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Eragon (review)

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Let Us Pray

Really, how ingenious and how devout of director Stefen Fangmeier to sacrifice the glory of his feature film debut as an offering to the might and, dare we say, magnificence of His Highness George Lucas, that god of cinema without whose loving guidance none of us would have a true appreciation for the power of the motion picture today. Yes, in the many and sure to be complex analyses of Eragon, it will be dissected and discussed and deconstructed, this humble and yet simultaneously brazen supplication before the altar of Star Wars, this prayer, nay, this plea that the divine eye of the Lucas might cast itself upon a young artiste, this Promethean endeavor to steal fire from the cinematic heavens and spread it amongst us, we mere, puny movie lovers parched in a desert bereft of Star Wars these 18 months.
And lo! How it is that Fangmeier found in his quest the second coming of Mark Hamill in Ed Speleers, a paragon of bland blondness and earnest youth. And mark! How it is that Fangmeier, worshipper of the Lucas and stealer of the Lucas’s thunder, found the second coming of Carrie Fisher in Sienna Guillory, a demigoddess of brusque efficiency and royal tediousness. And see! How it is that Fangmeier unblinds our eyes and leads us to know that Jeremy Irons himself is the second coming of Alec Guinness, ripe with mystery and magic and swordfighting practice sessions and not revealing who the hell he really is. And exalt! How it is that Fangmeier prostrates himself before the Lucas by using the Lucas’s own eyes through which to tell us his tale! Verily, if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Fangmeier is the most frank and forthright petitioner of the Lucas’s favor yet.

Let us share in pious intonations of the wondrous chants as we bear witness to the marvel of Eragon, transporting us miraculously from the land of Tatooine to the land of Alagaësia, where nary a thing of any substance differs from the Gospel of Luke, except here be dragons instead of landspeeders and X-wing fighters and the Han Solo is really lame. Where farmboys dream of adventure in distant realms absent of chores and uncles

Looks like I’m going nowhere… Looks like I’m going nowhere… Looks like I’m going nowhere…

and secret powers reveal hidden destinies

I’m not going to Alderaan, I’ve gotta get home, I’m in for it as it is… I’m not going to Alderaan, I’ve gotta get home, I’m in for it as it is… I’m not going to Alderaan, I’ve gotta get home, I’m in for it as it is…

and the village idiot holds the key to distant fates

That wizard’s just a crazy old man… That wizard’s just a crazy old man… That wizard’s just a crazy old man…

and princesses await rescue by young heroes of questionable parentage

Aren’t you a little short for a dragonrider… Aren’t you a little short for a dragonrider… Aren’t you a little short for a dragonrider…

But hark! The Force is strong with young Eragon, but he is not a dragonrider yet. And so we pray that the Lucas shall see Eragon, and that he shall see it as Good, and that he shall bestow upon Fangmeier his blessing to go forth and make a Sequel or — praise be to the Lucas — a Trilogy. For it is known throughout the land that those crappy Saturday-night Sci Fi Originals have been really pathetic lately, hardly worthy expending the energy to snicker at, but that when this one comes out on DVD, it’s gonna be perfect for offering up to other gods, that old triumvirate whose words are wise and noble and yet have abandoned us lo these many years: Joel Robinson and Crow T. Robot and Tom Servo who dwell on the Satellite of Love.

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MPAA: rated PG for fantasy violence, intense battle sequences and some frightening images

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb
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  • http://johnvoorhees.com soundacious

    Ah, but that snarky triumvirate of gods have manifested a mighty second coming over at Rifftrax.com, MaryAnn. It’s way worth your time.

  • Shadowen

    I imagine it is no more or no less a Lord of the Rings/Star Wars…’homage’, let us say…than the book it was based on.

    I bought it in paperback and I still feel dumb.

  • Kate

    I haven’t seen this, or read the books it was based on, but it seems to me that it’s also an, er, HOMAGE, to the Anne McCaffrey Dragon/Pern books. I mean, ya got dragons choosing their riders at birth and bonding to them, telepathically and emotionally, for life, then working together to save the world from imminent harm….No, no, I’m being ungenerous: I’m sure it’s totally different and unique and special.

  • Danielle

    I started reading Eragon at the urging of a friend, but I was so disgusted with the Star Wars ripping-off (as well as the LOTR ripping-off, and everything else that was ripped off), that I stopped at chapter 6. Basically, in order for this movie NOT to have ripped off Star Wars, the source material would have to have been completely disregarded.

    There are much better fantasy novels out there about dragon riders. Why couldn’t one of these have been turned into a film instead??? LOTR proved that adult geeks will head to the theatre in droves to see a great fantasy film.

  • MaryAnn

    There’s definitely some Pern influence in the story, but it’s more obvious in the novel than in the film. (I too was so infuriated by how terribly written the book is that I’m reminded of what Dorothy Parker said about another tome: This is not a book to be put aside lightly; it is to be thrown with great force.)

    The film has had so much stripped away that all that’s left is the *Star Wars* stuff. Sure, the hero’s journey is a classic structure, so it’s not just that aspect of *Eragon* that’s so offensive — lots of stories use the hero’s journey basis and still manage to feel original. It’s the bald-faced, wholesale theft of dialogue and visual cues from Lucas that is the one impression the film leaves you with.

    I’d love to see Pern on film, too.

  • Paul Wartenberg

    Have any of you read Joseph Campbell? If you had, then you’d know that *everything* is ripped off from everything else. Every hero/quest story is like this: Harry Potter, LOTR, Wizard of Oz, Star Wars, hell even Firely/Serenity (when you strip away the cynicism and attempts at cliche-breaking, Whedon’s best work still echoes Campbell’s themes), they all follow the same rules: young hero goes on an epic quest to defeat evil and as a prize finds himself, and along the way he gets an old shaman, a snarky cowboy, a cowardly lion, and a grouchy princess to show him the secrets of defeating the cloak-wearing heavy-breathing Dark Lord (usually by throwing water on the meanie). So don’t gripe about this being ripped off from Star Wars, or Dragonriders of Pern, or even Dragonslayer, or heck even Snakes on a Plane. Instead, complain about the dreadful dialogue and cardboard character development. So there. ;)

  • Harley

    You know, I generally don’t give in when the whole universe seems to be hyping a book/book series and insists as a whole that I read it, too. Usually it ends tragically and I’m forced to remind myself that I’m not much for “blockbuster” books. Yet, occasionally, my inclinations have been wrong. So I gave “Eragon” a try.

    And…and…

    It was dreadful and now I fear that it is poisoning the other books on my shelf and will continue to do so until I am rid of it.

  • Kate

    Oh, you’re giving Fangmeier a bad name. It’s not really his fault, it’s not like he had much to work with from the book. Who knows what he might have done if he’d been given a better platform to stand on? I think the jury’s still out on Fangmeier, though it’s definitely very much in on Paolini… and the verdict’s not good.

  • MaryAnn

    Sorry, Kate, that shot of Eragon looking longingly off into the sunset, just like Luke on Tatooine, is entirely Fangmeier’s fault. :->

    And Paul, clearly, you’ve not read the many, many reviews in which I discuss the hero’s journey (and my *Princess Bride* book has a big section on it): *of course* many stories are hero’s journeys. The problem here is that Eragon’s hero’s journey is, in many specific details, *Luke’s* journey. Dreadful dialogue, yes: much of it is directly — and badly — paraphrased from *Star Wars.*

  • Danielle

    Most of us who are big into fantasy know Campbell and can accept the fact that there’s not much “original” out there. A great writer (or director) can make the hero’s journey into something special. Like MaryAnn is saying, lifting someone else’s vision of the hero’s journey is, well, most definitely not special.

    Anyway, let’s just have them bring on the sequel so we can learn all about Eragon’s long-lost fallen dragonrider father or something.

  • MaryAnn

    The worst thing about the movie may be that the kid who plays Eragon really is pretty good — he could have a decent career, if this doesn’t sink him.

  • Psinorhc

    Have yet to see the film, but have been dreading it as there are so many elements of the book that would be, at best, difficult to translate to film. I have also heard that the last half of the movie deviates greatly from the book.

    As for the book, I was more than halfway through and wondering why everybody had been so excited about it when I remembered that it had been written by a fifteen year old boy who had just graduated from being home schooled in the middle of Montana (or something). Having that in mind didn’t make the book any better, but it did make it tolerable.

    The second book is better though, although he does go off to train with a reclusive, aged mentor who has been hiding from the big bad guy in a far away place with a lot of trees, among other things. Danielle, you are not that far off.

  • MaryAnn

    How is the book any more tolerable for having been written by a kid?

  • Psinorhc

    Most of my initial lack of enthusiasm for the book was a result of the structure and dialogue being a bit unwieldy along with some continuity issues, and I generaly give newer writers the benefit of the doubt where such things are concerned. The story, while nothing special, was not all that bad, so the book was tolerable enough to finish and see if the second was any better.

    Of course, I did not catch the Star Wars parallels, perhaps because they are so blindingly obvious, and now that I have that in my head, I keep recalling bits of the book that now make my head hurt.

  • Pharlain

    Feeling the profound loss of a holiday devoid of a great fantasy movie to stand in line for (Oh Jackson why couldn’t you have given us the six years of movies we so rightly deserved?) I was considering seeing this movie. Thankfully now I will just netflix it for watching while writing a paper instead of dropping ten bucks on it in theaters. Actually even after reading the review I was considering it but then realized that your review is most likely more amusing than the movie itself. It’s sad how often that happens with your reviews. Anyhow thank you MaryAnn for one more saving my 10 dollars that will now be used for drinking.

    And I don’t think the kid being 14 makes the book any more tolerable (I don’t go around reading my friend’s kid’s short stories, unless I birthed the child I honestly don’t care) it just makes me think that rather than harrassing the poor kid for the writing and lifting themes we should be burning down the publishing office that decided the publish this tripe anyhow under the assumption that “The kid is 15, clearly this book will be hailed as a masterpiece.” Bah. The Film and book industry continually insults us with their apparant belief that we are all tasteless morons.

  • MaryAnn

    It doesn’t matter whether a book is a masterpiece — what matters is whether it sells. And clearly, the publisher should be lauded, from that perspective: this piece of tripe has been a HUGE bestseller.

    Apparently, lots and lots and lots of people ARE tasteless morons.

  • CaptainBooshi

    I read through the book when my brother bought it, and although I recognized some of the blatant copying, like from the Pern books, I completely missed the Star Wars stuff! Now I’m thinking back to certain scenes in the book and I have no idea how that got past me. I didn’t hate the book, but I certainly didn’t love it, and I’ve always been forgiving to a fault with bad books.

  • http://toniokruger.blogspot.com Tonio Kruger

    You know a movie’s really bad when it references MaryAnn’s beloved “Star Wars” and she STILL has a problem with it…

  • MaryAnn

    Aw, c’mon: lots of movies reference *Star Wars,* but not many do it in a way worth seeing… That said, outright theft is not “referencing” — it’s, well, outright theft.

  • Mel

    So, uh, is the movie actually entertaining enough (at least in the snark sense) to see in theatres or do I wait for DVD and the drinking game?

  • MaryAnn

    Definitely wait for DVD.

  • Steve

    Eragon lights the pinnacle of one of the poorest years in celluloid history.

    The behind the scenes hi-jinks that got this movie accepted, paid for, and actors with quality to their previous movie credits to be in (Jeremy Irons for one), is by far the best sci-fi epic of all this. I am sure some of them will not be seen in public for 6 months…or as soon as they come out of therapy for having signed on to this debacle.

    I took my 9 year old hoping that someone had done their homework and actually put a product out that she might enjoy. YIKES, $21.00 we spent for tickets alone…Truly the word raped comes to mind.

    It may be that as much as I love going to movies I may have to incorporate a beta-testing system before I toss out both money and my cookies on a waste of non-recoverable time.

  • meghan

    i thought the book was very good, but i am not a big starwars fan so i dont know if they ripped off that book/movie. but i personaly loved it. i am alos a huge fan of LOTR and i didnt see how they were alike.

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