As you start watching “Eragon,” the story of a young man (named Eragon, crazily enough) who becomes the first in the new breed of dragonriders doing battle against the evil king of Alagesia, you experience an overwhelming feeling of familiarity. Young hero? Check. Heroic destiny? Check. Grizzled mentor? Checkola. Those of you who haven’t read the book(s) by Christopher Paolini may find yourself inadvertently snickering at the enormously imitative nature of what’s unspooling before you.
And you have every right to. Less a film than a sloppily strung together pastiche of fantasy clichés, “Eragon” constantly reminds you of other – better – movies. It isn’t bad enough that young Eragon (Edward Speleers) is a farmboy living with his uncle (who’s eventually murdered), or that his cousin
Biggs Roran leaves the farm to avoid The Empire. But he’s also assisted by a Jedi ex-dragonrider named Brom (Jeremy Irons) and the roguish Murtaugh (Garrett Hedlund) in joining the Rebellion and rescuing a beautiful girl (Sienna Guillory).
What’s that? “Star Wars” doesn’t do it for you? Well, how about “Lord of the Rings?” There are plenty of elves and dwarves to go around, after all, along with a massive CG battle. How about Robert Jordan’s “Wheel of Time” (plenty derivative in it’s own right)? Or Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern?
Don’t make me invoke the dreaded “Krull” (which, minus the effects budget, measures up pretty well by comparison).
It’s also hard to believe that Speleers beat 18,000 hopefuls for the title role, as he emotes with all the charisma of a Keanu Reeves or a Hayden Christiansen. Not that the rest of the cast fares much better. John Malkovich, who plays the evil
Palpatine King Galbatorix, appears in few enough scenes that his self-loathing isn’t completely overpowering. Of everyone present, only Irons appears to be in on the joke. He and Robert Carlyle (as ”Darth Vader” “Durza the Shade”) both compete to see who can chew the most scenery, though Irons – having already paid more than his due in devil’s wages by making “Dungeons and Dragons” – is more comfortable with trading on his once formidable rep and use his distinctive gravely baritone to earn a quick paycheck.
And if he doesn’t lay off the smoking, his voice threatens to drop out of range of human hearing altogether.
Paolini was in high school when he started writing “Eragon,” which really makes everything you see onscreen understandable. Only a self-absorbed adolescent lacking the self-confidence to conjure an original thought would come up with something as horrifically plagiaristic as “Eragon.” I mean, I made it into my high school’s literary magazine with one of my short stories, but even then I wouldn’t ever have considered submitting “The 501 Blues” for screenplay consideration.
Then again, after watching the train wreck derailing before my eyes Thursday night, maybe the world really is ready for a movie about a carnivorous pair of blue jeans.
“Eragon” is laughably bad, mind-bogglingly derivative, and easily one of the worst movies of the year. Do your kids a favor and flick cigarettes in their face for 100 minutes instead. They’ll thank you later.