Fantasy is a tough sell these days. With the bar set so high due to the hugely successful Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter films, anything that is released with swords and magic is automatically bound for comparisons and will most likely fall short of expectations.
I went into Eragon with little to no knowledge beforehand of what it was all about. I've never read the book this is based on, nor did I really plan to. A book written by a 15 year old kid, no matter how gifted, just didn't sound all that appealing. When I heard that a flick was being made off the novel, I just said I'd wait for that instead of reading it.
Well, the movie FEELS like it was written by a 15 year old. I’m not sure if it has something to do with the source material, the director being inexperienced or the screenwriter not knowing how to do his/her thing properly I have no idea. What I DO know is this flick sucked ass.
The story of Luke Skywalker, a farm boy... oh, wait a minute, different movie. Well, actually, the storyline for Eragon actually is a total rip-off of Star Wars, characters and all. We get the orphaned farm boy/Luke living with his uncle/Owen who finds out he's the last of a breed of Dragon Riders/Jedi, and must save a captured princess/Leia along with his mentor/Obi-Wan whose been hiding in the wilderness after going into self-imposed exile, who teams up with a rogue-ish warrior/Han and a band of rebels/The Alliance to take on the evil King/The Emperor and his sorcerer henchman/Vader. I guess the dragon is a cross between Chewbacca and the Millennium Falcon. It's all there, blatant as hell.
Actually, everything that happens here is taken out of some other movie; the battles are straight out of Lord of the Rings while the magic stuff is from Harry Potter (I half expected to hear Eragon scream "Expelliarmus!" a couple of times). The production, while budgeted at around $100m, looks so damned cheap and fake, from the generic costumes to the crappy lighting and cinematography. Even the cast seems to be in "low-rent" mode.
The acting for the most part is crud. Newcomer Ed Speelers comes off as a whiny little bitch, part Luke part Napoleon Dynamite ("I've got skills!"). He's not that great of an actor, and it would have been a good move to hire someone who's young and experienced to play this part like the newly rehabbed Haley Joel Osment. John Malkovich should be ashamed with his work here, which reminded me of how Sir Ben Kingsley slummed it for Bloodrayne (with a goofy character name like Galbatorix, who can blame him). The same goes for Robert Carlyle as the sorcerer/Vader rip-off Durza. He can't even ham it up properly as the flamboyant magician, and for some reason his character goes from looking semi-human to a pale demon at the halfway point in the movie (deleted scene?). Only Jeremy Irons comes out looking good as the Obi-Wan character of Brom. He seems like he really got into his mentor role (like Alec Guiness before him) and is able to pull off even the shittiest of lines without a hint of cheese. I also read somewhere that he put his all into this to make up for his role in the Dungeons & Dragons movie. I have to agree. The mega hot British vixen Sienna Guillory (from Resident Evil: Apocalypse) comes out okay too. All she really had to do to please me was look hot and speak in her sexy accent. She does it and does it well. Why was Djimon Hounsou in this again? Oh yeah. Token. It's sad, but true. He's a great actor and he was given a nothing part to fill out a quota. What a waste.
All the twists you can see coming a mile away, the dialogue is laughably bad, the sets and environments look horrendous and it all reeks of a rush job. The way things are simplified to shorten the run time; from Saphira the dragon aging 30 years in the space of 7 seconds to the convenient way that Eragon learns magic to the cop out cheese-fest ending made me somewhat irate.
The effects on the other hand are pretty damned good. Saphira the Dragon, voiced by uber sultry Rachel Weisz, looks amazing and is able to emote better than most of the cast... even without moving her lips! Some FX look crappy, but for the most part all the magical blue fire blasts, flying scenes and more look sweet. The final battle between dueling dragons was amazing looking and really fast and furious. I dug it.
Director Stefen Fangmeier, who was a CGI supervisor for some FX company, really needs to try something a little less ambitious next time. He really did a terrible job here, and I doubt he'll get another directing job this big ever again (unless this is a huge hit, which I doubt it will be). This had Steven Norrington (Blade/The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) written all over it. His visual style and way of turning hokey dialogue and situations into something worth watching would have worked wonders here. Too bad he gave up directing for good thanks to the dicks at 20th Century Fox.
And there's just so many stupid things going on in this movie that I find a hard time believing that the filmmakers thought we as an audience would take seriously. Like when during the buildup to the big epic battle between two armies, Djimon Hounsou calls for his archers to take their positions. Only TWO listen to him. I laughed pretty hard when I saw that. WHAT WERE THEY
If you saw the Dungeons & Dragons movie, you know exactly what to expect here... just with a bigger budget. While this film doesn't quite reach the ultra-shittiness of that flick, it comes pretty damned close. A total disappointment.
1 out of 5