Directed by: Stefan Fangmeier
Starring: Edward Speleers, Jeremy Irons, John Malkovich, Sienna Guilory, Robert Carlyle
Rated: PG for fantasy violence, intense battle sequences and some frightening images.
Parental Notes: This is a fairly standard PG movie — the violence is not very graphic and there is no language or nudity. The battle sequences may be a bit intense for the very young.
Fantasy movies are a little bit like hamburgers. They all build on the same basic elements, and when you get one, you know pretty much what to expect. “Eragon” is the Big Mac of fantasy movies: it’s not very tasty, it’s not very filling, but it sure is a hamburger, and for plenty of people that’s enough. Those with high standards may turn up their noses, but it more or less hits the spot when you’ve got a craving.
The plot is a mashup of elements we’ve seen plenty of times: a young boy finds something magical and learns that he is destined to save his land from an evil king. A wise old man takes him under his wing, teaches him how to use magic, and gives him a magical sword. Then the young man sets out to rescue a beautiful princess and find the other rebels so he can achieve his destiny.
Here, the young man is Eragon (newcomer Edward Speleers), a farm boy being raised by his uncle. He finds a large, polished blue stone in the woods and brings it home, hoping to trade it for food for his family. The stone turns out to be an egg, however, which hatches a dragon named Saphira (voiced by Rachel Weisz, “The Fountain”). Speleers handles his role well, but the dragon steals every scene she’s in. The effects used to create her are magnificent, no doubt at least in part because director Stefan Fangmeier has been a visual effects supervisor on nearly twenty films.
The villains in “Eragon” are standard: we have the evil king Galbatorix (John Malkovich, “The Call”) and his sorcerer, Durza (Robert Carlyle, “The Mighty Celt”). Galbatorix is essentially a plot device: he sends Durza out to retrieve the dragon egg, berates him when he fails, then sends him out again to find and kill the dragon and her rider. Durza is your standard hissing, creepy-looking dark mage. He kills his minions when they disobey him and tortures the lovely princess Arya (Sienna Guilory, “Rabbit Fever”).
Eragon’s mentor is the cranky Brom (Jeremy Irons, “Casanova”), who teaches him how to fight and how to make the best use of the mystical bond between the young man and Saphira. Irons is a magnificent actor, and his scenes frequently serve as a reminder that the rest of the movie is very average.
“Eragon” is based on the novel of the same title, written over several by the young Christopher Paolini when he was in his late teens. Some elements of the story work — Eragon has a good mixture of heroicness and teenaged pigheadedness — but it frequently feels like an immature mishmash of things we’ve seen before. What would save it is some character development, but everyone on the screen, even the charmingly acerbic Brom, is essentially a cookie-cutter stereotype rather than a person.
With the exception of Saphira, who is visually intriguing — she has very feather-like scales and her wings look almost like those of an eagle — the film is nothing we haven’t seen before. If you have a craving for a fun fantasy tale and don’t want to watch anything from your DVD collection for the umpteenth time, give “Eragon” a try. But if you’re craving something genuinely new and well-done, go back to your old favorites.