Page to Screen: Eragon (2006)

Eragon
based on the novel by Christoper Paolini

Eragon, which came out in 2005, feels like a little time capsule of my adolescence. (It was a time when I declared Christopher Paolini my archnemesis, so let’s not dwell upon me.) Reaction to Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings? Check! Aimed at young adults? Check! Avril Lavigne song over the credits? Check! While movies like this persist to this day, there’s a sensibility here that just brings me right back to middle school and high school. Perhaps because it’s a novel written by a high school kid adapted by a team of writers that… well… let’s just say that they’re not very good at their jobs.

Eragon starts with the young farmboy Eragon discovering a mysterious blue stone. After he fails to sell it, Eragon is astonished when it hatches to reveal a dragon—extremely rare and, supposedly, only under the control of the cruel King Galbatorix, who eradicated the Dragon Riders when he took power from them. Eragon raises the dragon, Saphira, in relative peace until the Empire comes looking for her, destroying Eragon’s home and killing his uncle. With the help of Brom, the local story teller, Eragon sets out to seek revenge. But fate has much more in store for Eragon; he becomes embroiled in a rebellion against the Empire as he struggles to come to terms with his destiny as the first of the new generation of Dragon Riders.

As I’ve said before in my review of the audiobook, Eragon is A New Hope set in Middle-Earth. It’s just not very good. But the film adaptation manages to be, of all things, worse. I’m trying to pinpoint an aspect of its badness for you guys, but it’s just all-around poor. There’s little time spent developing characters, let alone the “romance” between Eragon and Arya, and the plot is rushed through. The most egregious example of the last is Saphira going through dragon puberty in five seconds. Not in a montage, mind you, but in reality for… reasons. Naturally, we watched this in my film depreciation society; my fellow riffers found it, while good fodder, boring. And being boring is a cardinal sin for me.

I think part of the reason this film reminds of my adolescence is the surprising presence of Garrett Hedlund as Murtagh (which I’ve been pronouncing as Murtaugh for an embarrassingly long time). This was back when his management was trying to sell him as a teen heartthrob, as they did in Troy, where he played Patroclus. Other than him and Jeremy Irons, the cast is made up of unknowns and new actors. Joss Stone has a cameo as Paolini’s self-insert character for his sister, but the scene feels awkwardly like the film is trying to tick off fantasy film cliches faster than it can dish them out. It’s a decent, efficient cast, unfortunately saddled by a very poor script. I should also mention the costuming. There is a character that wears jeans while he’s onscreen, and I’m very uncomfortable by the Native American costume design for the elves, who are all played by white actors. There’s a way to do it right, but seeing Sienna Guillory, who looks like a baby Tilda Swinton, in those clothes isn’t it. Really, it’s just a mess.

There is, however, a single saving grace in this film, and his name is Jeremy Irons. I don’t know why Irons is actually giving a damn here versus his deliriously hammy stylings in Dungeons and Dragons (why, yes, I have a cripplingly weakness for crap fantasy films, why do you ask?). I think he might be taking pity on Ed Speleers. I don’t wish to say anything ill of the young actor, but I will say that his facial expressions sent my film depreciation society into fits of giggles. Godspeed, Ed, godspeed. But Irons gives Brom heart, bitterness, and, of course, snark. The idea that he was forced to commit genocide to avenge his dragon is really a fantastic note, giving him enough guilt to justify his actions. Unfortunately, Obi-Brom Kenobi dies halfway through protecting Eragon, so the best part of the movie is the first half. (I also thoroughly enjoyed his apparently three-breasted vest. Seriously, there are way too many notions on that thing.)

Bottom line: The film adaptation of the already subpar Eragon is a hot mess, but it has a single saving grace—Jeremy Irons. Who, unfortunately, abandons the film halfway through. Avoid.

You can read my review of the audiobook here.

I rented this DVD from the public library.

7 thoughts on “Page to Screen: Eragon (2006)

  1. Irons is great. Malkovich too, although he’s probably been in even more really ridiculous films than Irons, and he’s pretty ridiculous in this one. At least Irons has that gravelly voice.

    Eragon is the second worst reviewed book on my blog, but I’ve got to agree that its movie adaptation is even worse than the book.

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