PSA: Eragon (2006), or Beyond Your Wildest Dreams Lies A World Where Nothing Really Happens…

17 08 2009

In what is quickly turning into a theme this week, I have decided to devote this week to those films that were to be foundations for future franchises, but fell short somewhere along the line and ended up either stalling or stopping the series entirely from being made. I’m unofficially calling it Failed Franchises Week! I would make it official, but the last time I made a Week specifically for a genre and asked people to vote, my readership dropped so fast I thought I had actually died and my blog was the first person to know. So TECHNICALLY this is just another week, so don’t get all fickle on me, you lovely, lovely people, but I will be trying to dig up a couple of these throughout the week. Today we have a movie that almost went the distance, but couldn’t quite reach the station before it ran out of steam. Magical, mystical steam. Eragon came out in 2006; it had a $130 million budget, a mighty, mighty cast, and source material that, at the time, was a serious contender for J.K. Rowling’s jewel-encrusted crown made out of children’s bones. There was a massive amount of buzz around this movie, and how it would be the Next Big Thing (patent pending). Hell, even I saw this thing in theaters thinking there might be something to it. But I was also going to see a potential train-wreck, because by the time the movie had come out, there was so much negative buzz from the media and even some of the cast (Jeremy Irons admitted that the book wasn’t very well-written!) that it became the big talk of the town. I, being a man of science, decided to go out and verify its quality with impunity, and after innumerable tests in my mental laboratory, I quickly came to the realization that not only was I NOT a scientist, but Eragon was kinda bland and generic, the ultimate crime of a fantasy movie. Three years later, and not much has changed in my taste, but I have a tad more skill in expressing my displeasure than I did when I was 20, so allow me to elucidate.

As with Harry Potter’s extensive mythology, I won’t be covering all of this in my own words. I don’t feel like recanting the entire concept of Alagaesia (there’s an umlaut on that E, but it’s superfluous so I’m not using it), so I’ll just inform you that there is a young hero named Eragon who comes from humble origins, and his quest is to end the oppression of the people of Alagaesia under the hand of evil Emperor John Malkovich. With the power of a dragon named Saphira that he raised from an egg, he and his wizened old master named Jeremy Irons travel the nation from the quaint village hamlet he was born in to the great cities in search of the Varden, a group that he wishes to aid in overthrowing evil Emperor Malkovich. Some other stuff happens, including a guest spot by allegedly good R&B artist Joss Stone! And let’s not forget class-act Djimon Hounsou, who always reminds us, no matter what role he plays, to NEVER BACK DOWN!!!!!!!!!

Now, as I saw it, there were three basic problems with Eragon:

1. Too much exposition for a 100 minute long movie.

2. Not enough cool stuff happening for both an action-adventure movie and a 100 minute long movie.

3. Wasted potential with the cast and source material.

I could be cheeky, and write:

4. This movie sucks major dragon ass!

But I’m not so cheap as to go that route. It’s really a matter of setup and delivery. Eragon sets up so much stuff for not only its own movie, but for the movies that were supposed to follow. It’s like a lonely lady making food for a party; this movie made WAY too much!!! And when all the main character does is take a bite of a sandwich, drink half a Diet Coke, and jets after what seems like only a minute or two, it just seems like a huge waste to we, the filmgoers! This creates the current set of problems I have with it, in one form or another, and it could have easily been remedied with a little less CG and a little more film.

Eragon is also incredibly dull, for some reason. It has dragons, magic, and eccentric characters out the fucking wazoo, but it can’t seem to corral all of it together and cobble a decent sequence out of it. Instead, we get a lot of talking. Talking about things we don’t see, talking about things we don’t need to know. Why should I care about the poor, beleaguered Dragon Riders if I am not allowed to see them or witness their value to the story? Why should things not put up on screen in either subtext or imagery mean anything to me? But at least we can talk about them, so I guess that’s nice. If only we could’ve had a visual aid…

Oh, and Eragon also suffers from the deadly Dragonheart syndrome; instead of seeing healthy doses of dragon action, we’re tied up and forced to watch the noble dragon TALKING endlessly! Why would you EVER make such a fabulous and fantastical creature just so you could gab and expound? Not that I don’t appreciate Rachel Weisz stopping by and making an assload of money without even doing a proper voice for the dragon (not a voice that sounds like her normal voice, that is…), but Saphira ends up being a $50 million storytelling device that quickly becomes a nuisance the more she talks and the less she actually does cool dragon stuff.

I hate fantasy movie casts; this one is no different than any other. Can anybody in the acting industry do me a favor and pretend like you care about a project long enough for us to actually try immersing ourselves in the movie? It seems like the serious actors that are sucked into fantasy movies are giving up earlier and earlier now in their attempts to get over their shame and ignominy. Jeremy Irons actually gives up mid-movie here!!! He must have been so disgusted with himself that he had to get away ASAP, because Irons phones it in so much here that I was almost certain that by the end all I would see on-screen of him would be a cardboard cutout of him in a weary, heroic pose with his lines stripped from Die Hard With A Vengeance and superimposed onto a motionless mouth. Emperor Malkovich also disappoints, but that’s hardly a surprise in 2009 when Malkovich is so famous that he only REALLY comes to work for good directors like the Coens. First-time director Stefen Fangmeier didn’t have a chance getting this guy to act, so he had to relegate the main bad guy to only about three minutes of actual screen time, if that.

And what about first-time actor Ed Speleers as the main character, Eragon? Well, honestly, he didn’t do bad. I appreciated his charisma and his dedication to a script that was beyond saving. His character was, fittingly, the one ray of hope for a weakened, debilitated movie about a young man who was the one ray of hope for a weakened, debilitated world. Life imitating art, no?

Eragon will not have its desired sequel, most likely. Too little, too late. The third book in the series really didn’t meet expectations, the stars have all moved onto other projects, and it doesn’t seem like the interest is even there for the fans. It’s a grim outlook, to say the least. But be comforted in knowing that all the stars who appeared in this film were paid very well for all the grueling hard work they did as actors on this set. It helps me sleep better at night knowing that Alagaesia was populated with actors who weren’t just out to make a quick buck, but ones who really cared about the implications of Christopher Paolini’s meaningful literary gem about the fight between good and evil that exists within all of us. And dragons. *snicker* But I digress. This franchise is toast, and to send it off, I give it a firm but fair 3 1/2 cool off-screen events out of 10.

Tomorrow we continue with our failed franchises as we check out The Golden Compass!

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3 responses

17 08 2009
Kim

I thought Rachel Weisz’s voice over for Saphira was the only good thing about this disaster. It was the only thing that respected the book in my opinion while the rest of the film was terrible.

17 08 2009
cinematronica

I never read the books, truthfully. Would you recommend them, Kim? I’m kind of a closet fantasy fan…

18 08 2009
Kim

The books are very good, not as great as some make it out to be but much better than what was on screen for this film.

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