24 December 2006

"Eragon" Review

A company related to my job sponsored a preview of the movie "Eragon", based on the book Eragon (Inheritance, Book 1).

The experience (at AMC Phipps Plaza 14): mediocre film projection, absolutely horrible sound. It went from no sound at all for the first two minutes, to mono only, to breaking from mono into surround and back every few seconds. Theater owners want to know why attendance is down? This is why.

The movie: not great. I have not read the book, but those who have tell me that the richest parts of the story were cut from the movie. I believe them, because the story as it stands in the picture is formulaic and not especially well executed. I have nothing against formula movies, in fact I think a good story can always stand a good retelling, but there simply was not enough character development to support it. The characters were more caricatures or stereotypes than living things. You could just about map every character directly onto that ultimate of (good) formula movies, Star Wars. Eragon is Luke Skywalker, Brom is Obi-wan, Arya is Leia, etc. But there is so little depth to the characters that we might not recognize them if we didn't know them from countless other stories on the same formula. Screenwriter Peter Buchman's only previous writing credit is Jurassic Park 3, not itself a stellar example of screenwriting.

On the other hand, the visual effects are quite good, as near as I could tell on the typically underlit projection. There were only a couple of shots where I thought "that looks fake". And the final battle scene is thrilling despite being poorly motivated by previous action. Costumes, sets, and cinematography were also excellent. Overall the production value was very high. Too bad the screenplay didn't put it to use.

Younger viewers and those with a less critical eye will enjoy this fantasy adventure, but at the price of theatrical admission I would recommend finding something better.

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