Eragon is a corny, family-safe grab at filmgoers looking for the next Narnia, writes Donald Clarke
ERAGON ★★ Directed by Stefen Fangmeier. Starring Edward Speleers, Sienna Guillory, Garrett Hedlund, Djimon Hounsou, Jeremy Irons, John Malkovich, Robert Carlyle, Gary Lewis, Joss Stone, voice of Rachel Weisz PG cert, gen release, 104 min
THE feared Baron Murdochos, supreme sovereign of the Fox Empire, peered angrily through the cragged battlements that crowned his looming, monolithic palace. For nigh on five twelvemonths, rival hordes had made it their business to spread terror about Cineplexia during the ancient season of Yule. In the early years of theMillennium Time, Jackson the Kiwi, a large creature lushly covered with thick rough hair, had sent his Ring Lords forth to lay waste to the unhappy land. How time passes. But one year ago, from the Magic Kingdom, wherein rules the Mouse, the tyranny of Narnia spread about Cineplexia. Murdochos, his head adorned with a helm decorated with plover’s eggs the size of jewels, clawed the air and screeched in jealous fury.
All of which is to introduce Twentieth Century Fox’s faintly desperate attempt to fashion their own series of films featuring jolly dwarves, wise elves and ferocious dragons. Acquaintances who live in basements inform me that Eragon is based on a bestselling nov- el by some youth from Montana concerning the efforts of a farmer’s son to restore the ancient practice of dragon-riding and, thus transported, end a reign of terror by some archetypal bald lunatic.
As is the way with such affairs, everybody and everything has a name that would seem more appropriate if attached to a proprietary brand of laxative or a Soviet-era nuclear missile. Say hello to Hrothgar, Durza, Arya and – I’m not making this up – Galbotrix. The dialogue is in mock-Saxon. The costumes resemble those worn by the staff at folk parks. John Malkovich, the bad guy, sends pieces of scenery scurrying for cover lest they suffer gnawing. And so on.
In short, Eragon is exactly as you would expect it to be. Lifting its plot wholesale from Star Wars – itself an amalgam of influences – Stefen Fangmeier’s lumbering film appears terrified to do anything that may surprise or alarm. It is, thus, a somewhat comforting beast. It’s the kind of bad film you can slide into without any fear that you will rub against sharp edges.
That said, though popular enough, the Eragon books do not have the crossover appeal of Tolkien or CS Lewis. Baron Murdochus may not conquer the kingdom just yet.