Eragon – DVD Review

Available at Amazon.com

Director:
Stefen Fangmeier

Cast
Edward Speleers … Eragon
Jeremy Irons … Brom
Sienna Guillory … Arya
Robert Carlyle … Durza
John Malkovich … Galbatorix

Release Date: March 20, 2007
Running Time: 103 minutes

The Movie

Have you ever been sitting around watching the Star Wars trilogy and thought to yourself, “Gee, I sure wish this took place in a more Lord of the Ring-ish world.” If so, I think the rest of us can put at least some of the blame for Eragon, and the whole Inheritance trilogy, on your shoulders.

Eragon, the first book of the Inheritance trilogy, was published in August of 2003. For some reason the book sold very well and it wasn’t long before 20th Century Fox decided they wanted to bring it to the big screen.

As is commonly the case whenever a novel is adapted for the big screen, there were quite a few changes made. I’ve never actually read Christopher Paolini’s Eragon so I can’t provide you with a complete list of changes but I do know, among other things, that a few characters were dropped completely – notably the Twins and Katrina – the presence of Galbatorix was increased, and some of the monsters, like the Urgals, were changed so the movie wouldn’t be as blatantly ripping off the look of Lord of the Rings.

The titular character is a young man who discovers a dragon egg that has been stolen from a not-so-friendly king named Galbatorix. It is quite fortunate that the egg found its way to Eragon as a dragon egg will only hatch when in the presence of the one person, in all of time and space, that it was truly meant for.

Of course, the aforementioned Galbatorix is not too happy about having his egg stolen – he “suffers without [his] stone.” A Galbatorix flunky by the name of Durza is put in charge of retrieving the egg. When some of Durza’s creatures determine that Eragon was the one who found the egg, Eragon and his dragon, Saphira, are forced to flee the village. Fortunately, the mysterious Brom is on hand to provide Eragon with all sorts of tutelage along his journey.

Oddly enough, despite the rise in CG effects, the last few years haven’t delivered very many movies where dragons played a major part. The only one I can think of off-hand is the cheese-tastic Reign of Fire. So if you’re looking for some nice CG dragon action, Eragon does deliver. Saphira, for the most part, looks great, and is surprisingly cute as a baby). The CG isn’t quite perfect as at times Saphira is obviously a CG creation, but it is still really well done.

Another well done aspect of the film is Durza. While the supposed chief villain, Galbatorix doesn’t really leave much of an impression, Robert Carlye really makes the most of his role as Durza. As such he stands out as far more menacing than any of the other villains in the film. Admittedly, that’s not that much of a challenge, but I think Carlyle still deserves some kudos for his work here.

Predictability is one of the big problems that plague the film. Part of that due to the fact much of the plot is borrowed from A New Hope but everything is really by the numbers. At no point are you likely to be surprised by an unexpected twist; there are times when you’re obviously supposed to be surprised, but there are no real surprises, or even moments of heightened suspense, to be had.

Dialogue is another area where the film is lacking. Despite this being an action movie, many of the quips are on par with Homer Simpson’s legendary, “Die, bad robots! Die!” from The Simpsons. It’s hard to get fired up for a big battle when the hero is spouting drivel like, “Into the sky, to win or die!” Lines that really take you out of the moment.

For all its faults, and there are many, Eragon is still a fun movie. That doesn’t mean its a good movie, or even an okay one, but if you enjoy cheese, it is fun to watch.

The DVD

The Video
Eragon is presented in 2.35:1 widescreen. Many scenes seem to have a slight orange tint to them. A lot of these scenes take place at night surrounded by campfire, candle light or other such fire based light sources so in those instances it makes sense. But some of the exterior, daylight scenes also have this faint orange tint for some reason.

The Audio
Everything sounds just fine. There’s nothing that’s going to blow you away here aurally, but there are no problems either.

The Extras

Director’s Commentary
Most of the time when you have a solo commentary you end up with long periods of silence where the commentators simply had nothing to add. Fortunately that’s not the case here. Eragon is the first movie Stefen Fangmeier directed and his passion for the movie really shines through during the commentary. Not only does he always have something to say, he often gets sidetracked whenever something new pops up on screen. A fairly informative commentary that really conveys the director’s enthusiasm.

The rest of the special features are contained on a second DVD. They decided to do something a little unusual with the layout and used a map of the Eragon world in place of the standard menu. This is a really neat interface to use, but unfortunately it makes it much harder to find specific special features. What features might you expect to find at Carvahall? Or at Gil’ead?

Carvahall
Inside the Inheritance Trilogy: The Magic of Eragon
A 50-minute behind-the-scenes feature covering everything from the book to script process, the casting, the shooting, the effects and what to expect from future films (in the event they actually make any more).

Eldest – The First Two Chapters
As the name suggests, this feature is the first two full chapters of the Eragon sequel, Eldest. It’s a neat idea for a feature but what it actually does is make you appreciate the movie all the more. If the writing in Eragon novel is anything like the writing on display here, the filmmakers deserve a lot of credit for doing the best they could with some not so great source material.

Daret

The Inhabitants of Alagaësia
This feature is basically a photo gallery of film and concept art focused on the principal characters of the film. But unlike your normal photo gallery, this one includes commentary from the director making this 19 minute piece far more interesting than your standard photo gallery. This piece also shows us the original concept art for the Urgals and the Ra’zac, based on their descriptions in the book (where they looked an awful lot like orcs and ringwraiths, respectively). We then get to see how they changed the designs so the creatures wouldn’t be LoTR rip-offs.

The Spine

Vision of Eragon
A four minute animatic used to sell Eragon to 20th Century Fox. The animatic more or less covers the opening sequence of Eragon and has optional commentary from Stefen Fangmeier.

Vision of Eragon: Concept Artwork Gallery
A short featurette narrated by Fangmeier on the initial concept art, primarily the stuff that was featured in the ‘Vision of Eragon’ animatic.

Gil’ead

Extended and Deleted Scenes (with optional commentary)
There are seven deleted/extended scenes here. A lot of the scenes are from before Eragon flees the village and were cut simply to speed the story along. With the exception of one scene (which introduces the Twins, but comes off as really goofy), all of the scenes were cut primarily just for pacing reasons.

In addition to the Twins’ only scene being cut, there are a couple scenes with Eragon interacting with the butcher’s daughter, Katrina. She actually goes with Eragon’s cousin, Roran, when Roran leaves the village. All three of these characters return in Eldest in more important roles so I’m not sure how they will be handled in the event of a second film being made.

Tierm

Pronunciation Guide
A list of place and people names featured in the book/movie and information on proper pronunciation. Seems like it’d be more helpful for the book as if you’ve seen the movie, you’ve already heard the name pronounced.

The Ancient Language
This is a list of translations for some of the various phrases (ancient/dwarf/urgal spoken throughout the film.

Original Storyboards
Storyboards for six different scenes from the movie.

The Lost Storyboards
These cover four different scenes that were storyboarded but never filmed. They primarily focus on Saphira’s growth (apparently in the book it took much longer for her to mature).

Hadarac Desert

Saphira’s Animation Guide
This piece contains a little over 2 minutes of sketches from Saphira’s ‘animation bible’ and is narrated by Stefen Fangmeier.

Uru’Baen

Eldest
A short interview with Christopher Paolini discussing Eldest.

Beor Mountains
Teaser Trailer
Theatrical Trailer

Become the Dragon Rider – Creating the Video Game
Here we have about three minutes of Stefen Fangmeier and Ray Gresko (design director for the game) talking about the game with some clips. Nothing too exciting.

Fox on DVD
Previews for other Fox DVDs. Includes Planet of the Apes, Kingdom of Heaven and TV Action.

Farthen Dûr
The Secrets of Alagaësia
This is a nice feature. Visual effects supervisor, Michael McAlister and additional effects supervisor, John van Vliet go through all the major special effects shots of the movie, showing clips of the effect from wire frames all the way to the final shot. It runs about 44 minutes.

The Inside Pulse

On first viewing, Eragon comes off as a sub-par fantasy film. That’s probably because it is a sub-par fantasy film. But it grows on you over time. It never ceases to be a bad movie, but it has a certain energy about it that makes it fun to watch (even if you’re only watching it to make fun of the movie). When you combine the fun of the movie with the fact this set is loaded with all the extras you could ever want, it’s a winning combination.

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for Eragon
CATEGORY
RATING
(OUT OF 10)
THE MOVIE

4.5
THE VIDEO

6
THE AUDIO

8
THE EXTRAS

8.5
REPLAY VALUE

8
OVERALL
5.5
(NOT AN AVERAGE)