Monday, April 21, 2008

Eragon: 2006 - Why It Isn't As Bad As I Think It Is

Film Review: Okay, let's get a few things out of the way first: this movie is bad. I guess that's just one thing, but it's a big thing. Now let's talk about the movie and why it is bad, or isn't. Okay, I'm already confused.

The plot and writing is by one of my least favorite script-writers: Peter Buchman. This dude also did Jurassic Park III, which was one of the worst movies I have ever seen - we're talking bottom five of all time here. So the movie is already shot in the foot by the writer. It's also based on a fantasy novel by a teenage boy. Bullet #2. It has a first-time director and a first-time lead - bullets 3 and 4. Not only is it a first-time director, but it is a first-time director coming to directing after working on a series of big-budget films as the special effects supervisor. Bullet 5. Somebody decided to give this crew $100 million dollars, and that would give us bullet 6. (I agree with Wes Anderson's commentary on big-budget cinema in The Life Aquatic, namely, it ruins film) But there are two rays of hope: Hugh Johnson as the cinematographer and the director came out of special effects. I loved the cinematography in Kingdom of Heaven - it was quirky, unexpected, and it kept me coming back to that movie more times than the movie really deserved. Also, I still think Master and Commander is one of the best looking films I have ever seen - Fangmeier has a true talent for creating intensity as a visual effects guy. So there we have it, six bullets to the foot of this movie, and two positives. That's how I approached it: with four marks already against it.

The movie wasn't terrible all the way through. I actually enjoyed a few parts. It's true, and Kelly will probably beat me up for saying this, but if Rotten Tomatoes is going to be consistent, I don't think it deserves the 16% rating it has. I think it deserves a better rating than Jurassic Park III, which is at 48%. It should be at 53% and here's why:

1. Cinematography. Come on, you couldn't see this one coming? Can I say it's not as good as I hoped it would be? Well it's not, but it's definitely still quirky and good. It's even great at times. Well, I guess only once.

2. Visual Effects. Review after review praises the work done on the dragon and villages, making the movie visually almost believable. I completely agree that this movie is visually stunning in this department, as well as the cinematography.

3. Acting. Sienna Guillory was screwed with a really bad script for her character, and she performed equally bad, but Ed Speelers (above) wasn't half bad. Yeah, he isn't great, but he's definitely not bad there at the almost-end. His performance has passion and even though it is unrestrained, inconsistent, and sometimes mis- or un-aimed passion, it has passion.

4. Story. Every review calls it derivative and a mixup of Star Wars and Lord of the Rings. But what isn't derivative? (Especially in the post-LotR Fantasy Genre) There is no blank slate. There is nothing new under the sun, and there has almost never been. Sure, I've heard each part before, but so has anybody who has read Shakespeare. Honestly, the story interested me enough to buy the book. (That is the biggest compliment this film will get from me, and considering how much of a hobby it has become to beat it up, that's the best it will probably ever get)

That's it. It had four marks against it and four marks for it. That gives it a fifty percent in my mind. The fact that I wanted to read the books afterwards gives it the extra three percent. Eragon is in some ways terrible, but come on, it's Hollywood - it's gonna be bad. This movie almost transcended that and became good. Not great, don't get me wrong, but it was almost good.

1 comment:

borukelly said...

And that, dear Norm, is the problem. This is Hollywood, telling but true - not bad enough, or good enough, to be good. Not quirky enough to be interesting. The cinematic equivalent of elevator music - you know it's there, but it's not compelling enough to make you pay attention.

I would much prefer a compelling failure (Prince, "Sign O' the Times;" Wes Anderson, "The Life Aquatic...;" Peter O'Toole's face; Ken Kesey, "A Sailor's Song;" my love life) than watching some hack achieve the mediocrity that he/she is gunning for. "Eragon" is just that. Mediocrity Achieved!!!!!! St. Saliere would be proud.