There are some movies that just shouldn’t be made. I’ve reviewed my share of them and I had hoped that Eragon would have escaped the fate that Supergirl suffered only a few months ago. Unfortunately I am instead given another movie that is not altogether bad, but very…useless.
Eragon was first unleashed upon the world in book form from the mind of young Christopher Paolini. It’s to be admired that someone of his age (I believe he was fifteen when he wrote Eragon) could write a novel such as Eragon, let alone get it published…but it’s also to be looked down upon as he can’t seem to write anything original. His story reeks of past fantasy films and novels (and why shouldn’t it? His own inspiration for Eragon was simply because he ran out of fantasy books to read at his local library) and even channels a bit of Star Wars with a “farmboy” who is forced into a life that he could never have dreamed of to ultimately save the land.
The story itself is no more imaginative than the stories Paolini no doubt read countless tales of: a civilization in despair and in need of a hero who just happens to be a young boy who is clueless about how awesome he truly is. Throw a dragon egg into the mix and some magicians and you have yourself a fantasy tale set in medieval times that makes for a tale of all the fantasy films that came before it, thrown into a blender and poured out into a glass that no one really wants to drink.
After Eragon’s uncle is killed during an attack on the village in an attempt to kill Eragon, Eragon and Brom, his mentor, set out on their adventure where they encounter villains along the way and train along the way. Eragon eventually gets some dream that has Arya in it telling him to come rescue her (which is a ploy by the Shade Durza to kill Eragon). Eragon half succeeds as Brom dies in the attack while attempting to save Eragon…then they cross some more land and we’re given more shots of Saphira making fancy dives and swoops. The movie culminates in a resounding battle where everyone survives unscathed and ready to set up the plot for the next movie—which I hope doesn’t come to fruition, as it’d be a true waste of money.
It’s not to say the story doesn’t have some charm, but it’s really just so mediocre. It does nothing new, none of the actors stand out and the dialogue really does come out of the actor’s mouths like a fifteen year old wrote it. While that’s the truth, it doesn’t mean I want to watch a movie that gives me the truth—I’d rather the dialogue be spruced up, even if it varies from the book. Fans of the series will growl at that, but they can’t exactly claim to be fans of the most original fantasy work.
From the Obi-Wan Kenobi (Brom) to Arwen (Arya, whose actress even freakin’ looks like Liv Tyler) and the ridiculous names that litter the movie (immediately alienating the viewer as you feel you’re supposed to understand just what the hell all of these Lord of the Rings sounding names exactly are), the movie is from start-to-finish a textbook fantasy title.
Ultimately Eragon is just treading over soil that has been stomped on by Jawas, Orcs and Wizards already and throws in a bit of dragon magic into the mix. It’s nothing special and while I may be repeating that an awful lot already in this review, it has to be said—there’s nothing in this film that’s worth putting your attention on. The acting, special effects and story telling are neither horrible nor bad—they’re just there. You can get better from past fantasy films.
Unfortunately for me, I was lured into thinking Eragon would be an epic film merely from its packaging. The two-disc set features a foil reflective slip cover that houses nothing more than Saphira belching fire and “2-Disc Special Edition” spread across the top of the movie logo. Its simplicity is attractive to the eye as it’s not cluttered with names, images or any movie quotes. In retrospect, it’s probably because there aren’t any big names in the movie, nor is there really many critics quotes they could probably pull from. Inside the amaray case are the two discs, an insert listing chapter titles and advertisements for future FOX releases.
It’s almost shocking how much effort they put into a release for a movie that didn’t do so hot in both box office and reviews. The film itself packs not only a 5.1 Dolby track but also a 5.1 DTS track and director commentary. On top of that is a healthy dose of special features crammed onto the second disc.
Starting off with the menus on the set, I have immediate issues. While the first disc is easy to navigate, the second disc has an obnoxious menu set-up that is a map of the land featured in Eragon with all the village names (gee, I haven’t seen one of these type of maps before!). On top of this you’re given only the name of the villages and you have no idea what you’re clicking on. Is it behind-the-scenes featurettes? Nope, they’re movie trailers which no one wants to watch. Back to the main menu! What one shall I blindly click on next? It’s an annoying way to add some flair to the menus and is completely unnecessary.
On the first disc is the movie, various audio tracks and director’s commentary. The video on the release is strong—it boasts a clear image, great clarity and dark colors in the appropriate scenes. There is some compression to be seen, but this is to be expected as red tones are plentiful in this film. Audio is a powerhouse at times and entirely quiet in others. It doesn’t really do much with the rear channels, but the front channels have a high level of oomph to them, especially during the battle/dragon sequences. The DTS track takes slight advantage over the Dolby track, though this is to be expected—I just didn’t notice as much of a difference between the two as I have with previous films I’ve reviewed. Spanish and French Surround tracks finish the movie-only tracks.
The commentary track is neither extremely interesting nor completely boring. The director offers some interesting facts up on the film and his inspirations, but I would’ve liked to had a few more people in on the commentary—some actors and hell, maybe even Paolini.
Disc two packs in all the extras fans (really, are there fans of this series?) will want to watch, but not necessarily anyone. A fifty-minute documentary is first up (if you click on it first, that is. I don’t even remember which map name it’s thrown under) and features interviews from all the important figures involved: Paolini, directors, writers, special effects and, of course, the actors. We even get some interesting behind-the-scenes dialogue with Edward Speleers (Eragon), describing what it’s like to act in a scene with someone that’s “dead.” It’s clearly his first acting role when he recounts his feelings and it makes it all the more interesting to watch. Given the right story, Speleers could be a helluva good actor…this film just didn’t test him too well (or anyone involved, for that matter).
In addition to the behind the scenes featurettes, we have deleted scenes, character featurettes, animatic sequences, concept art gallery’s, storyboard galleries, visual effects featurttes, CGI featurettes, pronunciation guide (because we all want to know how to say the names of these characters properly) and nearly all of them feature commentary by the director. Aside from the documentary, I really don’t recommend anyone watches these extras as it doesn’t offer anything we haven’t seen before on past films—we’ve seen how CGI work is done and we’ve seen how sets are constructed, so there’s nothing really new here that will “wow” anyone. As with the film, its extras are generic…not completely unexpected, but still disappointing.
Overall there’s nothing to standout on either the movie or its DVD release. It’s a shame—I could see a film such as this being successful, if only it had more originality. Seeing dragons fly around on-screen is as cool as it was back in Dragonheart and Reign of Fire, even if they were mediocre. Hmm…starting to see a trend with movies that have dragons in them…