Review by Jack Foley
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES (2-DISC): Audio Commentary By Director Stefen Fangmeier; Extended And Deleted Scenes With Optional Audio Commentary By Director Stefen Fangmeier; Inside The Inheritance Trilogy: The Magic Of Eragon – Featurette; The Inhabitants Of Alagaesia – Featurette; Vision Of Eragon; Featurette With Optional Commentary By Stefen Fangmeier; Storyboards; Ed Speleers Auditions; Interview With Christopher Paolini; The Secrets Of Alagaesia – Featurette; Saphira’s Animation Guide; Trailers.
THE fact that Eragon is based on the first of a trilogy of books written by a 16-year-old is both its biggest strength and its Achilles heel.
The film version looks set to wow younger audiences with its CGI dragons and attractive male lead but it lacks the emotional gravitas of either Star Wars or Lord Of The Rings, both of which it borrows from heavily in order to get bums on seats.
That isn’t to say Eragon is a bad experience, merely an underwhelming one that pretty much goes through the motions for this sort of thing.
Ed Speleers stars as young farmer Eragon whose discovery of a dragon’s egg in the woods near his home heralds the time of the Dragon Riders once again.
Once the egg hatches and he names the newborn beast Saphira (voiced by Rachel Weisz), the two unite with a former Dragon Rider (Jeremy Irons) and a captive female warrior (Sienna Guillory) to tackle an evil king (John Malkovich) and his sorcerer apprentice (Robert Carlyle).
First-time director Stefen Fangmeier is a veteran of Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) and has a BAFTA-winning background as a special effects magician on the films Saving Private Ryan and The Perfect Storm.
But while he capably handles the special effects element, he finds himself let down by a featherlight script and some fairly average performances.
Newcomer Speleers looks dashing as the eponymous hero and does OK with most of the material but is sorely found lacking during some of the weightier moments. And John Malkovich does his best pantomime villain routine as the evil King Galbatorix.
Only Jeremy Irons and Robert Carlyle emerge with much credit – the former providing sterling work as Eragon’s friend and mentor and the latter rising above some hammy dialogue to create an imposing nemesis.
The dragon itself is a suitably impressive CGI creation that breathes fire and swoops all over the place and she commands enough screen time to ensure that kids will be enthralled.
But Rachel Weisz fails to inject her with much charisma vocally, uttering worthy but dull lines that provide jarring reminders that the script did originate from the mind of a 16-year-old.
Fangmeier does, at least, make good use of some spectacular Slovakian locations and never allows the effects to dominate but his decision to borrow from better genre movies tends to infuriate.
Eragon’s realisation of his destiny is lifted right out of the Luke Skywalker handbook, while the film sails pretty close to Lord of the Rings territory on more than one occasion.
But given that the source novel was written by a teenager for teenagers (and younger), it’s hardly surprising to find that it plays best for that demographic. They’ll be suitably entertained without necessarily believing that Eragon has the potential to give Tolkien or JK Rowling a run for their money.
Running time: 104mins