"Eragon" excels

Dec. 20, 2006, midnight | By Priyanka Gokhale | 14 years, 2 months ago

Bestseller-turned-movie rides into theaters

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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