In fairness to this review, I really didn’t have to go to the movie, or anything. It was offered, and I said yeah because the only other thing I want to see that was out didn’t really fit the multigenerational family demographic. So during my split holiday weekend we went out to see Eragon. I had heard nothing particularly positive about the book, and the previews left me cold. On the other hand, I’m hardly one to fault my grandmother for being into the fantasy genre. Wow, though, does it fall short now and again.
Complaint number one: bad opening exposition. This is the kind of thing naysayers have in mind when they complain that fantasy is a bunch of non-existent animals held together by made-up country and race names. I know I read these things all the time, and none of them have countries that are any less made-up and fake-sounding, but for some reason this one grated. On top of which, no more than half of the exposition was necessary; most of it was retold during the movie anyhow. Complaint number two: Eragon. How can anyone, good guy or bad guy alike, fail to realize that he’s the new dragonrider? For crying out loud, his name is a typo of dragon! Complaint number three: non-novel. I understand that there’s a reason why Joseph Campbell wrote books about this stuff, but now that it’s in the public consciousness, you have to try to be a little different, or it still feels like plagiarism. I mean, farmboy chosen for greatness, uncle killed while bad guys were looking for the farmboy, crazy old local man turns out to have knowledge to pass on, pretty girl in the clutches of evil must be rescued despite the risks, join up with that rebellion the farm boy has heard about? I’d be worried about spoilers, but society has spoiled this movie for everyone, 20 years ago or more. I’ll be kind of astonished if Eragon and Arya (the pretty girl) don’t turn out to be siblings by the third movie. (Eragon, after all, has mysterious parentage! Shocking.)
The good stuff did exist, but even most of it was tainted. Beautiful Hungarian countrysides, check. But why do fantasy movies always have wide panning shots of people riding along admittedly awesome ridgelines? Because it’s a great shot, I know, but you have to consider, at some point, that people who are fleeing from pursuing armies a) are unlikely to find a path that happens to run along a ridge and b) wouldn’t want to if they could, because you could literally not be easier to find than outlined on the highest point of surrounding land as you gallop for mile after mile. Plus, way too many of those shots where you zoom in while moving the camera backward (or possibly the reverse of that). They already get a little overused to convey shock or terror in horror / suspense movies, but that’s genre-wide; this film by itself used enough such shots to fill up an entire year of movies from those genres.
Huh. I was supposed to be talking about good things, there, and it got away from me. Which I suppose says something, but I’ll soldier on. Lessee. There was the scenery, and the effects were more often good than bad, and the baby dragon was nearly as cute as Sienna Guillory was hot. (Did I mention those cheekbones? And the form-fitting leather armor was also of the goodness.) I’m reminded of another complaint at this point, though: some people made a set of armor for the dragon, right? Sure, that’s reasonable. And they said they worked through the night to do it. Fair enough, if you have the materials and manpower, I’m not going to kvetch about whether that’s reasonable or not. And… all of the pieces had patterns tooled into them. Despite having been made over a 12 or so hour span. Would it have been that hard to say we made them a long time ago, hoping that the prophecy of the dragonrider would come true? Or for the costume people (well, no, let’s be honest, the CGI people) to have them be plain beaten metal, no pattern included? ‘Cause that’s just too ridiculous for words.
Anyway: the movie has convinced me not to read the book, but I’ll probably see the sequels, in hopes that John Malkovitch eventually wins. Oh, and speaking of good things, the misunderstood rogue that may or may not be a traitor, and contrariwise may or may not have a heart of gold? He was alright. Plus, cool red sword. Well, and the dragon was alright too, but I feel sorry for her that she had to be involved. Hoarding treasure and hunting the occasional deer would have been a much better life. Or she could’ve picked Sienna to be her rider. (Can I call you Sienna?)