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Dec. 20, 2006

"Eragon" excels

by Priyanka Gokhale, Online Editor-in-Chief
The most frequent complaint about the movie Eragon will be its similarity to other recent fantasy films. A fight in a dusty farmhouse will remind the audience of the famous Orlando Bloom and Johnny Depp "brawl-in-a-barn" scene from "Pirates of the Caribbean." The magic spells cast will "conjure" images from the most recent "Harry Potter" installment, and the plethora of sword-wielding and the presence of fantastical creatures are reminiscent of the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. But take these battles up with Eragon's author, Christopher Paolini—these parallels originated from the book, not the movie—because as a film, "Eragon" works.

Based on the book of the same name, which spent 87 consecutive weeks on the bestseller list, "Eragon," part of the "Inheritance Trilogy," tells the story of a struggle for freedom in Alagesia. The Middle Earth-like land was once kept in peace by the legendary Dragon Riders, who were humans or elves chosen by the dragons. When Galbatorix (John Malkovich)—one such Rider—had his dragon killed, he became corrupt and forced other Riders to join his evil brigade. Together, they killed the remaining Riders and Galbatorix became King of Alagesia.

Enter Eragon (Edward Speleers), a teenage boy who chances upon a dragon egg in the mountains behind his farm. The egg hatches into a adorable (yes, adorable), furry dragon named Saphira (voiced by Rachel Weisz), who grows into a beast of majestic proportions. When the "Ra'zac," Galbatorix's evil sycophants, kill Eragon's uncle, Eragon is moved to leave his land in search for the Varden, a predominant group of rebels.

The movie, like any adaptation of a book, deviates from the storyline. But the changes seem to work well on-screen. The biggest change seem to be the character roles; in the trilogy, Eragon's journey from boy to man is put on the back burner until the second book, whereas the film is able to showcase Eragon's transformation from a naïve farm-boy to a skilled Dragon Rider.

Speleers shines in his first major role and is able to capture the essence of the adolescent boy. Eragon is best portrayed when his uncle is killed, where he effectively expresses frustration, anger and self-hate (though this scene seemed to echo a similar one from "Spiderman"). Irons also gives a passionate performer as the seasoned fighter Brom. His transformation from teacher to friend throughout the film is well-acted, particularly through his relationship with Eragon.

In comparison with Speleers and Irons, the supporting cast delivers hackneyed performances. As Galbatorix, Malcovich seems to play the typical antagonist, complete with a fiery red throne chamber. Robert Carlyle delivers a similarly weak dramatization of the wicked sorcerer Durza, though that might be attributed to the predictable lines he delivers to flatter Galbatorix ("There is no one left for you to fear, my king!").

Shortcomings aside, "Eragon" is a successful adaptation of the award-winning book. True-blue fans of the "Lord of the Rings" and other such books and movies shouldn't waste their money, as Paolini certainly borrows a lot of elements from proclaimed fantasy works. But to all those looking for a fantasy adventure over winter break, "Eragon" is the perfect choice.

"Eragon" runs 99 minutes and is rated PG for fantasy violence, intense battle sequences and some frightening images. Now playing in area theatres.




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  • . (View Email) on December 20, 2006 at 10:08 PM
    "It may be worth the eight and a half bucks you have to pay the makers of 'Eragon' just to hear the great English actor Jeremy Irons say the line, 'Before you can cast a spell, you must learn the magic language of the elves.'" reads the Post's review. I thought that was funny.
  • Danny on December 21, 2006 at 1:54 AM
    I must disagree.

    The writing in this movie is bad, really, really bad. Speelers as Eragon has very little on-screen charisma, and apart from Irons, the acting is globally sub-par (even from Malkovich, though of course he wasn't given much to work with).

    The changes made from book to movie are reasonable and generally the right choices for an adaptation - but the abridged movie version runs up all too quickly against the pernicious question, "Why do we care?" Why do we care that Eragon's cousin is going to join the army? Why do we care that his uncle dies? ... though of course loss and death are sad things, we have no connection to the characters, no reason to root for the characters other than sheer good-guy-bad-guy conflict.

    The two best things about this movie:
    1) Jeremy Irons actually puts in a FINE performance with what little he is given. He is wry, wise, and the sole believable character in the movie.
    2) The Dragon is fantastic. It is seriously one of the most believable pieces of CGI I have seen in a while - it moves like an animal. It is also reasonably well-voiced, though I would have liked to see a bit more of an impatient, feral edge that the book's dragon displays on occasion.

    Oh, well. It was a really bad movie, but kinda fun - it definitely gets better if you can slog through the first half-hour or so.
  • Dan Murray on December 21, 2006 at 9:42 AM
    Worst movie ever.
  • pedestrian (View Email) on December 21, 2006 at 2:03 PM
    Good lord. The review of the movie was the exact opposite of the truth. The movie was perhaps the worst fantasy film in the history of western civilization. Reeves must've paid his girl to write a positive review on a horrendous movie worthy of cringe from its audience.
  • Joanna on December 21, 2006 at 9:16 PM
    Excuse me. This movie sucked. Ok, yes, it had cool graphics and stuff -- but excluding the fact that it TOTALLY DID NOT FOLLOW THE BOOK (I know that's not everything that makes a movie good, but it happens to be one of my pet peeves), it still was bad.

    "The movie, like any adaptation of a book, deviates from the storyline. But the changes seem to work well on-screen."

    No. No no no no noooo! "Deviates from the storyline"? More like totally kills it! They left out half the book and more! The changes did not work well on screen -- in fact, they wouldn't have had to make up a bunch of stupid things if they had just gone with what was in the book.

    I thought the movie moved way too fast -- I understand they have only a limited amount of time, but, come on! It was an hour and 40 minutes...they could have afforded to be a little longer. Alot of the story was lost and it could get confusing if you hadn't read the book.

    And since they moved so fast, another important thing was lost, which is -- character development! Or, really just character, to put it plain and simple. Eragon and Brom were the only two characters you ever really got any of an idea of. How about SAPHIRA, though, HUH? Seeing as she is THE dragon after all. No; Saphira was hardly portrayed at all, in my opinion. She was there, but it wasn't as if we learned anything.

    And then they just pretty much forgot about the other characters -- ESPECIALLY Murtagh. I mean, they just totally left that guy out, really. Which is a shame, because Murtagh was a very popular character with those that read the book. And Arya -- I understand changing a character a little, but what about giving them a totally different look and personality? Arya was such a flirt. Which is the TOTAL AND COMPLETE OPPOSITE of her real character.

    So, if you went and saw the movie without reading the book...the movie didn't really spoil anything for you.
  • this movie was TRASH on June 10, 2007 at 10:44 AM
    Wow. This movie was stunningly BAD. Everything about it was bad, no joke. Maybe Saphira was the highlight.

    The worst part is there can't even be a logical sequel to redeem the efforts of this atrocity. They messed with the plot so much that it can't continue.
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