Eragon (2006) (part 4 of 13)
Now it’s morning, and Roran is leaving. And the music in the background is so much like Fellowship of the Ring, it’s not even funny. There’s the clichéd fond farewell scene where Roran, who incidentally looks uncannily similar to Sam Gamgee, leaves with Eragon beside him.
And here Eragon is wearing, I kid you not, a leather waistcoat over his shirt. A shirt which, by the way, looks like it was machine-sewn (because it very obviously was), and is nicely white, even though they’re in a world that probably doesn’t have access to bleach. And the leather vest itself not only looks an awful lot like it’s made from vinyl, but also has factory-made metal fastenings on the front, and it’s dyed an attractive shade of brown. Look, there’s a fine line between stretching things and outright insulting my intelligence. And you’re a hundred miles south of it, bucko.
Actually, I happen to know a small titbit about the costumes. Apparently, due to poor planning, they were all whipped up at the last minute. The costume designer was forced to work with whatever she could get, which included a lot of leather. Hence, just about everyone is wearing the stuff. And if you think this particular outfit looks silly and unrealistic, just wait until you see the one our hero wears at the end of the movie.
Eragon and Roran bid a fond farewell, after which Roran strolls right out of the movie and is never seen again. Well, he sure was a necessary character. Obviously, he’s meant to return in the sequel (he did in the book sequel), but you probably shouldn’t count on that happening soon. Or ever.
Next comes a shot that’s so derivative that it has to be seen to be believed. If there was any doubt that the filmmakers knew they were making a cheap Star Wars ripoff, it dies right here. Are you ready for this?
There’s a shot of our hero, at dusk, sitting and watching an orange and purple sunset while some sad music plays. And the shot is taken from exactly the same angle and with exactly the same lighting as its counterpart in A New Hope. Oh. My. Gods. Did I mention that this movie is full of moments that basically have “fuck you” written all over them? Well, it is, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen this much audacity in my entire life. It’s official: the filmmakers believe everyone watching this movie is a complete idiot.
Honestly, it’s as if the author of the original book made this movie. Believe me when I say that his greatest (and probably only) skill lies in shamelessly stealing other people’s ideas, and then dancing a jig on the looted corpses of their movies and books. Bitter? Me? Heck no.
I’m pretty sure that it was at this point that I burst out laughing in the middle of the movie theater. Actually, I laughed through most of the movie, and a lot of the time it was from sheer incredulity. Anyway, back to the snory. Uh, story.
In the barn, Eragon is sitting and wasting a candle, while he stares at the floor and sulks. Candles aren’t free, you know. Couldn’t he just sulk in the dark? Eragon is disturbed by a strange cracking sound, and looks up to see that the “stone” (which, by the way, he’s left lying around in plain view) has started to move. Gosh, do you think it could be… alive?
The stone starts to break open, and he stands up to look, with yet another gormless expression on his face. The stone moves some more, and then suddenly bursts open, and out pops…
Okay, okay, I can’t help it. I really can’t. Out comes the most adorable baby dragon I’ve ever seen. I went into the movie determined not to like it, but I couldn’t help it: I fell in love with the thing right away. It’s like the time when I went on a school excursion to a sheep farm. I remember thinking, “Okay, I’m a tough unsentimental bitch, and everyone knows it. I am not going to go ‘aww’ when I see the cute little lambs.” And then the moment I saw them, I went “awww!” (Sometimes I hate being a chick.)
The baby dragon struggles to its feet—for some reason, there’s no trace of slime on it anywhere, or on the ground underneath it—and, whoops, there’s an electric light bulb clearly visible behind it. Eragon stands there gawping at it, obviously just as captivated by its cuteness as we are, and then he actually says—no, for real—”Not a stone… an egg!” And that’s a line straight out of the book. And I do believe I laughed again at this point. I certainly did when I watched it for the second time. O RLY, Eragon? It’s an egg, you say? What tipped you off? I wish they’d ripped off Alien instead, just for the pleasure of seeing Eragon go, “Wow, an egg!” an instant before a face-hugger nails him.
He crouches and watches as the dragon gets up, and it’s just way too adorable. Really, I just wanted to pick it up and cuddle it. And now Eragon chooses to top the stupidity of his “egg” comment with the following: “Look at you! What are you? You’re not a bird!” You know, I think I could get a job working as a screenwriter in Hollywood. Sure, I barely scraped through Scriptwriting 1 and 2 at university, but who cares? I wouldn’t even have to stay sober to pen this kind of nonsense.
The dragon makes its wobbly way toward our hero, making a noise like R2-D2, and Eragon reaches out toward it. The instant he touches it, there’s a big flash of blue light, followed by quick shots of Brom, Galbatorix and Arya suddenly waking up. Apparently, there was a great disturbance in the Force that night, as if hundreds of authors and filmmakers cried out in outrage and were suddenly silenced.
And while we’ll later get a vague explanation as to why Brom and Galbatorix sensed this happening (well, not really), we’ll never find out how Arya knew. Nor, for that matter, will we get an explanation for any of her other powers.
Incidentally, I should mention that Arya is meant to be an elf. This is in spite of the fact that she doesn’t have pointed ears, and no one ever calls her an elf. And she’s also a princess of some place we’ll never see. Hey, that sounds kind of familiar. Dunno why.
It appears Arya is lying spreadeagled on a stone table in a dungeon, although she’s not chained up or restrained in any way. Maybe she’s got a paralysing spell on her or something. Or hey, maybe those are invisible chains!
Out comes her captor, Durza. And he looks just as goofy as before, in spite of ominous music trying to convince us that he’s all, like, scary and stuff. He crouches by Arya and demands, again, to know where the egg is. She smirks and tells him it’s “too late” and “it’s hatched”. So, yes, she actually did sense that the dragon is out of the bag. Again, I have no idea how she knows this. That’s one bit of implausibility that the filmmakers came up with all by themselves, because it wasn’t in the book.
Durza gets pissed off and uses magic to delve into her mind. During this mind meld, he sees an image of Eragon finding the egg. Okay, how in the gods’ names did he force Arya to show him something she never saw?
Oh, and it seems that just like his master Galbatorix, Durza also has on black press-on nails. Yep, that’s the final clue we needed: he’s unspeakably evil. Did you know that this movie was not made in the 1980s? No, honestly, it was released last year. Why are you looking at me like that?
Arya jerks around, and breathes loudly in a way that’s more than a little inappropriate. There’s a flashback to the egg hatching, which we just saw ten seconds ago. Only now, the dragon gets up immediately, instead of lying on its back. Continuity? What’s that?
There’s another flash of light, and it’s back to Eragon waking up. Apparently, he fainted. This is none too surprising. In the book he did this at the end of every other chapter. The rest of the time, he fell asleep or got knocked on the head. He stays awake a lot more in the movie, but that’s not necessarily a good thing.
He looks up, confused, and sees the dragon curled up next to him. And I still want to pet it. Eragon looks at his hand, and there’s a weird spiral-shaped scar on his palm that looks like a stylised “e”. In the book, he ended up with a silver oval, which was, ahem, more than a little similar to the magical mark on Garion’s palm in David Eddings’ Pawn of Prophecy.
“Look what you did,” he says to the dragon, as if it just knocked over a jug of milk. You know, I’m really starting to wonder if this kid is firing on all cylinders. Okay, that’s a lie—I stopped wondering a while ago.
His uncle calls to him, and the dragon freaks out. Eragon, though, picks up a pail of milk and a small sack and asks it if it’s hungry. He fills the sack with milk. For some reason, it doesn’t immediately all leak out, so it must be one of those waterproof sacks that were all the rage with medieval peasants. The dragon peers at the sack, probably wondering why he didn’t just pour the milk into a bowl. It then bites the sack, tearing it open, and letting the milk spill all over the floor. I kind of wish the dragon would do that to Eragon’s other sack, if you know what I mean. And would you believe, the puddle of milk has completely disappeared in the next shot?
A few moments later, the dragon hears squeaking, so it runs off and dives behind a heap of grain sacks. It emerges holding a dead rat, which it promptly eats. Hey, now! Okay, so I guess the movie has decided to get personal with me. Being a rat myself, I feel compelled to note that rats don’t actually make loud and obvious squeaking noises. The only time they make sounds is when they’re either in pain or fighting each other. The rest of the time they’re pretty silent. Sorry, but the movie convention of dubbing in loud squeaks whenever there’s a rat on screen has always gotten on my nerves.
Eragon grins, obviously agreeing with the audience that this dragon is cute beyond all reason. Unfortunately, we’re forced to return to—oh gods, please save us—Galbatorix’s throne room. Sorry, but poor Mr. Malkovich’s humiliation isn’t quite over yet.
The throne room, by the way, is a really awful set. It’s all cavernous and echoing, and badly lit (evil likes to ruin its eyesight, apparently). There’s a huge map of Alagaësia on the wall which, I swear, must have been copied straight out of the front of the book and blown up to poster size. This makes all the geographical improbabilities a hundred times more obvious.
Durza has come to talk to the King. What? Don’t they have a magical means of staying in touch? For some reason, he specifically addresses him as “my King… Galbatorix,” as if the guy is prone to forgetting his own name or something.
Durza reveals that the dragon has hatched. But he adds that it’s hatched to “a mere farm boy.” Well, that’s not very nice. Galbatorix does an impersonation of an extremely disinterested John Malkovich as he says that it doesn’t matter who the egg hatched for; when the Varden find out, they’ll challenge him. “And I’m not interested in being challenged,” he adds. Well, at least he’s being honest about his performance.
You can tell by the way Malkovich says this line that he didn’t know how it was supposed to be read—menacingly? Sarcastically? Cheerfully? He ended up settling for a kind of overdramatic monotone—the same one, actually, that he uses for all of his lines. You know, director Stefen Fangmeier actually admitted that he doesn’t know much about acting. Why does that not surprise me?
Durza says that there’s no one left to fear, but Galbatorix is more pessimistic. He strolls over to the map and starts pointing at it, saying there are “remnants of the resistance” beyond “these borders”. He says this while pointing at nothing in particular, but it’s really too dark to see the map, anyway.
Galbatorix claims that there are elves and dwarves helping the resistance, and this is the first we’ve heard of them. And pretty much the last, too. There are no identified dwarves in this movie, and no elves either. I’ll tell you when we meet the one character who was a dwarf in the book, but the movie gives no indication that he’s anything other than a regular human. No one has pointed ears in this movie, and no one is short. Basically, they just got ordinary actors to play the elves and dwarves, and ignored the whole issue.
So the few brief mentions of elves and dwarves end up being pretty freaking confusing, and also entirely pointless. I honestly don’t know why they didn’t just cut mentions of them out of the movie altogether, since in the book they were just generic Tolkien clones with very little impact on the plot.
“I can’t let them have hope,” says Galbatorix. Man, what a killjoy. Next thing you know, he’ll be telling them there’s no such thing as Santa Claus. He touches Durza’s face with his press-on nails (you can tell he’s the more evil of the two, because his press-ons are longer), and moves uncomfortably close to him, almost like he’s about to whisper an obscene suggestion in his ear.
Instead, Galbatorix just rasps that Durza must make sure that this new dragon rider, meaning Eragon, doesn’t get to the Varden. Uh, what makes him assume that Eragon will be going there? How does he know this new rider isn’t a loyal vassal, already on his way to the castle to swear allegiance to the King? Wait, there I go again, thinking about things. He’s read the script, that’s how he knows.
Durza promises to find and kill Eragon. So I guess he’s not even going to try and recruit him first, like he did in the book. So… you’ve got this new dragon rider who’s just come along, and he’s obscenely powerful (as we’ll find out later), and you’re going to immediately try to kill him, and make an enemy out of him, when as far as you know, he’s loyal to you. Can anyone see the logical flaw in this? C’mon, help me out. I can’t figure it out, what with my tiny rodent brain.