Look, when I was growing up, one of my favorite parts of the week was when my brother and I would sit down as my dad would read to us. It started with the Harry Potter series, but while we waited between book releases, we would read the Eragon series. While I never ended up reading the books with my own two eyes, listening to the later books as audio books, I have fond memories of the book series as a whole.
And then they made a movie.
The movie was something thousands of teens were excited for, finally seeing a book written by a 16 year old hit the big screen — at least, that’s how old he was when he wrote the original version. It’s tough to put into words the sheer feeling of disappointment when even audience members left mid-film while watching scenes botch one of their favorite childhood books. How could it have gone so wrong?
If you’re asking that, then you obviously have never seen the film.
The first noticeable flaw in the film is the absolutely lackluster acting. Yes, I understand that the dialogue in the books was awkward and stilted, but that’s no excuse for the lead actor doing such a poor job with the character. Instead of a country boy thrown into a world of danger and magic, it felt like he was just some generic hero. It doesn’t help that the costume and makeup crew did absolutely nothing to make him visually stand out.
Seriously, in almost every other movie on the planet, it is incredibly easy to pick the main character out of the crowd based on the way they dress or that some feature about them stands out. Even in Marvel movies, when Captain America isn’t in his costume, it is really easy to tell that he is the person we should focus on.
Instead, Eragon himself feels like a background character despite him being the central protagonist. He has blond hair styled like every other popular guy in 2006. His outfit consists of white, dark blue, brown and black, and even though they say it should stand out, all of his outfits look like what everyone else is wearing.
Not only that, but the armor he wears isn’t consistent. He receives his suit of plate mail armor right before the battle in the climax, yet when we see him in the fight he is wearing a leather piece that is covered in scale-shaped bits of armor. This is close to what he wears in the books, except in the books, like most armor in medieval times, it went all the way down to his knees.
Where the true problem lies, is in the idea of making “Eragon” into a movie.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to see the story of “Eragon” expand to more mediums, but the silver screen isn’t one of them. “Eragon” is a slow-paced story full of many characters and plot elements that need to be introduced for the story points to make sense. It isn’t something that should be rushed, as the slower pace of the story accommodates the growth of the characters as well as the reader’s understanding of the world as a whole.
If you really wanted to, making a high-budget television show would work much better for the pace of “Eragon’s” story — something like you would see on Netflix or Hulu. The longer total runtime would allow everything to happen at a pace similar to that of the book, and the episodic nature will allow for certain stories or chapters to exist on their own without interrupting the flow any more than the chapters already did.
This was always one of the biggest complaints I’d seen against “The Lord of the Rings” movies, in that the choice of turning it into a film completely changes the overall tone of the story due to time constraints.
I’m not saying that “The Lord of the Rings” movies were bad — on the contrary, they are amazing films — but they are entirely separate from the books when it comes to pacing, tone and the overall feel of the experience.
I know movies are where the money is, but there are many films being made that would greatly benefit from the pace changes that come with being a television show, especially in this current age of high-budget TV with things like “Game of Thrones” and “Stranger Things,” where it’s better for these stories that require time to tell, time that movies do not have.
There have been talks about either continuing the series or rebooting it. In all honesty, I think the better choice would be to reboot it, but I hope that there is a possibility of rebooting it as a show so that it can better encapsulate what it was that made people love the original books. Second best would be to make a longer movie, as the original was only an hour and a half. I know long movies can be tedious, but a movie would greatly benefit from the extended runtime, allowing for more of the original tone and themes to translate over without skipping on story beats.
I rate movies from 10 to -10, with negative being so bad it’s good. I have to give “Eragon” a 4 because it’s far from the worst film I’ve seen, but it’s not really a fun time to sit through. Watching this film feels like a chore, despite it condensing the 59-chapter story into such a short runtime, and if you ever consider watching it, just go read the book instead. Sure, the book has its flaws, but it’s better than the movie.
This week I want to point out the importance of character design in visual media, whether it be movies or comics. Having the main character of a film blend in with the crowd may seem like it could be used for storytelling purposes at times, but in visual mediums all it does is create confusion in the viewer/reader. The character of focus in one of these works should always immediately draw the eye of the audience, forcing a certain perspective on them. This doesn’t mean going over the top necessarily (looking at you Yu-Gi-Oh), but if they don’t stand out enough then it could make it hard to tell whether they are included in a group shot or whether they are actually doing something.
This article was originally written for The University of Tennessee’s Daily Beacon’s Bad Movie Showcase.
Editing done by Evan Newell