Sunday, January 28, 2007

Eragon - What Went Wrong?

Because of poor reviews, we waited until Eragon hit second run before seeing it. In retrospect, this was a wise choice. The movie has all of the elements of a good fantasy tail, but it just feels off. In going into the problems, I'm going to give several spoilers. This shouldn't affect enjoyment of the movie since most of the surprises are telegraphed way ahead of time, anyway.

The plot is very similar to Star Wars - Eragon, a 17-year-old being raised on his uncle's farm finds a dragon. In short order his uncle is killed and he is hustled off by Brom, who knows all about being a dragon rider and teaches Eragon. Along the way they rescue a princess, Bron dies, Eragon picks up a sidekick, and they join the rebellion.

Despite the similarities, I don't think that it is a direct Star Wars rip-off. This general plot is too common to science-fiction and fantasy novels aimed at teen-age boys. George Lucas claims to have derived his plot from classic myth structure.

Anyway, the general plot isn't the problem. It is the execution.

At the beginning of the movie, the princess has just stolen a "stone" which she sends to a safe place by magic. The script dances around exactly what the "stone" is until it hatches but the audience knows that it must be a dragon egg.

The baby dragon is cute and we see a bit of its childhood. This seems to last two or three days. Eragon helps her to take her first flight. While in the air, she transforms into a nearly-grown, telepathic dragon with more wisdom than you would expect from something only-days old.

This is my first complaint. I would have liked to see the dragon growing up. This in-flight transformation seems like a cheat. It was probably done to account for the fact that the princess was being held prisoner and tortured. The plot dictated the speed that the dragon grew. The same is true of the rest of her growth. When Brom first looks her over he talked about "when she is fully grown." As it turns out, this only takes a week or two. The same is true for Eragon's abilities as a magician (being a dragon rider gives you magic abilities).

Then there is the princess. We never learn much about her. Why did she send the egg to Eragon? She has a telepathic connection to him from the beginning. Why?

I mentioned plot twists being obvious. Brom is the worst example. He has books on dragons. He knows all about them. He has a bit of magic of his own. The movie stops just short of hitting us over the head with a bat labeled, "Brom is a dragon-rider." Still it takes most of the movie before this comes out.

Star Wars gave us Darth Vader - one of film's most memorable villains. In Eragon, we have King Galbatorix, the last dragon-rider but he spends the movie lurking on his throne. Instead he sends Durza who is more unusual than threatening, even when he emulated Vader and kills the head "urgle"  (SP?) and promotes a different one. Near the end of the movie Durva's appearance suddenly changes. Is there a cut scene explaining this? Just one more problem.

The acting is OK. The special effects are great. Too bad the plot is such a mess.

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