This review has been ‘repurposed’ from my other site, theOneliner.com
There is, I’m told, nothing new under the sun. Can’t remember where I read that, but I’m sure it was a good book. Even with that in mind it’s difficult not to feel a nagging sense of overfamiliarity with Eragon. Let’s see if you can spot the influences from this potted recap.
Eragon (Edward Speleers) is a simple farm hand living with his uncle after his mother had to flee in mysterious circumstances. No, it’s not a moisture farm. He stumbles across a mysterious McGuffin that changes his life forever, not a message laden robot but a shiny rock that, as will come as no surprise to anyone that’s seen the poster, isn’t a rock. It’s a dragon egg; contents 1 (one) dragon, Saphira (Rachel Weisz, or as IMDb would tell you Rachel Weisz (voice), as though there’s anyone on the face of the earth that needs to be told it’s only her voice and that Weisz has not in fact turned into a big blue CG fire breathing dragon). After what can’t have been more than twelve minutes Eragon is revealed as the last Dragonrider, the last great hope for a vastly outnumbered band of multi-racial rebels, a rebel alliance, if you will, to overthrow the tyrannical, evil Emperor, sorry, King Galbatorix (John Malkovich) and his right hand magician Darth. Sorry, Durza (Robert Carlisle).
Phew! Quite a lot to take in, there. Imagine, if you will, compressing the three original Star Wars films into 100 minutes and dropping them into Middle Earth and you’re not far off the rushed, abridged epic feel of Eragon. Let’s deftly side step any claims of great originality on Lucas’ part in the first place and instead point out that David Eddings has essentially already achieved, with far more style and panache, a Star Wars/Lord of the Rings hybrid in his Belgariad series of books.
Of course, there’s ‘being influenced by’ and there’s ‘wholesale theft from’, and Eragon veers dangerously towards the latter. Readers of a certain stroke may recall Sensible World of Soccer or versions of Pro Evo Soccer that went unlicensed by FIFA (Milud, I crave the court’s indulgence, relevance will be shown forthwith) where team and player names were extraordinarily similar to their obvious real world parallel, typically shifted by one letter. A similar relationship holds with Eragon and Tolkien’s Middle Earth. Eragon, meet Aragon. Rebels here are the Varden, one of the Elven races in Tolkien’s master work was the Valen. Tolkien’s sub-human footsoldiers of evil were the Urak-Hai, here we’ve the Urgals. The tangentially touched upon magic system is eerily reminiscent of Ursula K. Leguin’s Earthsea books. There’s inspired, and then there’s inviting litigation, and this veers dangerously towards the latter.
Okay, provenance aside, is this any cop? That’s all that’s really important anyway, but sadly the answer is no, it’s very little cop indeed. The novel by Chumpstain McBollockchop (Ed – check this name, suspect erroneous) on which this is based was written when he was seventeen, and it shows. If Carlyle, Malkovich and particularly poor Jeremy Irons, who really deserves far better, are not rewarded with Oscars purely for straight-faced delivery of hamfisted, juvenile dialogue justice will be said to have been miscarried. To his credit, young Speleers gives an earnest reading of his role which saves it from complete laughability despite the best succinct description I can muster for this film being ‘cornball’.
Much of Eragon exists purely to allow for big CGI set-piece battles and so on, but even they aren’t going to save its bacon. Mainly because the CGI isn’t particularly good. This is not the same as saying it’s particularly bad. In fact, the CGI is competent to the point of being utterly unremarkable, and certainly not the jaw-dropping spectacle it would have to be to redeem Eragon from the anonymity of such abject mediocrity.
Essentially all Eragon ever wants to be is a poor man’s LotR, and that’s all it ever is. As such, you could make a case for it being a success, and if you watch it with suitably low expectations then you won’t that disappointed by it. This rather begs the question of, “Why bother with the half-assed version when I’ve got the still jaw-dropping, technically superior, dramatically light-years ahead movies it seeks to imitate sitting on my shelf?” and I’ll be damned to hell and back if I can come up with any kind of answer that has the outcome of you spending the better part of a tenner on Eragon
I pause to make the assertion that, as with every film Bobby Carlyle has been in since Trainspotting, this would be far more entertaining if he’d played his role as per Begbie.