A Review by Brian Magid
Sunday was my little brother and sister's birthday, and monday was my little cousin's birthday. Thus, we generally celebrate them at the same time.
We went to my grandparent's house to take part in this illustrious event, and when I arrived I found that they had been watching Harry Potter (one of my Grandpa's favorites) on TV. I went into my usual rant, disparaging the movie limb from limb, receiving awkward stares of confusion from adults. But out of the haze of my Pwnage, stepped my 8 year old cousin, who shouted in his high pitched voice: "Harry Potter is great! You just don't like it because you're a big fat meanie!"
This was immediately received with applause and running high fives from the rest of the table. So, attempting to be diplomatic, I asked him what his favorite movie was, and he informed me it was "Eragon." My first thought was, what the fuck is Eragon? And the I recalled it coming out 6 or 7 years ago. I decided I would disparage it on the internet for fun. But first I actually had to see Eragon, and after I had, I saw why the poor kid liked it so much. I loved Star Wars when I was his age, too. (I still love it in fact.) And man, does someone need to show that little guy the holy trilogy, stat, because few movies have enraged me as much as Eragon has. In my career as an internet blogger, I've mostly just either review a current movie or tear down some fantasy film. It may not seem like I hold much sacred, but deep down in my black heart there are still some sacrosanct movies. There are still some things I will not allow, and Eragon does just about all of them. Why?
Because Eragon is, bar none, the most complete and shameless rip-off of Star Wars ever xeroxed. Not even Turkish Star Wars stole as brazenly from the dang series. I mean, sure, they stole X-Wing battle footage, but at least they still managed to come up with somewhat original characters. You read that correctly: Eragon is a worse movie than Turkish Star Wars, a film that features a guy wearing golden gloves machine-gun punching Robbie the Robot to the heroic strains of the Indiana Jones theme, then feeds a man in a bright red gorilla suit his own leg.
See if this sounds familiar: a humble farm boy discovers that he possesses a hidden power and finds himself hunted by an evil overlord who once betrayed a noble order of knights charged with the protection of freedom and justice. Along the way he meets a wise old mentor who gives him a powerful sword, encourages the young man to develop his magical talents, helps him save a princess in the warlord's dark fortress, and sacrifices himself to save the boy. The movie ends with an air battle after the bad guys track down the hidden stronghold of the rebellion.
And that's not even half of it.
Everything in this movie is stolen. Even Eragon (whose name is so blatantly suggestive it makes me want to punch kittens) seems to have stolen Luke Skywalker's haircut. He's even a whiny little brat who lives with his uncle, a shaggy fellow that gets butchered by urgals (read: stormtroopers). He has a brother named Roran who you might suppose has something to do with the movie, but he doesn't.
The movie begins with an elven princess stealing a "stone" (read: the Death Star Plans) from Darth Malkovich, and through sheer chance it ends up in Eragon's back yard. It just so happens that the stone is actually an enchanted dragon egg, and amazingly, Eragon is destined to be the chosen one who will ride this dragon against the empire. Through magic (read: bad writing) the dragon reaches full maturity in about four hours and is born with a better vocabulary than most adults I know. They bond quickly, and Eragon learns to ride the dragon by flying through a ravine ("Just like Beggar's Canyon back home!") and masters magic (read: the Force) through the tutelage of Brom, a former dragon rider and your average mentor character who never survives to the third act of the film.
It's a good thing Brom brought his dragon saddle. Seriously, that's how they explain it. Brom packed his dragon saddle.
Brom (read: Obi-Wan Kenobi) is played by Jeremy Irons, an otherwise excellent actor who seems to be psychically drawn to tremendously bad fantasy movies. At least he manages not to embarrass himself here like he did in Dungeons & Dragons, and in fact is probably the best part of the movie. Anyway, it doesn't seem like there's any real secret to magic; simply knowing the ancient Elvish words for things is enough to evoke their power. It sort of proves what John Constantine said about magic: "Any cunt could do it."
Darth Malkovich is rather upset over the theft of his dragon egg, and tasks his evil shade Durza to bring it back. Durza, a powerful wizard, in turn sends the nefarious Urgal assassins to kill Eragon. Man, there's an awful lot of subcontracting going on with these bad guys, and when the Urgals fail we have to sit through two phases of the defeated minions reporting to their boss about how they failed. I mean, why would the evil warlord even bother keeping the magical dragon egg around if it's the only thing that can destroy him? And why don't either Malkovich or Durza go out themselves to kill Eragon? It's not like either of them have anything better to do than sit on uncomfortable thrones and brood. Why wouldn't he spend an hour to get on his fully-grown black dragon, fly down to Eragon's village and turn the whole thing into a field of scorched glass with his breath weapon?
My favorite part of the movie is where Malkovich explains to Durza why it's important to kill Eragon quickly to prevent the resistance from having any hope because he rules his nation through fear. "Fear will keep the local systems in line! Fear of this battle station!"
The real shame is that Malkovich is the best actor in the movie, and despite being the main villain he's barely in it. His work was likely finished in a day, so most of the heavy villainy is done by Robert Carlyle in a ratty Bozo wig who somehow managed to find a worse role than the Bond villain in The World is Not Enough. His character is a complete idiot, sending riders in black (you might say they're... Black Riders) out to kill Eragon over and over again, and yelling at them when they screw up when he could easily burn his face off any time he wants. In fact, when he successfully manages to lure Eragon into a trap using the elven princess (Leia) as bait, he inexplicably allows the heroes to escape when he has them at his mercy.
Along the way to the rebellion, Eragon enlists the aid of a charming rogue (read: Han Solo) to guide them through the mountains. The resistance is a group of warriors who have made camp in a cave behind a waterfall, led by Faramir of Gondor—I mean, Ajihad, played by Djimon Hounsou in some truly hilarious hair extensions. It looks like the movie is officially out of Star Wars to steal, so now it's running down the checklist of Lord of the Rings plot points and stealing them, too. Wow, they sunk pretty low to steal from fucking Lord of the Rings.
Durza realizes that Eragon has entrenched himself in the stronghold of the resistance and rallies the Urgals with a dramatic speech that's written and filmed almost word for word, shot for shot exactly like Saruman's "You do not know pain, you do not know fear" speech to the Uruks. And that's not the only shot Eragon steals from other movies. I remember one scene when a forlorn Eragon stands outside his uncle's house watching a dramatic sunset, carbon copied from A New Hope. I don't make this accusation lightly. There's coincidence, there's homage, and there's outright theft. Someone should have been sued over this.
I haven't even mentioned how poor this movie is in every technical regard. The dialogue is about as subtle as a beer fart, with characters repeating things we already know several times and vocalizing the completely obvious with nobody else around. I can barely pick out the most embarrassing line from this travesty, although the first one stands out in my mind: "I suffer without my stone."
I also haven't mentioned the dragon much, an inexcusably phony-looking animated wyrm named Saphira, voiced by Rachel Weisz. Saphira shares a telepathic link with Eragon, because if there's one thing that I really want to see Ed Speelers do, it's pretend to think really hard for half the movie.
If you're wondering why Eragon doesn't just command his dragon to breathe fire all over his enemies, she can't. Brom explains that she's "not yet old enough to sustain a flame," but considering Saphira grew into a ten ton clawed death machine in a matter of hours, "not yet old enough" translates to "wait until morning" because the next day she's laying waste to an entire army with her napalm breath.
It's also maddening at how quickly the movie progresses, an unusual complaint for me to make, but it's true. It feels like the Cliff's Notes version of an epic movie. There's no character development to speak of. There are simply good guys and bad guys, and if any character is given a backstory, it's usually in the form of awkward dialogue shoehorned inappropriately in between action beats, like "Seize him! He is the son of the traitor!" Ironically, the only characters the movie dwells on. Brom and Eragon's brother depart the narrative completely. Why would they waste time developing the background and motivations of characters who don't show up for the rest of the movie? Maybe they show up again in the sequels, but as a single movie it completely fails to stand on its own.
It's one of the worst movies of all time, not only in terms of its poor quality, but because of its total creative bankruptcy. When I safely say that Dragonheart was a masterpiece in comparison, it should scare you to your marrow. Its only value is in devising a "Spot the Rip-off" drinking game, or maybe if you've got some weird Sienna Guillory fetish. Even then, I'd take Resident Evil: Apocalypse over this cheese, and I would rather wear a sandpaper thong on a treadmill than watch a Resident Evil movie.
Still, something good came out of all this. I spend so much of my time being a big meanie that sometimes I forget how much I really appreciate Star Wars, and yes, even George Lucas for at least being something of a storyteller. The meanie in me says that Lucas could probably be accused of stealing the plot for that from half a dozen samurai movies, but the fan in me still doesn't care if he did. They didn't have hyperdrive in Hidden Fortress!
Besides, I got to totally blast an eight-year-old's favorite movie in a blog post he'll probably never read. Isn't that what it's all about?