Dir: Stefen Fangmeier. US. 2006. 103mins.
Lord Of TheRings-lite it may be. But Eragon, based onthe hugely successful young adult novel by Christopher Paolini,still manages to deliver some involving fantasy and brisk adventure in itssword-and-sorcery tale of a feisty dragon and her hunky young rider.
Lacking the dramatic heft ofthe Rings films, this big budget(reportedly around $100m) outing won't have enough broad appeal to do Rings level business. However, interestfrom the novel's mainly teen fans could itself be sufficient for producers Fox2000 and Davis Entertainment to turn a profit - and then start work on adaptingthe second book in Paolini's dragon trilogy.
Fox gives the film aday-and-date opening in the US and most international territories this weekend.In the domestic market, PG-rated Eragon will face competition from several other family andkid-oriented offerings in the run-up to Christmas. But it will benefit frombeing the only real fantasy adventure of a season that in recent years hasproduced an abundance of Rings, Narnias and Harry Potters. International prospectswill depend on the popularity of the book (which has been published in 38 countries)in any given territory.
Paolini's book (first published in 2002, when the authorhimself was a teenager) is heavy on magic and dragon lore and the history ofthe kingdom of Alagaesia. The film script by Peter Buchman (JurassicPark III) compresses the story into 103 minutes of swift, sometimes evenrushed action, skimming over the mythology to focus on Eragon(Speleers), a 17-year-old farm boy who discovers anegg that hatches the dragon Saphira.
Learning about his destinyas a Dragon Rider from mentor Brom (Irons), Eragon sets out with Saphira tojoin the rebel Varden in their struggle against Alagaesia'sevil king Galbatorix (Malkovich).
With special effects expert Stefen Fangmeier (who worked on Master And Commander) making hisdirecting debut, the film doesn't give much time to the novel's coming-of-agetheme and other dramatic threads, but there is a sense at least of Eragon's struggle with his new responsibilities and of hisdeepening bond with Saphira. There's also a hint ofromance to come with beautiful warrior Arya(Guillory, from Love, Actually).
The CG dragon is fairlyconvincing - neither too fierce nor too cuddly - and the flight sequences areeffective without being really thrilling. Other effects shots (by ILM and WETADigital) are nicely blended with impressive location footage shot in Hungaryand Slovakia.
Much less successful is thevoiceover version of the telepathic communication that goes on in the bookbetween Eragon and the speechless Saphira(whose thoughts are vocalized for the movie by Rachel Weisz).The film also falters when it borrows the book's expository dialogue, whichseems even more stilted coming out of the mouths of distinguished actors thanit does on the page.
Ed Speleers,who apparently had never performed professionally before, still needs to workon his acting, but he does have a presence and his good looks will help ensurethat young female Paolini fans turn up at themultiplex alongside their male counterparts. Elsewhere in the cast, Jeremy Ironsand John Malkovich are not exactly stretched butGuillory makes for a promising love interest.
That interest could comemore to the fore if Fox goes ahead with the sequel that's hinted at in Eragon's finalseconds. Eldest, the second book in Paolini's trilogy, came out in August 2005. Fans are stillwaiting for a publication date for the third (yet to be titled) book.
Ingenious Film Partners
Davis Entertainment Company
Peter Buchman, based on the novel by Christopher Paolini