Just a recommendation: Try watching the movie while reading this, so you can see what I’m talking about.
So we open with the sound of Jeremy Irons narrating, and some suitably epic if bland shots of clouds and mountains… which are CGI, by the by.
There was a time when the fierce and beautiful land of Alagaesia was ruled by men astride mighty dragons.
Wow, a whole five seconds in and already I’ve found something to howl about. Okay, I have read the whole series, and this is a pretty massive change. In the books, humans were a late addition to the Dragonriders. Now, I don’t mind some changes to a given story, but… I mean, come on. Cutting out all nonhuman races (except for dragons) in a FANTASY story? What the hell? Given that the backstory provided about the Dragonriders is ELFCENTRIC, this pretty much scuppers the whole storyline.
This is especially weird because… there’s no reason to omit elves and dwarves from this story. I mean, why would you? Lord of the Rings had become megahits in the years 2001, 2002 and 2003 (and 2004 if you include New Year’s overlap), and they had elves and dwarves up the wazoo. Did the studios think that people were sick and tired of all those high fantasy races? Obviously not, because we waited for all these years for them to start making The Hobbit, so obviously we’re NOT tired of them. I mean, was this thing produced by a fantasy-hating idiot who hadn’t watched any movies in the past decade, and figured, “Duuuuuhhhhhhh… all those fantasy thingies will scare away the masses!”
I know this movie didn’t have a huge budget, but would it have killed them to just call the short guys dwarves and the pretty girl an elf?
To protect and serve was their mission, and the people prospered.
Except for the peasants. Their lives still sucked.
But the riders grew arrogant, and began to fight among themselves for power.
And for the right to wear clown shoes on the job.
We also see our first glimpse of a dragon:
Well, I’m thoroughly underwhelmed. Would it have killed them to show us more than the back of the dragon’s head?
Sensing their weakness, a young rider named GAL-BA-TORIX betrayed them.
I just love the way Jeremy Irons says “Galbatorix.” It’s like he’s thinking, “What? What? How the hell do I say this? Is this a real name?”
And the movie should be congratulated. Galby had legit motivations for betraying the riders in the book… and they managed to give him absolutely no motives at all. He just apparently thinks, “Oh, everybody’s bickering. It’s a Tuesday, so I think I’ll betray and kill everyone.”
The dragon we see onscreen then swoops down through the clouds to show us… uh, it’s hard to see exactly what the hell is going on, but dragons are fighting and I think buildings are burning.
And in a single bloody battle, believed he had killed them all. Riders and dragons alike.
But of course, Obi-Wan had escaped to Tatooine, and had… wait, wrong story. Or is it?
I also love this moment in the story, because a screaming smoke-spewing dragon head just flies by for no reason. It’s like Jan In A Pan, but with a dragon.
Then another dragon swoops down out of nowhere and starts breathing fire and… hold it.
What the hell is this? I can suspend my belief a lot, really. I was able to buy Legolas walking on snow. I was able to buy the stupid pseudo-science of various comic books. I was even able to buy that Christian Bale AND Aaron Eckhart MIGHT have found Maggie Gyllenhaal attractive… if they squinted a lot…
But a FEATHERED DRAGON? WHAT THE FUCK?
It just doesn’t make sense, really. Dragons are pretty much universally depicted as reptiles. They have scales, they have non-retractible claws, they have long reptilian tails often with spikes, and they are generally structured like giant lizards. But here’s an interesting facts: LIZARDS AND OTHER REPTILES DO NOT HAVE FEATHERS. Now, I will admit that there WERE some dinosaur species that did have primitive feathers of a sort… but these were not for flying. They were for insulation and display. Any even vaguely winglike structures on a reptile, like a frilled lizard’s neck, look more like a bat wing.
So what the hell is up with the feathers? did the filmmakers think it looked more “realistic” to give a reptilian creature feathers? Were they just trying to make something “unique”? NEWS FLASH, PEOPLE: you’re making Eragon The Movie! It is now TOO LATE to be unique.
Or maybe they figured that dragons were the duck-billed platypuses of the animal world:
I’d also like to mention that I don’t really know whom I should be rooting for. I mean, it’s not like Lord of the Ringswhere it’s pretty obvious who are the good guys and who are the bad guys. We have one CGI dragon fighting another, and no idea which one of them is “bad” or “good.”
AAAAANNNNYYYYYWAAAAAAAYYYYY, one dragon blasts fire at another, and the screen just turns into a fireball for a little while, only to fade into the sight of Galby himself: John Malkovich!
Wow, could you get anymore cliche villain?
- Black leather in a medieval setting.
- Red backdrop.
- Bald head.
- Tiny beard of evil.
- Fire burning directly in front of him.
- He’s played by John Malkovich… scratch that, it’s not a cliche villain trait.
Does he also sit around stroking a villain’s cat? Will he explain his devious plot at the end of the movie? Does he kill puppies for no real reason?
He crushed all rebellion, especially the freedom fighters known as the Varden.
We then get some blurry, incoherent views of… people fighting. No establishing shots of the innocent medieval villagers right before they’re attacked – no, we get burning and shakycam views of people fighting and slashing. To make matters worse, the people that I THINK are supposed to be the Varden are wearing red (or what looks like red in this lighting), which happens to be the exact color their enemies are wearing. Yo, director, are you TRYING to confuse me?
We also see a black man getting injured on the arm. For some reason, this causes him to collapse screaming to the ground. Less than two minutes in and we have a black guy getting killed.
Those that survived fled to the mountains.
We are shown a nice matte painting of a mountain. Thank you, I didn’t know what mountains looked like, especially ones that will be featured LATER IN THE SAME MOVIE.
There, they hoped for a miracle that might even their odds against the king!
They hoped for a scrawny farmboy on a dragon! They are officially screwed.
So we fade to Galby again… and then we fade to horses galloping through the woods! Hooray! It’s the people who were elves in the book but are apparently not in this story, thus killing any chance of a sequel even if this movie hadn’t bombed like Pearl Harbor.
And who is that? Why, it’s an attractive female in peril! This must be our love interest, Arya…. who for some reason is blond instead of black-haired like the nice little Arwen clone she is.
Our story begins one night as Arya, an ally of the Varden, rides for her life carrying a stone… stolen from the king himself!
Yeesh, is Jeremy going to narrate this whole movie? Jeremy, I love you despite your unfortunate role in Dungeons and Dragons, but this is a movie, not an audiobook.
Oh, and to underscore that these are Not-Elves, one of them is black, has a beard, and is wearing a ridiculous helmet that looks like a giant beetle. Wow, we’re two minutes in and we already have one dead black guy and one that’s about to die.
And…. now that we’ve established that character, what she’s doing and why she’s in danger… we cut away again. That’s not disorienting or disjointed at ALL.
Yes, subtlety is strong in this movie. Our villain spends the entire movie lurking in Sauron’s basement, with all the minions who weren’t scary or gross enough to join the orc army. He’s supposed to live in a capital city that he conquered, but instead we get him sitting in a firelit slit in a mountainside.
We then see OH FOR CRAP’S SAKES, MOVIE! You’re not even trying! This guy is like a bad parody of a villain. He even has a throne-room in a cave, surrounded by red stuff! Why doesn’t he have a fucking castle?! Why doesn’t he have a real throne room?! Why is there no lighting except a giant-ass brazier? And why does he have a giant map on the wall?
We also get to finally hear someone who is NOT Jeremy Irons. And sadly, John Malkovich is doing his third acting style, or as the Nostalgia Chick puts it, “Dissatisfied Customer at Olive Garden.” He sounds like he’s contemplating the homicide of his agent for signing him up for this gig.
I suffer without my stone. DO – NOT prolong my suffering.
- And I suffer when I hear horrible dialogue. DO NOT PROLONG MY SUFFERING.
- Seriously for a guy who’s supposed to be suffering, he seems awfully calm about it. He sounds like he’s mildly annoyed because someone forgot to pick up milk.
- And here’s something that’s always bugged me: He calls it a “stone,” but he obviously knows that it’s an egg. The person he’s talking to knows it’s an egg. I know the audience doesn’t necessarily know that it’s an egg, but they do. So why would he call it a “stone”? It’s like saying, “Sit on the dictionary” while pointing at a couch.
- Oh by the way, Galby is addressing Durza, and while he obviously doesn’t have maroon-colored hair, they did do a decent job with the Shade character – he’s got a pasty face and bright red hair, and he looks pretty sickly. His eyes aren’t red, though. I guess they figured nobody would look at those… WRONG!!!!!!
And in case he looks familiar, that is Robert Carlyle, aka the dude from The Full Monty, the devious scientist from Stargate Universe, and Mr. Gold from Once Upon A Time. He’s pretty clearly on autopilot with this role, since he probably could tell it was a poor man’s Darth Vader/Grima Wormtongue.
We then cut to… oh fer cryin’ out loud, was the narration part even necessary? We don’t even cut back to Arya fleeing, as that last little scene would imply – we cut to Uncle Owen’s moisture farm. Uh, I mean Uncle Garrow’s farm that grows… something. They do farmy things on the… farm. Seriously, the only reason Eragon lives on a farm is because Luke did too.
And I will give the moviemakers credit for this much: they don’t have the big modern-sounding house with a bunch of separate bedrooms, luxe furniture and glass windows that’s in the book. Instead they have a slightly ragged-looking cottage with a thatched roof. The lighting at this point is pretty terrible so I’ll post a picture of it later on. Suffice to say, it’s the farm during the night.
Inside, Eragon is getting ready to go out. He passes by Uncle Garrow, who looks like Christopher Walken’s tuberculosis-suffering brother, and stands in the doorway smiling for some reason. “Duuuuurrrr, is magic picture box?”
Just so you know, I am gonna riff the shit out of Ed Speleers’ acting, but it’s all in good fun. I don’t actually dislike the guy, and I don’t think he’s too terrible an actor. I hope he goes on to have a long and prosperous acting career. But since this was his first-ever acting role, he was DEFINITELY too green to be the lead in a movie.
So Eragon smiles vaguely at… someone. I guess it’s supposed to be his cousin, but it looks like a bundle of blankets on the floor. But I will credit them: they are making the interior of the house look pretty realistic, in that nobody has their own bedroom with nice modern furniture…. OH FUCK NO. Eragon just took a fully strung bow off the wall! That was one thing that Paolini actually got right – you do not keep your bow strung at all times! It puts unnecessary tension on the bow and leads to breakage! And I don’t think you’re supposed to hang it on the wall like a picture frame.
And damn, Jeremy’s disembodied voice is back.
Miles away, a young boy ventures out hunting. His life, and Alagaesia, will never be the same again.
And we see Eragon running off into the woods. At night. Alone. To hunt. With no light source at all. Ah, he’s off to hunt the wild Plot Contrivance, a rare animal that is found only in… books and movies like this!
Aaaaaannnddd… cut to… someone. Seriously, I don’t know who the hell this is.
I mean, it’s obviously not Durza because the skin is too dark and doesn’t look all welty. He looks way too old and dark to be Eragon. I don’t think that’s supposed to be Brom because said person looks like he has long hair, and those do NOT look like Irons’ eyes. Seriously, WHO IS THIS? I’m so confused!
We cut to Arya and the two other Not-Elves racing through the Forest Of Confusing Lighting.
Where is the lighting behind them coming from?! Are they being chased by a spotlight?
Oh, and a side-note about the opening credits: we see that this is the first movie appearance by Joss Stone. Just wait, her appearance is awesomely clunky and pretty much pointless.
So anyway, Arya and the Not-Elves gallop through the woods while the lighting fluctuates wildly between “daytime” and “nighttime.” People who make movies: please note that it IS possible to have nighttime action scenes without huge flashes of light to show what people are doing. Example: at least half of The Two Towers. This just looks like the sun is playing peekaboo!
Meanwhile, Durza is… WATCHING. Like villains do.
- Pantene Pro-V! The villain’s choice for flowing luxuriant hair!
- Wait, does that mean that the upper face above was… actually supposed to be Durza? It looks nothing like him!
- And WHERE IS THE LIGHT COMING FROM? He looks like he’s standing out in the sunlight!
Meanwhile, the Not-Elves are still galloping.
Where is the light coming from?! I want to know! This entire scene looks ridiculous because they’re apparently being followed by giant ambient light sources.
So Durza does his Villainous Sneer/Snarl at… nothing in particular. Meanwhile, the Chubby Unwashed Middle-Aged Men are walking through the woods with their hooked weapons. I think these guys are supposed to be the Urgals, the ugly animalistic horned orc-knockoffs that populate the Army Of Evil until Brisingr (when they are transformed into generic noble savages despite EVERYTHING that went on in the past two books). But really, do these strike any fear into your heart at all?
He looks like a past-his-prime biker! I know they had a low budget, but even the Wild Men in LOTR looked more inhuman than these guys.
So then Durza steps in front of the oncoming riders, and they promptly trample him to death. No, of course he just stands in a shaft of inexplicable light given that this is IN THE MIDDLE OF THE FUCKING NIGHT. Is Alagaesia up in the Arctic circle, and this just happens to be summertime?
And apparently the horses take a very long time to gallop anywhere – they are running full tilt, and Durza was MAYBE forty feet max in front of them… yet he has enough time to just stand there and wave his hand to the Urgals. And yet the horses are STILL far from him. The Urgals shoot Not-Elf #1 and Not-Elf #2, who promptly die. I blame the beetle helmets. But for some inexplicable reason, they don’t shoot Arya. Why? Because she’s the love interest!
Seriously, there’s no logical reason why they DON’T shoot her. I mean, are they afraid they’ll break the egg? Because that is supposed to be super-hard. If Galby is THAT desperate to get his stone… I mean, his egg back, then he can just capture someone else to reveal vital information. GET THE EGG BACK!
Instead, somebody in a big furry blanket goes leaping out and knocks Arya out of the saddle. I can see why they entrusted this to her, because she can’t hear a galumphing big dude when he is RIGHT BEHIND HER. And suddenly… the Urgals all just VANISH. They’re not seen for the entire rest of the scene! You would expect the Urgals to be running right after Arya… but suddenly she’s not surrounded by Urgals anymore, but ROLLING DOWN A HILL. Yeah, I don’t get it. It’s like there was a scene that was cut out in the middle of it.
Meanwhile, Eragon is hunting in Mirkwood… I mean, the Spine.
You know, I don’t even understand how he’s even able to track an animal in the middle of the frigging night… or WHY it’s in the middle of the night. I don’t even know how he can find an animal if he wasn’t tracking it before… oh, hell, never mind.
Anyway, our hero immediately spots The Deer. It must be on loan from the Twilight movie. Don’t worry, little deer – there are no sparkly vampires in this movie.
So Eragon approaches, pulling an arrow the wrong way out of his quiver, while the deer fails to notice him. Uh, having been close to deer in the past, I can assure you that they know pretty well if a human is anywhere nearby. And then they run like hell. But no, this deer just nibbles leaves and stares at the camera.
We then cut to Arya running through the woods with her silly-looking knockoff of Arwen’s sword Hadhafang… which is pretty useless, as the fine folks at AntiShurtugal pointed out. Let’s see:
Yeah, not only is Arya’s sword ugly as sin and very clumsy and jagged compared to Arwen’s beautiful one, but the blade is set the wrong way. Imagine holding a sword with that grip – the sharp side of the blade would be aimed toward YOU. If you attacked someone in the usual way with this sword, you would be hitting them with the dull edge. There is only one person in the world who actually WANTS a sword to do that, that there is!
Uh, and the tip is terrible – I’m pretty sure a tip like that would be subject to breakage. Seriously, who the hell designed this thing?
Anyway, Arya is running through the woods when suddenly FWOOM giant orange fire attack on every side.
Granted, it still looks like you could easily run through or jump over that fire. We ain’t talking walls of flames here. You might get kinda singed, but I’m pretty sure you could get through and live, especially if you’re… um… a Not-Elf.
Of course, Durza is up on a hill causing a giant ring of fire to appear around Arya. No, it isn’t very high in any one place, and it’s painfully obvious that it was set up beforehand because the ring happens to be EXACTLY the same size and shape as the clearing. In other words, it’s a perfect square.
I mean, look at it.
What, did Durza set up the area beforehand in hopes that Arya would stumble into it? Did he vaporize all the trees when he made that ring of fire I’M SORRY I JUST CAN’T HOLD BACK THE JOKE ANYMORE…
… or at least that’s what it sounds like.
Arya runs around, only to be confronted by another wall of rather puny flames at every turn. By the way, she still had her sword out but never tries to slash some of the burning vegetation. And even though we soon find out she has magic, she doesn’t do anything like… cause a small rainstorm or something like that.
And then suddenly the flames are TEN FEET HIGH, just so Durza can do this DRAMATICALLY…. like villains do:
Sorry, dude. Now you’re just showing off.
Give it to me!
Want to see you work your body
So give it to me, give it to me, give it to me!
Because that’s his name, and we the audience need to know that!
And I’ll let you live.
Oh ew, I just remembered who Durza reminds me of. He looks like a red-haired Tommy Wiseau. I mean, look at him!
“Oh hai, Arya. You are looking especially beautiful and sexy today. You are tearing me apart, Arya! Everybody betray me! I fed up with this world!”
Is there anyone who trusts the word of a Shade?
- Well, possibly… since we don’t know what a Shade is or what relevance their Shadeness has to do with trustworthiness. I mean, the line loses all impact if we don’t know what a Shade is.
- Why doesn’t she just say “Designated Villain” instead of “Shade”? After all, all villains are honorless creeps who are two-dimensionally inclined to betray people… because they’re evil and that’s what they do. Just once, I would like to have a villain who always keeps his promises and is always truthful, but still evil.
- What is with the rushed pace of this exchange? The whole thing takes about eight seconds! No joke! I actually timed it.
Where was I? Oh yeah, Arya doesn’t really wait for an answer. Instead she hoists up the giant pill-shaped stone… egg… thing. Which we haven’t seen before.
Yeah, this impact is kind of lost too, because we’ve never seen it before, and we don’t know how important it actually is. My first thought was, “What is that? Where in her tight leather outfit was she keeping it? And how can she hold it over her head with one hand like that?”
And Durza… makes this face:
I’m sorry, that face cracks me up every time. It’s like he’s thinking, “Oh shit, I totally did not foresee that she might actually use MAGIC! Maybe I should have sent my Couch Potato Brigade after her instead.”
Akestla vananis babble babble
So suddenly the rock-egg vanishes with a blue flash, and reappears… about ten feet in front of Eragon. The deer has apparently vanished without a trace – did it get burned up and vanish with the arrival of the egg? Oh whatever. Oh, and the heat is so intense that it actually sets fire to Eragon’s arrow while it’s flying through the clearing.
Yeah, I don’t get how anyone could look at that and think “rock” instead of “egg.” I mean, it looks like an egg. Doesn’t it look like an egg to you?
Meanwhile, Durza walks the Evil Walk over to Arya, who has collapsed on the ground and is not moving at all. So…. I guess teleportation really takes it out of you, because she’s acting like someone just whacked her on the head repeatedly with a bat, or stabbed her in the gut. Also, for some reason she’s fallen on her stomach several feet away from Durza, even though she was FACING the egg when it teleported and was pretty close to him. So she apparently turned around, moved some distance, and then collapsed?
Also, I gotta rant on Arya’s wardrobe.
“Oh save me, I’m a female and I’m helpless! One little spell is enough to make me collapse!”
Yeah, I hate this outfit. What is up with the shiny Hot Topic leather? I guess it’s supposed to make her look more ethereal and princessy, but since she’s apparently not an elf in this movie, there’s no point. Also, why is she the only one wearing shiny speshul clothes if she’s another human? And does this look like a good riding outfit to anyone?
Guh, her wardrobe pisses me off in general.
Where did you send it?
And did you use media mail or priority mail?
Poor Durza. How will you tell the king… you FAILED?
Epic ham there. 😄 I love that little smug comment, acting like “you failed” is the worst insult ever.
Of course, it’s pretty damn stupid of her to be taunting someone who can easily kill her, especially since she does one magic spell and then flops down on the ground, totally helpless. Unsurprisingly, this pisses Durza off, so he decides to….
Oh, you’ve GOT to be kidding. Now you’re ripping off the Force choke?! Is Shadeboy here gonna also shoot lightning from his fingertips and kill off any generals who mess up?
Groan. Anyway, we cut back to Eragon, who is still staring blankly at the OBVIOUS EGG sitting in the middle of a tiny smoldering crater. A rather oddly shaped one, especially since it looked like the flash of light came from ABOVE the ground, not on it.
Sorry, but that smoke doesn’t look even remotely real.
So Eragon creeps over to it, apparently not even slightly scared by the fact that a FRICKING FLASH just deposited a red-hot rock/egg in front of him, and he… picks it up. Yeah. It was so hot it set his arrow on fire and burned the ground, but in just a couple seconds, it’s cool enough that he can pick it up with his BARE HANDS. WHAT. THE. HELL.
And so, in this Epic Moment of Epic Momentous Epicness, Eragon…
… lifts the egg with absolutely no expression at all. He looks like he’s reading a fortune cookie.
Then we see Arya smiling for no reason. Maybe I’m weird, but in her position it would take a lot more than the egg/rock being teleported to who-knows-where to make me happy. Also, why is she still lying on the forest floor? I mean, what is Durza doing right now? I would expect him to be either dragging her off to the Evil Mountain-Slit of Evil, or torturing her some more. Is he sitting on a rock nearby yelling into his cell hone, “I don’t care how fast I’m going through them – I demand you send me more Couch Potatoes of Evil!”
Then Eragon… blows on the egg. I don’t know why, since it’s obviously not hot to the touch. And he still looks baffled – and no, not in a “wow, what just happened here?” way, but a “what’s my motivation again?” way.
Then we cut to Arya smiling again. She also has very oily skin, apparently. Then… she passes out. Still no sign of Durza. It’s like he evaporated from the entire scene.
TO BE CONTINUED… sometime.