Since The Lord of the Rings ended, a few large market fantasy pictures have come to theaters, most notably The Chronicles of Narnia and now Eragon, based on the lesser known but best selling fantasy series that was written by a teenager. While it isn't fair to compare these kiddy adventures to the Oscar winning series, it is clear that these follow-up films are trying to mimic the success of The Lord of the Rings - to questionable results.
Eragon is your standard fantasy story, about a teenager (Edward Speleers) who discovers a dragon, learns that it is his destiny to become a dragon rider and eventually lead the tormented people of his land to victory over an evil and ruthless warlord (played by John Malkovich). Along the way, the teenager Eragon meets an old dragon rider (Jeremy Irons), a beautiful princess (Sienna Guillory), a wicked wizard (Robert Carlyle) and a rebellious king (Djimon Hounsou).
Eragon, ultimately, is entertaining fare that never goes above and beyond. It's there for action and some lighthearted adventure, but isn't meant to win awards. For adults who aren't huge fantasy fans (like me), the movie is relatively uninspiring, although it does get better as it goes along. The first act is a lot of setup and shows some potential for establishing characters and the like. The movie does feel a bit Dungeons & Dragons, which is not a good thing, but survives due to its light intentions, relatively good graphics and likable characters. Things get progressively better as the movie becomes more action oriented and starts boasting its graphics much more. The few scenes where Eragon actually rides his dragon in battle are quite exciting.
The movie suffers from two major issues, which may seem minor but surprisingly take a lot out of the picture. One, the decision to cast Rachel Weisz as the voice of the dragon was just wrong. I like Weisz, but as the voice of what is supposed to be an intimidating dragon she just doesn't work. Her "character" just isn't intimidating, and really weakens the dragon as whole. Let me also mention that the dragon somehow transforms from a playful baby to a wise, fully grown dragon in a matter of minutes, but none of this is explained nor makes sense (even for a fantasy picture).
The second problem is the costume design. While set design isn't great either, the costume design makes the film look really cheesy at times, especially near the end where we are introduced to Hounsou and his kingdom. They all just look stupid, and very Dungeons & Dragons-esque.
Eragon is more of a kiddy fantasy film than it should have been, and thanks to some bad costumes and various casting issues, the movie struggles to be taken seriously at all times. Nevertheless, the film boasts good special effects and some fun action scenes, and overall is a fairly entertaining adventure film. Younger people will enjoy this picture much more than adults, but adults interested in the genre or who liked the book should be satisfied with this adaptation (note: I haven't ready the book).
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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