ERAGON

 

 

Review by Mark Walters

 

This new fantasy film mixes elements of popular franchises like THE LORD OF THE RINGS and HARRY POTTER, creating a new storyline geared towards younger audiences. The story follows a teenage boy named Eragon (Ed Speleers), who becomes the recipient of an unhatched dragon egg, which was formerly property of an evil king named Galbatorix (John Malkovich). The king sends his right hand man Durza (Robert Carlyle) to retrieve the egg and kill the boy. Eragon's egg hatches, and he finds himself secretly raising a blue dragon. When not busy with his new pet, he befriends a local villager named Brom (Jeremy Irons), who tells tales of a time when dragon riders ruled.  Eragon's dragon learns to fly, and grows to full size in a matter of seconds. Soon he confides in Brom, and allows the man to teach him the ways of a dragon rider, so that he may hopefully challenge the king. But with Durza and his minions in pursuit, can an inexperienced young man like Eragon possibly hope to survive?

This film was based a popular children's book, written by a young man named Christopher Paolini, who graduated high school at the age of 15, and passed his time waiting for college by writing novels. With movie franchises like THE LORD OF THE RINGS and HARRY POTTER being so popular, Hollywood is always on the lookout for the next big thing for younger audiences. Is this it? Possibly. I got to see the film with a audience peppered with children of all ages. Most everyone (including adults) seemed to love the dragon, which is very nicely done with CGI. Saphira (the dragon's name, voiced by Rachel Weisz) has a warm and endearing personality, and it's hard not to like her as a character. I'm not used to the idea of a female dragon, but it works here, pretty well actually. The only downside comes from a plot element in which the dragon and Eragon communicate telepathically.  So there are several shots of just their faces, with no mouth movement, yet we hear their thoughts.  Kinda weird.  Remember DRAGONHEART with Dennis Quaid and Sean Connery as the voice of the dragon?  To me that worked beautifully.  Watching that dragon talking to Dennis Quaid just plain worked.  But in this movie the telepathy thing really bothered me.  Not sure if kids cared, or even fully realized what was going on, but hey, the dragon looks cool.

Now let's talk about the acting.  Jeremy Irons is pretty good here, at least a lot better than you might expect.  I felt like he was honestly into his character, and it shows on screen.  However John Malkovich gives a hacked out and at times dreadful performance as the evil king.  He has about four different scenes, all taking place in the same setting, never leaving the area around his throne.  It's painfully obvious they shot all of his scenes at once, probably over a matter of a few hours.  Robert Carlyle is a little over the top as Durza, and his look changes drastically about halfway through the film without any real reason given.  I didn't hate his portrayal, but I've seen him do better... MUCH better actually.  But the real prize here goes to young Edward Speleers.  This first time actor knocks it out of the park in every scene.  He is honestly phenomenal.  There's been rumors of him being picked from something like 180,000 screen tests.  Not sure if that's true, but he was clearly the right choice.  There's an innocence in him, and a genuine unforced acting ability that stands out.  I fully expect we'll be seeing more from Eddie.  Rachel Wiesz as the voice of Sephira is a great choice.  She's always had a loveable tone to her voice, yet knows how to convey anger and intimidation when necessary.  There are some ancillary characters, such as a damsel in distress named Arya (Sienna Guillory) who is being held by Durza, and a mysterious young ally named Murtagh (Garrett Hedlund), but they're unfortunately underdeveloped and leave little to no impression on the audience when everything is said and done.  Also look for brief and unfortunately underwhelming appearances by Djimon Hounsou and singer Joss Stone.

Sounds like I hated it, right?  Is ERAGON a bad movie?  No on both counts.  These days I must remind myself that movies like this aren't made for me anyway.  They're done for kids, and from what I can tell the kids liked what they saw.  Heck, that dragon was enough to put a smile on their face, and at times mine.  Chances are it would be enough to keep them wanting more.  Aside from Speleers impressive first-time performance, I wasn't blown away by it, but I found it about as fun as some of those HARRY POTTER films everyone seems so crazy about... so there's that.

BIGFANBOY.com score - On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being best, I give ERAGON a 7.


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