovich resorts to his rent-a-baddie technique of speaking really slowly, hoping that translates to menacing on the big screen. Robert Carlyle makes a game fist as Durza, all bad skin and pale contact lenses, but with so many poor performances, it pulls the average down leaving Carlyle and Irons floundering.
The movie is based on the book of the same name written by a home-schooled teen from Paradise Valley, Montana. Christopher Paolini followed up Eragon with a sequel Eldest, and a third, unnamed work in the trilogy is set to be released soon. Initially released through his parents’ publishing house, Eragon was picked up by Knopf, a subsidiary of Random House, and became a cult hit amongst teens.
The action onscreen differs in some key ways to what occurs in the novel, and has drawn flack from de-hard fans of the book. However, I suspect it would take more than reintroducing the missing elements to save this plodding feature.
Stefen Fangmeier’s relative lack of experience in dealing with actors and stacking the action through three acts is readily apparent, and makes Peter Jackson look like a demi-god by comparison. As it stands, Eragon, is derivative, sub-Tolkein fantasy guff, and I hope that the plans for a sequel (strongly hinted at in the movie’s final moments) are abandoned , because I for one would not want to sit through another dose of Eragon’s humdrum adventures.