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Capt. Sage's Review
of the movie version of
Eragon

I suppose I should start this review by saying that I read both books extant thus far in the Inheritance trilogy before watching the movie. The movie covers the events of the first book in its entirety. Actually, that's not entirely accurate. The movie contains many, many, significant departures from the book. (See the spoiler section below.1)

Plotting in the movie keeps the action interesting but sometimes confusing. The beginning of the movie introduces the fantasy setting well. The running time of the feature is a common one, ninety-odd minutes, meaning that the plot has to be very compressed and everything happens at a very rapid speed. Sometimes this works in the movie's favor, getting us into the exciting bits more quickly; sometimes it makes the fantasy world rather less believable. (See the spoiler section below.2)

The fast pacing also means that there's something of a character roundup in the film's second half, finding the many secondary characters and giving them only ten seconds of screen time before dashing on to the next one. I'd like to comment on the performances of the actors and actresses who played Ajihad, Nasuada, and Orik, but I can't because we hardly saw them. (Pop quiz for those who've already watched the movie but didn't read the book: did you even realize there was a character named Orik? Extra credit: did you realize he's supposed to be a member of the race of dwarves?)

The main characters had somewhat more screen time, and were good. Eragon and Brom are done well, conveying their emotions believably. One does believe that they are real people, caught up in a world where they must be stong to survive. Murtagh also turns in a good performance, cocky but good-hearted. Arya does a convincing job of being a strong elf. (See the spoiler section below. 3) Durza is also portrayed well, convincingly arrogant and definitely menacing. Saphira has lost most of her most unique character traits, such as her most alien lines, and almost all of her episodes of knocking Eragon down to protect him. Still, her voice talent is good, and her computer graphics are done well, although the inclusion of feathers on her wings is questionable.

The scenery and special effects are excellent. In settings, scenery, and performances, the movie actually captured Carvahall's small-town feeling better than I expected it to. (See the spoiler section below.4) The dragonflight special effect sequences and accompanying music appropriately capture the wonder and terror, the excitement and danger, and are sometimes rather better at this than even the book. I also appreciated the well-done special effects showing the results of magic.

At the end of the day, I suppose Eragon is a passable fantasy movie, but it just feels too, well, Hollywoodized. I had a suspicion when I heard it was being turned into a movie that the similarities to Star Wars and the Lord of the Rings would be overemphasized, but I didn't expect there to be quite so many cliches. Still, it can be an enjoyable film.

SPOILERS

Most of the departures from the book tended to be clichés. There was the cliché ill-advised rescue against the mentor's advice, complete with snide remark about the mentor just before leaving. There were dream sequences and romance with an elf babe. (Arya dancing? That should've been a giveaway clue that she was under mind control!) There were the mean soldiers pushing people around. There was "the ancient language of the elves." So many cliches, and none of them actually in the book (except the dreams, which were very different from how the movie portrayed them!)

As I said, everything moves very fast; Saphira grows up in about four seconds, and Eragon learns magic in approximately two minutes. Swordsmanship takes all of five minutes to master. The reluctance to use montages or indicate time lapses in some manner for these sequences is inexplicable, and discourages the suspension of disbelief.

I think all the actors did the best they could with the script given to them. Still, I think someone should've told the director and/or the actors that while Eragon definitely has a crush on Arya, she merely sees him as a friend. This made her smiles and handholding a serious departure from the book. I know she's an elf babe, and this is Hollywood, but we're all just going to have to accept that no matter how much we may (or may not) want her to, she doesn't want romance with Eragon yet, assuming she ever will. I can tell that the smooch-happy Hollywood thinking that ruled this movie is going to have a serious problem with portraying their relationship (or more accurately, lack thereof,) in the second movie.

Carvahall, as I said, was portrayed very well. It looked poor but proud, on the edge of civilization but not a bunch of yokels. The locals all appeared to be real people minding their own lives and not wanting any trouble. Unfortunately, having the village occupied seriously changed its character. Carvahall in the book is not occupied, and thus is more free, more independent, and knows the stories of the Dragon Riders. Although these factors are important only for Eragon's character in this movie, the tenacity and independence of the villagers, and their unoccupied status, will become much more important in the next part of the story. I therefore think it odd that it was so radically altered in this movie.

I was disappointed in the setting of the final battle sequence. It's supposed to take place in a giant cave, but instead it's practically outdoors!

Finally, one has to wonder how the movie corresponding to the second book will now take place. Most of the elements necessary have been altered or deleted: Roran's in hiding, Carvahall is occupied and not as strong as it was in the book, Eragon may or may not be going to Ellesmera for training, and Eragon wasn't noticeably injured by Durza. I suppose they'll simply modify the plot of the second movie about as much as they did the first.