Eragon is a lifeless fantasy adventure based on 15-year-old Christopher Paolini’s phenomenally successful novel, the first book in his epic “Inheritance Trilogy”.
Newcomer Ed Speleers plays the titular character, a young farm boy from the mystical land of Alagaesia who happens upon a dragon’s egg one day while out hunting. Unaware of the significance of his find, Jeremy Irons pops up to hit him with reel upon reel of confusing exposition about the history of “dragon-riders” and an evil king called Galbatorix (Malkovich) who now rules the land through fear. After 5 minutes of sword training and a quick flying lesson from his new pet, Eragon sets off to save the day, although with two books left in the series he doesn’t get much done by the time the credits finally appear.
Buchman has struggled to chop down the 500+ page book into a manageable narrative and the plot may prove too confusing for youngsters, who are clearly the target audience, to follow.
Stefen Fangmeier, a visual effect wizard in his directorial debut, takes everything far too seriously and rather than lightening the mood with moments of comic relief piles one scene of uninspiring CGI trickery on top of another, culminating in a final battle that resembles a cheap Peter Jackson knock-off.
Of the big name cast, Irons (who should have known better after his outing in 2000’s abysmal Dungeons & Dragons) injects some oomph but gets knocked off far too soon, while Carlyle and Malkovich are reduced to pantomime cameos, and Weisz is horribly miscast as the voice of the dragon. As for Speleers, who looks like he has stumbled onto the set looking for an Abercrombie & Fitch photo shoot, the less said the better. Before the climactic battle he boldly states, “I know what I have to do” before flying off. Let’s just hope he’s talking about getting some acting lessons before episode two.
For any fans out there, and there must be some as Eragon took $75 million at the US box office (some way off its $100 million budget however), this special edition DVD release certainly won’t disappoint.
As well as an enthusiastic audio commentary, German director Stefen Fangmeier gives his take on seven deleted scenes, none of which add much excitement to proceedings but do give us a bit more background on the main characters. Next up is a behind the scenes documentary which tracks the movie from its initial conception to the post-production stages, via the wilds of Hungary and Slovakia where most of the action took place.
There’s also plenty of detailed discussion about the design process – Fangmeier’s bread and butter – in the “Vision of Eragon” featurette, and a host of other extras including Speleers’ original audition tape and an interview with Eragon author Christopher Paolini, who has now sold over 8 million copies of his books worldwide and is still only 23.
Following in the footsteps of The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and last year’s Chronicles of Narnia, Eragon is a cynical attempt to cash in on the festive fever for fantasy adventures.
Peter Buchman’s script borrows from elements of all three, while also baring a striking resemblance to the opening episode of the Star Wars trilogy – the lowly farm boy as the main character, Jeremy Irons in the Obi-Wan role, and an unexplained absent father who more than likely will turn out to be the evil turncoat Galbatorix in one of the later episodes.
Staring: Ed Speleers, Jeremy Irons, Robert Carlyle, John Malkovich, Rachel Weisz, Sienna Guillory, Garrett Hedlund, Djimon Hounsou, Joss Stone
Directed by: Stefen Fangmeier
Extras: Audio commentary by Stefen Fangmeier, 7 extended/ deleted scenes, Inside the Inheritance Trilogy: The Magic of Eragon featurette, The Inhabitants of Alagaesia featurette, Vision of Eragon featurette with optional commentary by Stefen Fangmeier, Storyboards, Ed Speleers auditions, Interview with Christopher Paolini, The Secrets of Alagaesia featurette, Saphira's Animation Guide, Trailers