At a recent screening of “Eragon,” a woman lamented, “It’s like a teenage guy wrote this.” She was right.The first book of Christopher Paolini’s The Inheritance Trilogy was published in 2002 when the author was only 19 years old.
The movie adapted from Paolini’s massive debut novel is clearly aimed his demographic, with a quasi-medieval setting full of swords, sorcery, a pretty moonlighting singer (Joss Stone) and the occasional dragon. It also has a plot that seems more like a template than a story, sketchy characters and groan-inducing dialogue.
It’s difficult to keep a straight face when the evil king Galbatorix (John Malkovich) bellows, “I suffer without the stone.” Without having read the book, it’s hard to tell if Paolini or screenwriter Peter Buchman is to blame for this linguistic fumble, but hearing it immediately gets “Eragon” off to a shaky start.
A witch named Angela (Stone) has swiped the shiny blue rock from him and has somehow given it to Eragon (newcomer Edward Speleers), a farm boy.
The lad soon discovers that it’s actually a dragon egg. When the adorable baby hatches, Eragon learns that he is destined to ride her and right the wrongs of Galbatrix’s reign. His mentor is a fellow named Brom (Jeremy Irons), whom the rest of Eragon’s village has dismissed as merely an old windbag.
Brom has the unenviable tasks of teaching Eragon to ride the dragon, hooking him up with the rebels and protecting Eragon from his own impulsiveness. The two are also being pursued by a murderous wizard (Robert Carlyle) who’s almost as unstoppable as he is determined.
The quest has some genuine delights (watching the dragon grow up is a treat) that a somewhat blunted by fact that there’s little in the story that hasn’t been done before or occasionally better.
Freshman director Stefen Fangmeier made his mark as a special effects wizard in movies like “Master and Commander.” He and his crew have a knack for making impossible images like worm infested corpse soldiers seem real.
But “Eragon” suffers from a visual style that owes a crushing debt to “Star Wars” and “The Lord of Rings.”
Fangmeier has also made the perplexing decision not to have the dragon’s mouth move when she has something to say to Eragon. The book indicates the two have a telepathic bond, but on screen it looks cheesy to have Oscar-winner Rachel Weisz’s voice coming out of motionless jaws.
At least the dragon has more personality and development than the humans. Malkovich seems understandably indifferent, and Speleers is easily upstaged by his reptilian leading lady. Considering all the power his character possesses, Carlyle is surprisingly unintimidating.The dragon may be able to carry Eragorn on her back, but she needs a more support from people to carry the movie. Note: This review was originally published in the December 28-January 3 issue of County Cable (countycable.net).