Eragon is based off the novel by Christopher Paolini who began writing the novel (of the same name) at the age of 15. By the age of 17 he had a New York Times Bestseller on his hands, and is now working on the third and final book of the “Inheritance Trilogy.” The film, as I suspect the book does as well, plays very much like it came from the mind of juvenile. While that’s not all bad, it is limiting.
The story begins with a long prologue from an unseen narrator (Jeremy Irons) explaining the world of Alagaesa ruled by King Galbatorix (John Malkovich, who opens the film with what might be the dumbest line in cinema history) who has killed off all the dragons and taken control of the kingdom.
Arya (Sienna Gullory), a princess of, um, somewhere, steals the last dragon egg from the King’s fortress and sends it to a farm boy she has never met. Eragon (Edward Speleers) discovers the egg and keeps it safe until dragon, Saphira (Rachel Weisz), hatches and chooses Eragon to be its rider. With the help Brom (Irons), a man with a hidden knowledge of dragons and magic, Eragon tries to rescue Arya and become part of the rebel band to overthrow the king.
If any of this sounds a tad familiar you might have seen a tiny film called Star Wars which the film “borrows” many of it’s characters including the farm boy raised by his uncle and destined to be a magical warrior, the old wizard who teaches him, a princess kept in a hidden fortress, and much, much more.
Originality isn’t exactly this genre’s strong suit, but a little would have been helpful. But hey, the dragon looks pretty darn cool on screen and the relationship between dragon and dragon rider is one of the few that is both well thought out and explained.
Ergaon also feels like a book translated into film. The rise and fall of events in the movie may work fine in a book which needs strong endings for each chapter, but here such pacing doesn’t help. Nor does the limited dialogue (which almost no one in the cast gets through without looking foolish) or the limited world view of the author (who was 15 after all). The lack of explanation for many of this world’s enchantments is also troubling.
Despite these problems the film does have a certain charm. I can’t quite bring myself to recommend the film, but will say it’s a much better fantasy adventure for children than last year’s distasteful and woefully inept The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe – read my scathing review here). I think pre-teens and young teenagers will enjoy themselves. The rest of us can make do with enjoying the beautiful scenery and good special effects of the dragon. That’s more than I can say for most dragon films.