May 25, 2009
Eragon (2006) (part 11 of 13)
Our heroes continue on foot. Arya is being carried on Saphira’s back, by the way, and I don’t know or care how she’s staying on. Maybe Eragon magicked up some Velcro. And now they’re being followed by a very large number of Urgals. Say what? Where the hell did they spring from?
More running, and they finally end up at the base of a huge waterfall. They stop here, and then an Urgal suddenly leaps out of nowhere. Upon seeing this, Murtagh grabs Zar’roc from the totally unaware Eragon, and kills the thing before it’s even hit the ground. So tell me—why isn’t Murtagh the hero, again? (And that applies to the book, too.) Eragon looks nonplussed, and then says thanks. Wow, they’re really bonding!
Murtagh eyes the waterfall and asks if it fits Arya’s mental map, and his accent has now completely disappeared. Eragon’s reply is to jump into the water and swim underneath the waterfall. Murtagh hesitates to follow, perhaps because he’s worried about messing up his hair. But he changes his mind when he sees the Urgals coming right up behind him. And the “godsdammit” look on his face as he strips off his fashionable cloak before diving in really makes this part of the movie worthwhile.
He and Eragon swim under the waterfall and emerge in a cave, where they’re instantly menaced by guys with spears. These guys appear to have come out of a crappy period movie set in Hollywood’s idea of the Middle East, because they’ve got weird round helmets, and chain mail faceguards. Oh, and the spear-points appear to be made out of plastic, but I don’t know why I felt compelled to mention that. Oh right, to point out that this movie looks amazingly cheap for its $100 million budget.
And now it’s back to—oh no—King Galbatorix, still wandering around his lair. Dude, get a hobby or something! Durza has somehow teleported here again (is he trying to collect Frequent Flier miles, or something?), and is looking somewhat the worse for wear after being shot in the forehead. Before, he looked pretty much human, but now his face looks like it’s starting to rot. It’s really not appealing.
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Galbatorix yells at him for not capturing Eragon, and Durza says that there were “complications”. Galbatorix looks amused and says he’s okay with this, because Eragon has now led them straight to the Varden. Remind me again why Eragon is the hero?
He goes on to say that it’s now up to Durza to let the Varden know that “as long as I am King, disloyalty will be punishable by death!” Because I’m sure they don’t have any inkling of that already.
Strangely enough, the King never actually appears in the books. So I haven’t got the faintest clue of what the book’s Galbatorix looks like or, hell, if he even exists. And all the blather about how evil he is really wasn’t convincing there, either. At least the Galactic Empire blew up planets and shit.
Galbatorix backs Durza up against the big map. Here comes another creepy moment, where he invades Durza’s personal space and tells him to gather the Imperial army and take them to the Varden, and “leave no one alive.” Oh no, could this be the end of the rebellion for good? Oh, I’m feeling so very, very tired. It must be all that vodka I’ve been chugging for the last hour. These evil instructions duly given, Galbatorix vanishes again.
And now we meet the Varden, and it was totally not worth the wait. Our heroes are in a big underground chamber, being confronted by people in the most bizarre and inappropriate outfits imaginable: everything from standard-issue “fantasy” armour, to brightly-coloured and vaguely African-looking cotton robes, to more of those “Eastern” affairs that we’ve already seen. I have no idea what they were trying to do here, but unless it was “confuse the shit out of the audience”, or “make a crappy model UN as it might have appeared in 1500 AD”, it failed spectacularly.
Eragon is introduced to a black guy in a silly-looking breastplate, and it’s the same guy from the opening of the movie, which happened all those many years ago. Yes, Djimon Hounsou has finally shown up to embarrass himself. (Trust me, I’ve seen The Island, and this is easily the more humiliating role. You might disagree, because Hounsou only gets about ten minutes of screentime in this movie, and hardly any lines, but when you see the outfits they stuck him in, you’ll change your mind very quickly.)
Hounsou introduces himself as “Ajihad, leader of the Varden,” and I doubt you could find a more stilted way to say that line if you were a Speak & Spell. And how about that “hidden message” there in his name? Damned if I know what it’s supposed to mean, or even if it’s intentional, but it’s kind of not very subtle at all.
After Eragon introduces himself as “the rider”, Ajihad demands that he call his “beast” inside. A short, bearded guy says that if Saphira attacks, Eragon dies first. And the guy who says this—with a Scottish accent, no less—is supposed to be King Hrothgar, leader of the dwarves. No, really. I know he looks like an ordinary guy, but he’s meant to be the King of the Dwarves. Not that the movie ever says so, which is probably just as well.
Eragon calls Saphira, and she flies into the cave, to sounds of awe from the Varden. Once she’s well inside, a huge slab of stone rolls down to cover the entrance, moving and sounding exactly like an automatic garage door. And I’m just too exhausted to say much of anything about this, except to wonder why they had it open in the first place.
Arya is still on Saphira’s back, and apparently ailing (but she’s awake, and still manages to look hot while doing it), so Eragon goes over to say hi. He tells the Varden she’s been poisoned by a Shade, and Ajihad quickly has her removed so the healers can deal with her.
Eragon tells Saphira to “watch over Arya.” Uh, yeah. I bet she’ll be able to fit right into the infirmary. No trouble at all. Gods, this guy is thick. Saphira clears out of there, warning him to look after himself. And I’m really fed up of people saying that to him. He clearly has no interest in keeping himself safe, so why bother telling him to?
Meanwhile, outside the cave hideout, some Urgals show up and kill some very unaware guards. After this, they easily just walk right in. And the Varden have managed to hang out here for how long?
Someone tells Hrothgar and Ajihad about the buttload of Urgals headed their way. Ajihad says there’s no time to lose: he has to know if Eragon’s on their side because they’re going to need his help. Of course, they wouldn’t be needing his help if he hadn’t led the damn Urgals to them in the first place. But of course, no one points that out, because Eragon can do no wrong (StuStuStu!).
Eragon announces that “we” have come to join them, and I’m not sure if he’s including Murtagh or not, which would be a tad bit presumptuous. Ajihad looks pleased, but then notices Murtagh is behaving a bit oddly, and trying not to look him in the face. The music goes tense as Ajihad strolls over and has a good look at him. He suddenly shouts, “Seize him!” Eragon protests, and then Saphira shows up and roars at them, which pulls everyone up short.
Eragon stands up for Murtagh, saying he saved his life, but is shocked to learn that he’s the son of Morzan, the traitor. You know, the guy who was mentioned once about an hour ago? That guy? And no, we never do find out how Ajihad knows this about Murtagh. But the lack of explanation here is better than the “explanation” given in the book: Ajihad recognises Murtagh’s voice after having heard his father’s voice, just one time, about fifty years ago. No, for real. And what do you know—Murtagh did have a shocking secret, after all! I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a fantasy story as unashamedly paint-by-numbers as this one is.
Murtagh angrily points out it’s not his fault who his dad was. He lifts up his shirt and shows them all a big phoney-looking scar on his torso, which he says is the only thing his father ever gave him. He says he hated him until the day he died. And in the book this was pretty much the same, only the scar was on his back, and we’re told Morzan inflicted it by throwing his sword at Murtagh when he was three years old. And no, I did not make that up.
Nevertheless, Ajihad orders Murtagh locked up. He’s hauled away, all fiery defiance and kickass black clothes, and I do believe I hate the movie even more now. Once he’s gone, Ajihad quite sensibly explains that if the Urgals have come, this means the King’s men aren’t far behind.
Now we cut to—no, for the last time, this is not a joke—a shot of Durza, from behind, standing on a high precipice somewhere, and looking down on a huge army gathered to hear him. Looking even worse than before, he screams that today they’re going to wipe out the Varden for good. It’s not quite “a new power is rising, a victory is at hand”, but what did you expect? Quality? The army cheers like a bunch of idiots, and Durza, looking on, quietly adds, “But the boy is mine.” Help yourself, corpse-dude. We don’t want him.
Inside the Varden’s hideout we see—ugh—a shirtless Eragon, busy cleaning himself up. He’s interrupted by a black chick who introduces herself as Ajihad’s daughter. She’s not named here, but in the books she’s called Nasuada, which my spell-check wants to change to “Nausea”. How appropriate. She, too, gives Eragon a flirtatious look. Look, he’s really not that attractive. If you’ve got any taste, go make eyes at Murtagh, but I really don’t think this is the appropriate time to be looking for a date, what with the impending battle and all.
The two of them walk off through the caves, and Nasuada reports that Arya is doing well (darn!). They step out into the hideout proper, and oh gods, it’s a towering white city carved into the side of a mountain. Oh, what I wouldn’t give for a flock of Nazgul to show up and rip the place apart. But unfortunately, the coming battle sequence is going to be far too lame to produce anything that exciting. And at this point, I’m so uninterested in the plot, world and characters, that they could have a battle choreographed by the entire team from Lord of the Rings under the supervision of Quentin Tarantino, and I still wouldn’t give a crap.
There are people here wearing even more ridiculous outfits—once again, the Middle Eastern motif applies, and I still have no idea why. If they’re trying to show some sort of “cultural contrast” here, it’s really not working.
Eragon notes that everyone’s afraid of him, and Ajihad explains that suspicion is the only thing that’s allowed them to survive this long. And yet, they accepted Eragon without asking any questions beyond “are you on our side?” They certainly didn’t probe him enough to discover that it’s his damn fault they’re about to be attacked.
Ajihad says that when they heard a new rider had come, they were expecting something, well, “more.” Wow. That’s exactly what Durza said! So it’s not even just the villain who thinks he’s pathetic.
Inside the caves, a lot of guys are forging weapons. It’s a bit late for that, isn’t it? Eragon is shown some armour that’s been laid out for him, and from the way they present it, it seems like they just whipped it up at the last minute. And the armour looks really stupid as well. I know nothing armour, but there’s no way I’m buying this as the real deal. You see, when they said there would be armour, I was expecting… well, more.
No, make that less. As in, less obviously machine-made, less cheesy, and less impractical. I guess I’m just a hopeless optimist. Picture a turtleneck sweater made from… some kind of vaguely leather-ish material (which is far too tight of a fit to be practical), and coated in metal scales. That’s pretty much this armour, and it looks as ridiculous as it sounds.
Meanwhile, Urgals hurry through tunnels which I assume lead into the hideout. And they’re carrying torches that are really, really obviously made with manufactured padding soaked in petrol. You know, I don’t think there’s one shot in this entire movie that doesn’t have something mind-bogglingly dumb in it.