It has now just been ten years since the Eragon movie came out, which means that I can finally talk about it for my Throwback. Like its book counterparts, I’m sure no one will be surprised to hear me say that the movie is awful. Granted, I’m sure that any movie which attempted to accurately portray the first book would be pretty bad—but this movie didn’t even try for accuracy. In terms of adaptations, it’s at about The Last Airbender’s level of bad. Not only is the movie only an hour and a half long—which is not enough time to adapt a book over five hundred pages—nothing in it makes any kind of sense.
At its core, like the books, the movie is about a poor farm boy living within an evil empire who discovers a dragon egg. Once the dragon Saphira hatches for him, they make their way to a rebel group called the Varden and help win a battle against the Empire. And in terms of similarities between the first book and movie, that’s about it. Nothing else is the same.
As much as I rage at the books and rip them apart, I will say this about them: at least they interested me. For all of Paolini’s problems, I do think that he did some things right, and he raised some really good questions, even if he didn’t answer them well. All the characters have pretty distinctive personalities, even Eragon, but that’s especially true for Arya. Arya is an elven princess who spends the first so many books rejecting her royalty—we don’t even find out her heritage until well into the second book. We learn that Arya had a falling out with her mother over a difference of opinion on what the elves should be doing to help win the war against the Empire. Additionally, despite all of Eragon’s stalking attempts, Arya never gives into a relationship with him. She continues to be his friend throughout the books, but that doesn’t stop her from telling him off every time he makes a pass. The last time the two see each other, they leave off on good terms, implying that a relationship could have been possible in the distant future—but I most certainly appreciate that Arya was never turned into a prize for Eragon to win, and that the books tell us that the hero is not entitled to a girl for all his struggles.
Like all typical fantasy novels, the books also have an abundance of mythical creatures—dwarves, elves, urgals, and werecats, etc. As typical and cliché as some of them were presented, the books did a fairly good job at building up a setting and sense of culture. The world of Alagaësia is distinctively different from ours—it’s filled with massive dwarven structures, enchanted forests, and cursed mountain ranges, to name a few things. I hardly think that The Inheritance Cycle is the epitome of good female representation or fantasy writing, but the movie does not adapt any of the books’ good traits, few though they are.
To start with, the movie changes things that do not need to be changed, such as the characters’ ages and hair color. Normally, something this minor wouldn’t bother me all that much, had there been a reason for it. Watching the movie, it just felt like laziness, especially considering that most of our non-human characters were turned into humans. Human!Arya likes to prance about the woods and tell everyone that she’s a princess, dwarves are nowhere to be seen, werecats don’t exist anymore, and even the urgals—giant-like creatures who stand taller than any person—are just regular humans with tiny horns growing out their foreheads. When I first watched the movie, I didn’t even realize that they were supposed to be something other than human at all. One of the movie’s biggest crimes, though, is the death of the Ra’zac (giant bug monsters who serve the Empire). In the books, the Ra’zac kill our Obi-Wan Kenobi character, Brom, who acts as Eragon’s mentor, and then they stick around for the following two novels, causing problems for everyone, until finally being killed off themselves. The movie, however, goes about it differently. Brom kills them, and then a few scenes later, he dies as well. It honestly felt as though the movie forgot that Brom was supposed to die and not the Ra’zac, until spontaneously remembering that plot point and killing Brom later. Brom saves Eragon’s life when he takes a spear for him, but he does it by jumping in front of him from out of nowhere. I think he might have actually jumped through a wall.
It also doesn’t help that the movie is so lazy it reuses footage—some of the early farm scenes are literally just the exact same shot presented multiple times. The CGI is awful and that goes for the pacing as well. Eragon goes from being an untrained farm boy to badass warrior in what I can only assume is the course of two days.
It’s almost mind-boggling how bad this movie is, and to this day I still can’t wrap my head around some of the changes that happened. It’s like the director and writers looked at the original source material and actively made it worse on purpose. They use shortcuts to get around developing relationships—Eragon doesn’t spend months with baby dragon Saphira learning about their mental connection together and building a relationship; instead, she magically grows up in about a day and exposition bombs him about their abilities—which I found really weird, considering the movie’s other decisions. For all the shortcuts the movie takes to avoid characterization and development, it went out of its way to add additional conflicts that didn’t exist in the books. For instance, Eragon’s hometown, Carvahall, is overrun with Empire soldiers who terrorize the citizens, but that is something that never would have happened in the books. Carvahall is out of the way and secluded from the rest of the Empire to the point where the Empire doesn’t even bother to tax them. The Empire only starts paying attention to Carvahall due to its connection to Eragon. This was just pointless drama the movie added in order to avoid dealing with the actual issues the book raised in what was already not-enough screen time.
I first saw the movie before I read the books, and I only ended up reading them when I saw everyone’s negative reaction to the movie, because I wanted to know how badly the movie changed things myself. I really hate the Eragon movie now. I cannot stand it at all. I know the books are bad, but I really wish that I had a movie adaption that stayed faithful to the books and didn’t make them worse, because I still love this series. Thanks to this movie, though, that’s never going to happen. The Eragon movie was poorly received and that’s completely unsurprising. Thanks to it, I will most likely never get an adaptation that I can actually enjoy.