Eragon (2006) (part 8 of 13)
With this very necessary scene completed, Eragon leaves. It’s nighttime now, so I guess it was dusk when they arrived. Unsurprisingly, he doesn’t bother to watch where he’s going and walks straight into an Urgal. Whoops! Mind your step there, kiddo!
The Urgal griffinises our hero, but is then stabbed from behind by Brom. This won’t be the last time he conveniently shows up at just the right moment, nor will it be the most blatant. He gets stroppy with Eragon for being an idiot, and then they hurry off by moonlight.
They’re attacked by another Urgal, and run off with more in pursuit. Brom fights them off pretty well, while Eragon makes a run for it, but gets knocked down. Our hero finally does something useful, by shooting an Urgal with his bow and arrow. But then he gets hit and knocked down by another one, who sadly doesn’t proceed to give him a quick stab through the stomach.
While this extremely unthrilling struggle goes on, Brom whacks a couple more Urgals with a torch, and then runs over to help. Eragon calls out for Saphira, then manages to get up and grab his bow. He notches an arrow, aims it, and then for absolutely no reason, he shouts, “Brisingr!” The tip of the arrow starts glowing blue and he fires it, creating a massive explosion of blue fire which wipes out the Urgals (and strangely leaves Brom completely untouched). And then he faints. I told you he did that a lot.
Once again, this is right out of the book. Only there, Eragon had even less reason to suddenly shout the magic word, because he’d heard Brom say it and written it off as a swear word. There was no reason for him to even remember it, but he conveniently did anyway, and said it at the exact right moment. Even though, later on, we find out that you’re supposed to concentrate and so on at the same time.
And you’ve got to love how the magic randomly arranged itself to attack the Urgals, instead of just lighting the ground in front of him on fire. And how said fire is suddenly blue, instead of ordinary yellow like Brom’s was. But, again, it’s nothing the book didn’t do a hundred times worse.
As Eragon faints, he sees Saphira finally arrive. Yeah, that’s one damn useful dragon right there. Glad to have you on the team, Saphira.
And now, back to Arya for no reason! She’s still on the stone slab where she’s spent half the movie, crying out in pain even though no one’s touching her. The movie then flashes back to her running through the burning woods again. I’m really getting bored of seeing this.
It turns out this was another mysterious dream, because it fades to Eragon waking up. It’s broad daylight, and he’s somewhere in the wilderness with Brom. He says his hand “burns”. Poor diddums. Want Jet to kiss it and make it better for you? Well, tough. The best you’ll get from me is a whack over the head with a clue-by-four.
Brom tells Eragon that most dragon riders took years to learn what he just discovered by instinct. Yep, our hero is so very, very special that he doesn’t even have to work to become powerful. He just knows everything automatically (Stu Stu Stu Stu Stu!!). Convenient, no? Eragon asks what he’s going on about, and Brom explains that what he did was magic (you don’t say, Brom), and that magic comes from dragons. Yes, and the Force comes from midichlorians. Damn you, George Lucas, get your lawyers on the phone, already! You’ve sued for much less than this.
It would seem, Brom explains, that when a dragon bonds itself to someone, it gives them magical powers. Did I not tell you that Eragon would get everything handed to him on a silver platter? When Jet speaks, she does not lie.
Brom gives a corny speech about how magic flows through the veins of the riders who command dragons. Eragon then expresses concern (for the first time in the entire movie, I might add) about Saphira, so Brom assures him she’s fine, but that she senses Eragon’s fear as her own.
He explains that their bond is very strong, in that they share feelings as well as thoughts. And… this is a conceit that just doesn’t work. It was the same in the book. We’re told about how strong the bond is, but we never actually see it to any great degree. In the book, it was a vague concept that never really came into play at any point, and in the movie, it doesn’t fare much better.
Now comes the latest evidence that all is not quite right in Eragon’s head. He asks if he killed the Urgals, and when Brom says he did, Eragon—no exaggeration—pulls a face like his birthday has just come early. Honestly, he looks insanely happy about it. There’s no shock, no fear, no “oh my god, what did I do?” There’s just a look of open, smug pride.
Brom tells him it’s nothing to be proud of, making Eragon go from “aww chyeah!” to “oh, shut up and let me enjoy the moment, you old misery.” And if you think that’s rather disturbing behaviour, then just try reading the books. Because this scene has absolutely nothing on the final battle scene in Eldest (the sequel to Eragon), where Eragon kills hundreds of drafted Imperial soldiers and doesn’t bat an eyelash. And then when he encounters his brother, who’s been tortured and forced into serving the King, he shows absolutely no sympathy for him whatsoever. Our hero, ladies and gentlemen.
Brom warns Eragon that magic should always be his last resort, because it’s dangerous and could kill him. And then he says that if he’s going to use it, he has to learn the “ancient language of the elves.” Elves? What now? As far as this movie is concerned, there aren’t any. So what’s he going on about?
This ancient elven language, by the way, appeared in the book. The author claimed to have created an entire language with grammatical rules and so on, as if some kid without a university education could do in three years what it took a professor of linguistics several decades to accomplish. Either way, the “ancient language” is basically just Old Norse, has no discernable grammatical structure at all, and looks and sounds completely ridiculous.
It appears that “brisingr” means “fire”, and in case you were wondering, no, this magical system is not original in the slightest. The idea of a language that controls magic by having “true names” for everything was invented by Ursula Le Guin in the seminal Earthsea cycle. Would you believe that the kid not only lifted this from her, but also took her idea of people having “true names” as well, which could be used to control them? I knew you would. And no, I don’t understand how he got away with it, either.
Well, okay, he didn’t take all his principles of magic from Le Guin—he also ripped off David Eddings in some places. And as if that weren’t bad enough, his books fail to keep the system coherent. Which means his “rules” of magic get broken whenever it’s convenient to the plot.
Back to the movie. Brom starts teaching Eragon magic, warning him that some spells can kill the caster if he’s not ready. And apparently, it all depends on how much physical strength you have. (Not that this stopped the book’s Eragon from doing some truly outrageous stuff with magic—particularly in Eldest—none of which had much of an effect on him physically.) Brom says he can teach the words, but Eragon has to figure out how much strength he has all on his lonesome. Yawn.
Eragon, clearly not understanding a word of this, starts asking the true names of random objects. Here, it’s obvious that the filmmakers realised the language was phoney, and just made up words to suit themselves. Eragon is amazingly enthusiastic about all of this, and pretty chipper, given that he just had a brush with death.
Brom says that when a rider and dragon are “truly one” they “see as one”. He teaches Eragon the magical words that will let him see through Saphira’s eyes. For those who care, it’s “skulblaka sven”, or something that sounds like it. By the way, our heroes turn out to be standing on a very high cliff top at the moment, and I have no idea how Brom managed to get them up there, or why he even bothered (other than to give this scene a cool backdrop, of course).
He tells Eragon that their cover is blown now, so they’ll have to find another way through the hills. He suggests flying, and then—ta-daa!—Saphira just suddenly turns up, and now she’s wearing a saddle. And she somehow knows exactly what Brom just said, because her first remark is, “Did someone mention flying?” Okay, whatever. She asks Eragon if he’s ready to try flying again. No, Saphira, he’s really not. Because he’s a wimp.
Okay, actually, he agrees, and gets onto her back. Saphira says he can thank Brom for the saddle, and there is no way in hell I’m going to buy that the guy managed to whip this thing up in a few hours. It isn’t just a simple bit of leather; the thing’s got padding and stirrups and everything. Sorry, but you’re not convincing this little black rat.
She walks to the edge of the cliff, and now it looks even higher than before. Again, how the hell did Brom get up here with two horses and an unconscious kid? Eragon’s bravado disappears pretty quickly when he sees how high up they are. But Saphira jumps anyway, leading to what I’ll admit is a pretty cool flying sequence. And what do you know? Eragon gets the hang of it in ten seconds flat!
Brom rides beneath them, and clearly, he has only one horse now. What happened to the other one? He shouts advice to Eragon, as if he could possibly hear it all the way up there.
Saphira does a lot of fancy loops and dives and things. Saphira tells Eragon (plot point!) that when he’s ready he can “fight from anywhere! Even the tail!” Now there’s a weird effect on their mental voices, which supposedly indicates their minds merging. I’m just going to take the filmmakers’ word on that.
Eragon wants to try fighting from her tail right away, so he stands up on her back. See? Amazingly fast learner. He tries to walk out along her tail, but wimps out. Then he tries the spell Brom taught him, and his eyes suddenly turn blue and reptilian and look really stupid.
Now he can see like Saphira does. By which I mean, the colour red is suddenly filtered out, and everything looks blue and green. Actually, as an interesting side note, the author has red-green colour blindness, which could be why, in the book, Saphira sees the world mostly in shades of blue. It was practically the only interesting touch in the whole thing.
Saphira reveals that she can do some pretty neat stuff with her eyesight. Namely, she has really good long distance vision, and she can also see living things with a kind of infrared vision, which should definitely come in handy.
Cut to Brom on the ground, and now he’s suddenly leading Eragon’s horse along beside him. Look, I can buy Indiana Jones’ whip magically reappearing whenever it’s needed, but you can’t have a horse with the ability to teleport and expect me to just ignore it.
Like I said, every creature in this film has the ability to teleport offscreen. And that also includes the Ra’zac, who suddenly pop up to start menacing Brom. Eragon spots them using Saphira’s vision, and the two of them fly down to help. So, now we get to see some exciting boy-and-his-dragon combat, right?
Actually, no. At Eragon’s urging, Saphira flies too low (somehow, she manages to fit under the trees, despite being the size of a light aircraft). This allows a Ra’zac to pounce on them. Eragon gets knocked out of the saddle, and Saphira goes careening off and smacks into a tree, where she bounces off and lands in a heap. Ouch. That looked painful. That puts our mighty dragon out of commission, and Eragon has to fight the Ra’zac on his own. Do you think he can handle this without his trusty servant partner? Let’s find out!
One of them pounces on him and is about to stab him, but he shouts a magical word and a vine suddenly comes to life and wraps around its throat, killing it. Yes, it was just that easy. And no, I don’t know how he suddenly knew that spell, because we sure as hell didn’t see Brom teach it to him.
Listen, people. There’s a difference between taking shortcuts in storytelling, and showing your characters doing something that’s downright impossible. Yeah, yeah, Eragon first did magic by instinct, but you can’t suddenly learn a magical word you’ve never heard in your life! I’m sorry, but you just can’t. This is a Deus Ex Machina, plain and simple.
[Note: I’m told the magical word he used was the one for “branch”, which Brom did indeed teach him earlier. Except it’s a vine, not a branch. Nice try, assholes.]
Eragon runs to help Saphira, only to get jumped by another Ra’zac. Brom conveniently shows up again, now wielding his special red plastic sword. He fights the Ra’zac—and the choreography isn’t actually all that bad here, just not spectacular—and knocks it down and kills it.
Yep, they killed the all-powerful deadly assassins, the ones no one can defeat, in the space of less than five minutes. Remember all that talk about how dangerous they were? Looks a bit lame now, doesn’t it?
Brom turns to give Eragon a reproachful look, while magical flames move over the blade of the red sword. No, those flames don’t actually do anything. They’re just there to look “magical”. Or something.