May 25, 2009
Eragon (2006) (part 2 of 13)
The movie opens with some aerial shots of clouds and mountains, which are not at all reminiscent of Lord of the Rings in any way, shape or form. But before we can fully register this, we’re instantly assaulted by the worst and most terrifying beast ever encountered in a fantasy movie: the dreaded, unstoppable expository voiceover! This time, though, instead of being a 1940s newsreader, our voiceover comes courtesy of a very bored Jeremy Irons.
“There was a time,” he begins, “when the fierce and beautiful land of Alagaësia was ruled by men astride mighty dragons.” More mountains. And I’m still not thinking of LotR. Nope. Not at all.
“To protect and serve was their mission,” Jeremy goes on, “and for thousands of years the people prospered.” Yes, the people must have been very happy and peaceful if they needed men partnered with enormous dragons to look after them. There’s no way that much power in the hands of the ruling class would have turned them into terrifying tyrants. Because people who become very, very powerful never become corrupt. (This is a fantasy world, remember?)
“But,” Jeremy continues, as the music turns sour, “the riders grew arrogant and began to fight amongst themselves for power.” Boy, I sure didn’t see that coming. But look, if that’s all they’re going to do, why is everyone so keen to get them back later on? Meh.
Anyway, one of them—a guy called Galbatorix—”sensed their weakness”, “betrayed them”, and in “a single bloody battle, believed he had killed them all”. Which makes him the ultimate evil, right? I mean, it’s not like fighting amongst themselves counts as “betrayal”, anyway. If he came out on top, that just means he was the strongest.
Now comes an aerial battle between a group of dragons, from the POV of someone (presumably Galbatorix) sitting on the back of one. It’s actually quite neat—big dragons flying everywhere, breathing fire, at night, with a village or something burning beneath them. Then again, the end of the first D&D movie was like that, too, so your mileage might come up a lot shorter.
So the other riders lost out and were killed, and Galbatorix made himself King, and oh gods, now we get to see the man himself. Basically, he’s John Malkovich looking rather bemused, and wearing your standard Evil Fantasy Tyrant outfit, complete with press-on nails (no really—black press-on nails) and a fur mantle. Yep, that’s really got me trembling in my boots.
There’s more fire, and peasants fighting against armoured soldiers, and Jeremy tells us that Galbatorix “crushed all rebellion.” Because if they’d rebelled against the old riders, they wouldn’t have been brutally crushed. No, the old order was good and sweet and would have just given them tea and biscuits.
Oh, and apparently a group of “freedom fighters” known as “the Varden” were included in the people who got crushed. Hey, you know what another word for “freedom fighter” is? Yeah, that’s right—terrorist. But since the King is evil, that automatically makes them the epitome of goodness and justice.
And then we get our first glimpse of the King’s generic henchmen. Basically, they’re big fat bald guys with facepaint. In the source novel, they were supposedly a kind of beast-men, with horns and a guttural language, who were leery of going out in sunlight. They also had an elite form that was much bigger and stronger. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking: they’re just orcs with horns, right? Well, not quite. Actually, they’re much closer to Robert Jordan’s Trollocs, which in turn were basically orc ripoffs. So, our prodigy ripped off a ripoff. Ye gads and things on toast.
In the movie, though, they just cast a bunch of Hungarian body-builders, and left off the horns and such. Which makes them far less obvious orc rip-offs, but I just wish they’d left out the name, as well. This lackey race is called—no joke—the “Urgals”. No, really. They’re honestly called that. A nineteen-year-old kid came up with this, you say? Not a chance!
And I think I’ll mention again just how bored Jeremy Irons sounds here. He pronounces all the dopey made-up names very carefully and deliberately, and it could not be more obvious that he’s not particularly familiar with any of them. It’s even more obvious that he really doesn’t give a shit about this narration, and just wants his paycheck so he can go home. Compare this to the wild, near-psychotic scenery chewing he put into the D&D movie. If that doesn’t convince you, allow me to refer to an interview he gave during production, in which he freely admitted that he was not a fan of the book (he openly said “it is not well-written”), and pretty much showed that he didn’t think much of his role in the movie, either. Which becomes even sadder when you later see that he’s the only actor in the entire thing who really seems to be trying.