A few years ago, I wrote a post expressing my deep disappointment about the Eragon film adaptation and my desire that the franchise be revitalized… and completely overhauled for screen.
In the time since then, the post still gets hits and comments. Most of the comments telling me that I am, frankly, wrong.
So I figured, it’s been a while? Maybe I’ll go back and give the film a good critical watch. I can be more eloquent and less ranty, right? Maybe, like Ready Player One, it’s a decent film if you have NO IDEA what the book entails? I’ve gotten better at analyzing like that over the last three years, and because apparently this film is loved by many (???) I decided that at least out of respect for the quartet, which I adored growing up, I’d give the movie another shot.
To be perfectly honest, even at the most base level, my opinion hasn’t changed. In fact, I’m a little annoyed that I put myself through 1h44m of torture just because internet trolls kept telling me I was wrong.
I’m going to start at the forefront, because the most common criticism I get is that I don’t appreciate the actors. I honestly found most the acting to be flat and uninspired. The lack of raw emotional depth of the characters made it difficult to become attached to any of them. The one bit of casting I though was successful was Eragon himself, played by Ed Speleers. I felt he successfully portrayed Eragon’s rash impatience and recklessness. Even in the books, I felt Eragon was a surface character, so I think this worked well with him.
The problem is… all the rest of the characters are also portrayed as flat, surface characters, so they don’t balance out Eragon well. My husband (who graciously sacrificed his time to
complain about this watch this with me), felt Jeremy Irons was a good fit to Brom as well. This casting didn’t really work for me, but I think that was more to do with how open Brom was with information and perhaps less to do with the actual acting. We also agreed Murtagh (Garrett Hedlund) and Nasuada (Caroline Chikezie) had potential… but they had so little screen time, how could you tell?
Ultimately, I think most my problems with Ergaon come down to the screenwriting and the director.
I believe that any of these actors could have been fine if the script was a bit better, and even then, the director could have guided the characters to a deeper place. You know when you go to a high school musical and you feel like all the actors are just reading their lines? That. That is how this felt. And you know it’s not necessarily lack of skill on the actors part, because they’re in other things, and they’re much more compelling.
The thing is, Eragon tried to fit the entire 528 book into one movie, and it did so with the heavy assumption that there would be sequels. While Roran was in the film, he was only there long enough to say “whelp, I’m off to see the world!”. Even if the series had continued, it set itself up for failure with Roran Stronghammer, removing Horst and Katrina from the narrative from the beginning and stripping him of all motivation for his actions in the rest of the series. Characters like Roran, Angela, Murtagh, and Hrothgar were given bit parts in a way that felt more like fan service than actual storytelling. And as all these characters are quite important in the long-running story… well? It’s just disappointing. We also lost Solembum, Jeod, and Elva to the adaptation… all of whom were important in their own way.
Even though a lot of the major flag posts for plot were hit in this film, it was done sloppily. Character growth and world building was relegated to dialogue. Eragon never felt like he earned his character growth. We walk into Alagaësia to find the world already at war (early scenes include soldiers in Carvahall conscripting men, and Sloan’s fear is of the king, not the Spine). Choices were made in the filming to speed up the storyline, and many things were cut, but it’s almost like characters like Angela (thrown into a place where she doesn’t fit for a two minute on-screen prediction) were there because they didn’t want the fans of the books to complain too much about not seeing their favorite characters.
Meanwhile, Arya is not in a coma, and she’s quickly set up for a love story with Eragon.
Fans of the book will know quickly why that is wrong, wrong, wrong. In fact, her whole characterization was a mess, changing relationships from the book to build popular tropes and bring in outside veiewers because apparently we can’t have a story without romance tangled in its web.
But wait! There’s more!
For some reason, the choice was made to make this movie a dual POV film – one in Eragon’s perspective and one in Durza’s. I dunno, maybe it’s just me, but I don’t feel like anyone was asking to see things from Durza’s POV? And don’t get me wrong, Robert Carlyle is a fantastic actor (I loved him in Once Upon a Time) but Durza’s not a very interesting character and all the time we spent with the bad guys takes away from the dragon rider himself.
I just… it’s very frustrating.
They trimmed a bunch of essential story driving stuff, condensed Eragon’s growth into simple segments, but added a completely new POV? Not having Durza’s POV and using that time for better development would have solved a lot of problems! The way this film was cut, it just makes things so unrealistic. Having the extra time to better play out the story would have been smart. For example, Eragon’s magic lessons consist of him hearing Brom use “brisngr” once, immediately identifying it as magic and asking to know more, then using it against Urgals to create a massive explosive fire arrow. While the trajectory of this is similar to the book, the motivations are very different – Eragon heard “brsignr” a bunch of times, had no idea it was magic, and used it because he thought it was a curse word. From there begins the long tale of Eragon trying to lift a pebble with his mind.
Hah! Not so much in the movie!
Eragon’s magic journey is a trial and when he successfully moves that pebble, he earns it. In the film we go from Brom scolding him about the fire to him having a great grip on the ancient language and throwing around magic in the final battle like he’s been doing it his whole life. No lessons, no journey, no real growth. It’s the most frustrating kind of story to watch, and it makes the whole thing unbelievable. Not just his magic use, either. His relationship with Saphira, his fighting, his trust in the Varden… it all just. Clicks. Nothing earned. No struggles.
I’m so sorry to fans of the movie out there, but I stand by my initial claims – this movie does a disservice to the books, and it’s in a desperate need of a remake. It’s been fourteen years. We need fresh faces telling this story, and we need it to be told long form, as it was intended. I do think there’s an audience out there for a television adaptation of The Inheritance Cycle, and frankly? It’s got Disney’s name all over it. They’re already working with Rick Riordan on a new Percy Jackson series, and with the family and loyalty themes already present in Eragon, this is a good fit for their brand.
I hope that with Paolini’s new book out in September, fresh faces will look at Eragon, and think, “Hey, that would be a great show.” and write the script that this adventure deserves.
Do you stand by the original Eragon film? Do you believe I’m being overly harsh to the story told here, or overly loyal to the books? Do you think Disney+ would be a good home for a new tv series? Let me know in the comments!