One Part Brave, Three Parts Fool

Eragon

(Not to be confused with “Aragorn” from Lord of the Rings) Based on the first book of Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle of which I have not actually read the final book. Flew through Eragon before it was even mentioned as a movie, and the second, Eldest. By the time the fourth, Inheritance came out, I wasn’t able to immediately get it and it had been so long. Now…I’ve forgotten most of the actual plot. I do remember being impressed by the world building; but after getting involved with other fantasy series and doing my own research and work; it borrows heavily from other classics. Which all writers do. Heck, most of my work currently resides as a sort of fanfiction until I develop where I actually want things to go.

The movie differs from the book at times, but is filled with familiar faces. Eragon is played by Ed Speleers, who has gone on to appear in Downton Abbey and Outlander. And he looks remarkably like Lucas Till (new MacGyver) at times. Brom is the ever-talented Jeremy Irons (voice of Scar, Henry IV in Hollow Crown, Aramis in Man in the Iron Mask, and we’ll see him in Kingdom of Heaven). Man in the Iron Mask alum John Malkovich (Athos in that film, he’s also Edward ‘Blackbeard’ Teach in Crossbones [I watched the first season or so once, another series that was a bit too violent for me]) is the evil king Galbatorix. Robert Carlyle (Rumple/Mr. Gold from Once Upon a Time, also in the Stargate TV series, and in the Bond film The World is Not Enough) plays the evil magician Durza. Other people that you may recognize: Dijmon Hounsou as one of the Varden, as well as Gary Lewis (he appeared a couple times in Merlin and Outlander), Steve Spiers (a bit part in Dead Man’s Chest and Phantom Menace, as well as Porthos in The Musketeer) lives in Eragon’s village, and Joss Stone (Anne of Cleaves from Tudors) is a soothsayer.

We are informed in the opening narration (done by Jeremy Irons) that this fantasy land was once ruled by dragon riders and enjoyed peace. Until one turned and took power for himself: Galbatorix. He has crushed all rebellion. Well, until a woman (elf? I think?) steals a stone, is chased, then magics the stone away. A young lad, Eragon discovers the stone and hides it away. Except it’s not a stone; it’s a dragon egg. When it hatches, he touches the baby dragon (which is rather adorable) and is burned. Others throughout the land sense this moment, including the elf (Arya), an old man (Brom) and the king.
Eragon has to bid farewell to his cousin/brother (I forget the precise backstory). Then his village is set upon by evil creatures (who look a lot like Orcs). He’s not home when they find his uncle; his dragon (who has miraculously grown in a matter of days) Saphira keeps him away for his protection. Like Luke Skywalker in Star Wars (which this film plot borrows elements), he returns home to find his uncle dead. Brom finds him instead (and like Obi-Wan, tells the lad that it is good he was not home, for he also would be dead) and carts him off. They must make it to the resistance, to the Varden, to be safe. Druza is still hunting Eragon.

eragon bromBrom is a wise mentor. He demonstrates that Eragon is not as skilled as he thinks he is and his sole purpose at the moment is ensuring that Eragon and Saphira make it to the Varden alive, in order for there to be any hope for the land. Eragon starts discovering his powers and also discovers that Brom was once a dragon rider. But his dragon was killed years ago. A rider can live past their dragon; but if the rider is killed, the dragon dies. So Eragon shouldn’t do stupid things. Well, he’s a teenage boy; he does stupid things.

He gets a vision of Arya in danger (courtesy of Durza) and decides to rescue her. Walking straight into a trap. Good thing a mysterious young man shows up and is on his side (he reminds me of Will Scarlett in Prince of Thieves). Brom is also killed, protecting Eragon. The new trio manages to make it to the Varden with Arya (who has also been poisoned by Durza). Then they start preparing for battle. Because yeah, personalized armor appears overnight. Durza is on his way with an army (which reminds me of Saruman at the Orthnac in Two Towers).

The duel between Eragon and Saphira and Durza and his dark magic shadow monster is rather good. Eragon defeats Durza, but we wonder for a minute if the good guys will actually survive. They do, yay. Except now Galbatorix is pissed; and has a dragon of his own.

I liked the film when it first came out, since it had dragons! And sword fights! And magic! The effects are rather well done. Elements of the book have sunk in to influence my own fantasy series; like magic has consequences and there is a language. But those are common to other fantasy series. Now…it’s like a knock-off of Lord of the Rings. After watching it this time round, I had to put on scenes from How to Train Your Dragon to see better dragons. The performances by the veteran actors are well done. Druza is reminiscent of Rumple in retrospect. Jeremy Irons is his usual badass self; John Malkovich plays a villain well. The film overall just seems like it’s trying too hard. And hmm, in retrospect, Arya is a bit of a peculiar choice in name. Nothing like the Arya in Game of Thrones. This one, we are told is badass. Arya Stark is no doubt a badass. And any sort of romance between this Arya and Eragon is stupid. They barely know each other! Rescuing someone or thinking they are pretty does not make a solid foundation.

As I commented above, the film plot (since I do not remember the variations of the book plot) has strong similarities to Star Wars, which follows the hero’s journey laid out by Joseph Campbell and explained in The Hero with a Thousand Faces.  It examines the common elements that make up popular hero stories, that date back to mythology.  Star Wars follows it, Harry Potter follows it.  I have an article sitting on my computer comparing it to How to Train Your Dragon, waiting for me to find somewhere to publish it.  And it’s fine for a story to follow that path; my objection is that this story follows it a little too closely.

In the first leg, the hero is called to another world and initially resists the call (here, to dragons and being a dragon rider), then meets a mentor (Brom).  There is a road of trials (get more into in the books), involvement of a woman (Arya), atonement with the father (not per say in this case, but delved into in the books in an interesting way from what I recall), and finally the return and mastering two worlds; which would occur in the sequel books.  There’s supernatural help and a magical flight – Saphira.  It just seems like the movie is going down a checklist of “must haves in a fantasy story.”  Dragons, magic, crazy old guy, and they don’t try to mask it.

Let me know your thoughts.  If you have any opinion on Campbell’s Hero Journey.

Next Time: We jump into historically-set movies, starting with Troy

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