Nils Allen Stewart
The newest addition to the fantasy genre, which has undergone a transformation of late due to The Lord of The Rings and the Harry Potter series, is Eragon.
A coming-of-age fantasy adventure delivered by digital wizard Stefan Fangmeier, better known for his visual effects successes in Master and Commander and his Oscar nomination for The Perfect Storm, Eragon‘s posters suggest it is this Christmas’s blockbuster feature, showing off a sought after cast including John Malkovich, Jeremy Irons and Robert Carlyle across every bus stop and down every street. However, Fangmeier’s directorial debut falls somewhat short of these high expectations.
Eragon is a fantasy flick that sadly, due to predecessors such as Lord of The Rings, fails to find its feet. It has neither the outstanding special effects that we are becoming ever more used to, nor does it create much emotional impact, though it is, according to its director, trying to keep its roots firmly in a reality we can all relate to. It lies on uneven terrain, and as a result looks rushed and careless which it most probably was not. Emotionally connecting with a blue dragon called Saphira, voiced by a monotone Rachel Weisz has never been so difficult, and a cameo from R&B child prodigy, Joss Stone, as a blind fortune teller really didn’t help much either.
Eragon however is for a younger audience. Tots and teens will adore the swooping, soaring dragon and battle scenes and newcomer Ed Speleers, who plays Eragon is sure to be every 13-year-old’s newest pin-up. This film however won’t grab an older audience in the same way the Harry Potter and Lord of The Rings franchises did. Eragon is based on Christopher Paolini’s best-selling book of the same name. A teen himself when he wrote it, Paolini’s Eragon is the first instalment of his Dragonata trilogy with part one reaping remarkable success. The novel secured the number one spot in bestseller lists on its way to selling more than a million hardback copies.
The film tells the tale of Eragon, an abandoned farm boy who one day, while out hunting, discovers a big, bright, blue egg. After sometime the egg hatches and out pops a dragon called Saphira. Eragon then realises that his life has changed for good, he is no longer an orphan farm boy but in fact a dragon rider who must restore justice to the corrupted land of Alagaesia. Long ago Alagaesia was a land where dragons and their riders lived in harmony, until an evil rider named Galbatorix decided to succumb to greed and power destroying this golden age. Now King, Galbatorix will stop at nothing to kill Eragon and his dragon in his quest for eternal domination.
It throws up some confusing questions. On the one hand it’s sending out a message to adolescents that no matter who you are or where you come from you are the master of your own destiny, but on the other hand it suggests that if one take risks and listens to their instincts one will lose everyone who ever meant anything to them, everyone they ever loved. However you may be rewarded with a shining coat of armour, a possible love interest and hell, even a dragon so supposedly that’s ok. It lends a mouthpiece to dissatisfied youth claiming through Eragon and others that you can’t chose your mothers or your fathers and that broken homes are quite the norm.
The only women present are Arya, played by Sienna Guillory, and seemingly all the dragons. Guillory curiously describes her role as feisty and not one conveying a damsel in distress. However Arya is the quintessential damsel in distress. For the most part she is seen only writhing about in pain, screeching breathlessly as she is held captive by Galbatorix’s henchman Durza (Robert Carlyle). After an hour and a half of wails and moans she is rescued by none other than Eragon and the last we see of her is when a hint of an attraction between the two begins to blossom. Guillory is beautiful, elfin looking and a joy to watch, but coming-on to a doe-eyed considerably younger looking Ed Speleers was quite difficult to stomach.
A work of epic proportions, Eragon had to conform to some kind of blockbuster fantasy formula. A predictable score from Patrick Doyle drowns the action, and too many landscape panning shots may make some of the older audience members feel a little squeamish. The obligatory horses’ hooves galloping dramatically through a brook’s almighty spray wasn’t missed either, but perhaps the biggest disappointment of the film was King Galbatorix himself. As played by John Malkovich, he was no more intimidating or frightening than a mere hobbit. It was as if, en route to somewhere far more important, Malkovich had stopped off at the studio for half an hour, said his lines and left in a hurry. If he had put half as much into his role as the rest of the cast did, notably Robert Carlyle as the evil Durza and Jeremy Irons as the kindly old mentor Brom, then Eragon would have been considerably more credible.