In the beautiful and fierce land of Alagaesia, the peace that had been enforced by the powerful Dragon Riders has been shattered by their own arrogance. As they began to fight among themselves for the right to rule over the lands, a Rider by the name of Galbatorix took advantage of the situation and had all of the Dragon Riders killed. Having destroyed all of those who could challenge his power, he raises an army and takes over Alagaesia. A large group of warriors known as the Varden attempt to stop his reign of terror, but they too are defeated. They flee into the mountains, beyond the reach of Galbatorix.
Years later, with Galbatorix’s rule of Alagaesia complete, Arya, a Princess, had stolen a very important stone from Galbatorix and was fleeing into the woods. She is attacked by Durza, a Shade, who sets fire to the entire forest. Arya, sensing her capture was near, uses magic to send the stone away. Somewhere else in the kingdom, a young boy named Eragon goes out hunting, and has it interrupted by the teleported stone. Arya loses consciousness and is captured shortly thereafter.
The nearby town is full of activity. The Army of Galbatorix lives on forced conscription, and they take two young men who have reached the age of consent. Meanwhile, Eragon goes to the butcher’s shop and attempts to barter the stone he found for some gourmet meat. The butcher recognizes the stone as being one that belongs to the king and forces Eragon to leave his store. As Eragon leaves town, he sees the King’s soldiers confront Brom, a drunken town elder. The soldiers want Brom’s cooked gourmet bird, and after a brief confrontation, Brom eventually hands it to them.
Eragon reaches his family farm and is playfully taunted by Roran, another young man near his own age. They continue to horse around until they find some sticks, at which point they start a mock swordfight, which Eragon wins. The owner of the farm playfully breaks up the fight. Later on that day, Roran tells Eragon that he is leaving the farm because he does not want to serve in Galbatorix’s Army. Eragon talks to the owner, his uncle Garrow, and we learn that Roran and Eragon are cousins. Also, Eragon was left on the farm by his mother, who ran away shortly thereafter. Roran says his goodbye to Eragon and leaves, while Eragon contemplates the future.
The stone that Eragon found turned out not to be a stone at all; it was an egg that has decided to hatch. When he attempts to pet the dragon that hatched from the egg, his hand is hit with a burst of magic which is felt by Galbatorix, Brom, Arya, and Durza. Durza continues to interrogate Arya, who is happy about the recent turn of events. As Eragon raises the little dragon in secret, Galbatorix urges Durza to find the boy who now owns the dragon before he is allowed to reach the Varden. In town, Brom waxes poetic about the days of the Dragons Riders, which piques Eragon’s interest. When Brom is accosted by the King’s Soldiers, Eragon intervenes, and Brom promises that Galbatorix will receive his comeuppance.
Sometime later, Eragon tries to train his dragon to fly. On one particular day, as the dragon takes flight, another burst of magic causes the dragon to mature to adulthood. It also allows the dragon to communicate telepathically with Eragon. Desperate for knowledge, he seeks out Brom, who rebuffs Eragon. As Eragon passes through town to go home, he hears some commotion, and finds that the town butcher is being tortured to tell some strange creatures about him and where he lives. When Eragon attempts to run home to warn his uncle, the dragon scoops him up and tries to take him away from the danger. When Eragon resists, the dragon dumps him near the farm, and he finds his uncle dead and most of the farm destroyed. Shortly thereafter, Brom shows up and Eragon attacks him. Brom easily dispatches the attack and takes Eragon away after burning his uncle in a funeral pyre.
As Durza punishes his minions for failing to kill Eragon, Brom tells Eragon that he needs to reach the Varden since he is the Chosen One to stop Galbatorix. Eragon calls on his dragon, Safira, and Brom examines her close up. Continuing on their journey, Brom trains Eragon in swordfighting, and Eragon finds that he is vastly overmatched. Brom also uses magic to start a fire. Together, they reach the town of Daret, where Eragon gets his fortune read by a mysterious woman named Angela. Upon exiting the hut, however, he and Brom are attacked, and Eragon also uses magic. When he falls from exhaustion, he dreams of Princess Arya.
The next morning, he wakes and Brom tells him more of the secrets of magic. He then takes a ride on Safira for the first time and finds that he likes the sensation. He and Safira are attacked by Ra’zacs and Brom defeats them with his sword, which is enchanted in nature. When Brom cares for Safira to help her heal her wounds, Eragon realizes the truth about Brom; Brom was a dragon rider during the battles in which Galbatorix seized power. Brom’s dragon was killed by a fellow rider named Morzan. When Morzan died, his dragon also died, ending the Age of the Dragon Riders.
Durza, having punished the Ra’zac Leader for failing to Eragon in the forest, takes matters into his own hands and lays a trap for Eragon by planting a false dream in him. Eragon’s impulsiveness sends him to the town of Gil’ead, over Brom’s objections. When Eragon attempts to rescue Arya, Durza finally confronts him, and Eragon is severely overmatched. Brom comes in out of nowhere and jumps in front of a spear meant for Eragon. Eragon frees Arya and uses Brom’s sword to escape. Brom dies from his wound, and Eragon, Safira, and Arya bury him.
As they continue on to the Varden, the archer who saved them back in Gil’ead had followed them. He called himself Murtaugh and wanted to join the group. Unfortunately, Arya had been poisoned by Durza while in captivity, and had collapsed. Murtaugh leds the group to the Varden stronghold, but they are captured upon entry. After meeting with the leader, Ajihad, Eragon and Safira are welcomed, but Murtaugh is imprisoned when it is revealed that he is the son of the traitor Morzan. Murtaugh protests, but to no avail.
As the Varden accept Eragon, Safira and Arya, who is recovering from her poisoning, it is revealed that Durza’s poison allowed Galbatorix to find where the Varden were located. He orders Durza to attack the stronghold, and Durza takes many legions of the king’s soldiers to attack. The Varden, however, have been preparing for battle, and outfit Eragon and Safira in specially made suits of armor.
The battle begins, and Eragon’s presence helps the battle in the Varden’s favor. Durza, however, uses the fires of battle to fashion himself a demonic dragon, which he rides to attack Eragon and Safira. Safira is wounded, but a quick-thinking Eragon uses a trick to stab Durza in his only weak point. However, the battle was a bloody one, and it had appeared that both Eragon and Safira had succumbed to injury.
The next morning, Eragon wakes and finds that Murtaugh had been freed thanks to his actions in helping the Varden win against the soldiers. It is then revealed that Safira had also survived and healed from her wounds. Together, they catch up to Arya, who had taken a diplomatic party with her to return to her kingdom. She was planning to ready her kingdom for Galbatorix’s counter-attack, which she believed was coming soon.
Back at the castle, we see a hand with a Dragon Rider symbol pull out a sword similar to Brom’s. He then cuts a curtain, calling out the name of his dragon. The dragon appears and breathes fire.
Review and Analysis:
Eragon is the end result of watching a few movies and deciding that this would be the best way to tell a story which had been told many times before. When you add to that the stale casting that Hollywood is famous for, as well as lots of uncompelling actors, you get a very unmemorable movie.
Yes, You’ve Seen This Story Before:
Most people picked up on the fact that Eragon seems to be nothing more than Star Wars dressed up in Lord of the Rings garb. What most people may not have noticed, however, was that Eragon‘s screenplay closely resembles George Lucas’s original intentions for the Star Wars movie in 1977.
For example: The Army of Galbatorix increases their numbers by drafting young men of consenting age and forcing them to become conscripts. This was how the Empire in Star Wars was supposed to act; it was how Biggs Darklighter “defected” to be Rebel Alliance. It was also, IIRC, how Luke and Dak (his Speeder Harpoon Gunner in The Empire Strikes Back) knew each other.
Next, the “stone” that was stolen by Arya, which holds the key to the future for the Varden, along with her capture by Durza in the beginning, sounds suspiciously like Leia’s theft of the Death Star plans and her capture by Darth Vader. The plans end up with Luke Skywalker egg lands near Eragon, who works on a farm with his Uncle. Even their sunset contemplations were supposed to evoke the same emotions:
Unfortunately, the similarities do not end there.
Brom’s death as it was written was a poor allusion to Obi-Wan’s death from Star Wars. It was no coincidence that his death comes at the hands of Durza, which allows Eragon to escape with Safira and Arya. This was the same as Obi-Wan allowing Luke and Leia to escape. Arya’s poisoning by Durza which allows Galbatorix’s army to attack the Varden stronghold sounds alot like the tracking device planted on the Millenium Falcon that allows the Empire to attack the Rebels at Yavin in Star Wars.
The dragon fight between Durza and Eragon carries its own allusion to Luke facing Darth in the trench. And the fact that the hero fights with a sword while performing magic? Luke and the Force.
The author has insisted that the story of Eragon is based on some events within his own life, but it seems clear that the story that was penned for the screen was based on a viewing of Star Wars.
Nasuada, as played by Caroline Chikezie, turns out to be nothing more that Eragon’s version of a WOC Sci-Fi Trope Version 1 – The Token. She gets exactly one scene where the lowlight of the scene is her looking suggestively at the “rugged” Eragon as he gets dressed.
You see her at the beginning of the final battle at the Varden stronghold, but she is then “disappeared for the duration.” She doesn’t show up anytime during the battle. Then, she shows up just long enough for a collage shot at the end.
Arya (Sienna Guillory) is given a few moments during the battle where she is allowed to show fighting skills. Murtaugh (Garrett Hedlund) is allowed to redeem his father’s betrayal in the eyes of the Varden. Ajihad is shown to be a capable fighter, mostly because Eragon the movie had to pay a steep price to secure Djimon Hounsou’s services.
However, you will not see one moment of Nasuada as warrior OR as a capable and competent defender in this film. As I have stated previously, Women of Color, particularly Black/African women, are not allowed to show competency with the rest of the group. If such a woman is part of larger epic story, then the only way you will ever hear about a Woman of Color’s competency or awesomeness is if you read the books. Just as Uhura’s awesomeness is confined in Star Trek’s book series (which are not considered part of the cannon and continuity of the Star Trek Universe), Nasuada’s awesomeness is confined to the Inheritance Circle series of books, from which this movie is spawned from.
And It’s Not as if Men of Color Are Treated That Much Better:
Djimon Honsou, who plays Ajihad, the leader of the Varden (for all of about 6 minutes of screentime) spends most of the movie all but begging for Eragon’s help in the fight against the Army of Galbatorix. He gets less screentime fighting for his people than Arya does. After the slow-motion collage, Ajihad is not even seen in the movie again.
Constant Reminders of One’s Place in Hollywood:
What most people miss when examining Hollow-wood’s racism is that there is never the focus on the small things that make a big difference. The bigotry and White (and Male) Privilege run so deep that the excuses come off the tongues of people who defend it are second-nature.
Nearly every Hollywood production is made with this in mind. Thus, when movies that are released have Women reduced to objects to be battled over or prized, this is intentional. When People of Color are somehow disappeared from productions that take place in their city, this is intentional. When LGBTQ people are simply tropes which are viewed through the eyes of Straight (White) Privilege, this is intentional.
I posted the shot above as a case in point about a reminder of one’s place. In this case Sienna is placed in the front of shot…with Djimon and Caroline placed into the background. By all rights, Sienna should be at best side-by-side with Djimon and Caroline. This also happens to be the last shot in which you will see either Caroline or Djimon in the movie, so this is a rather pathetic final moment for the Leader of the Varden and the successor to the Leadership of the Varden.
And they just happen to be people of color.
Willful ignorance? According the law, this is not an excuse.
This topic was covered as its own post in the Faceless Enemies section, thus I would suggest making the jump and reading it in full. The main point of the analysis however, will be quoted here:
Given that the Army of Galbatorix is an army of forced conscription, it makes the final scene that much more problematic. We are supposed to cheer for Eragon and Safira as they bring fiery death upon the King’s Army, but if the army is made up forced conscripts from Alagaesia, many of whom are probably close to Eragon’s age – and more than likely kidnapped like the young men in the beginning of the film, how can we cheer for the hero in this case?
This is the point that cannot and must not be forgotten when watching this film. If the first reaction to Eragon and Safira fire-strafing the King’s Soldiers is one of a sense or justice or righteousness, then the script has done its job of making one forget the kidnapping by the soldiers of the townspeople’s young men. Because these are the ones that Eragon and Safira are killing en masse without any remorse. Instead, the only lives we are supposed to care about are those of Eragon, Safira, and Murtaugh. To a lesser extent, maybe Ajihad.
And What of the Original Author?
Take note of something here:
**Neo-Prodigy** at Ars Marginal makes a point in this post “The Plight of the POC Storyteller“:
And while I applaud and thank the creators of Avatar: The Last Airbender cartoon and HBO’s critically acclaimed and under-appreciated The Wire, I can’t help but wonder if they wouldn’t have been given the same chance and opportunity (and these creators were taking a chance pushing stories with POC leads), if they weren’t white.
So yeah, this yet another hurdle that marginalized storytellers have to contend with. And if you’re wondering why there isn’t more diversity in the media, this is one of the many reasons why.
How is this relevant to the review of this film?
The author, Christopher Paolini, whose career benefited much from not only his family connections, but was given a book contract AND a promotion tour that spanned 2 continents AND had the first book turned into a movie.
I am left wondering if his books would have even made first print if he were a Author of Color. It is not worth arguing the second point, because there aren’t any publishing houses run by people of color with any kind of comparable reach to either Paolini International LLC nor Alfred Knopf, Inc. (the two companies responsible for publishing and promoting the Inheritance Circle series).
And the Rest of the Women in this Film?
There are only 3 women with speaking parts in this film. Arya, Nasuada, and a fortune teller named Angela. Arya is supposed to be an elf that Eragon is deeply infatuated with. The only other “woman” in the film is Safira, a CGI dragon voiced by Rachel Weisz. Safira spends the film nurturing and protecting Eragon not unlike a mother would. There are no other women in the film with any speaking parts. And, even more telling, much like Star Wars, there are no women shown on screen actively working for the bad guys because they agree with them philosophically. In Eragon’s case, there are no women working for the bad guys at all.
This simply means that the meaningful female roles in this movie exist in solely for the benefit of the male hero. So nothing changes.
This movie is something old, nothing new, something borrowed, and something blue – in this case, the dragon. While you can find elements of old movies in new ones, you should not be able to do a scene-by-scene comparison with a single movie and find that it has been lifted nearly whole cloth. It takes a setting that has obviously been inspired by Tolkien and combines it with a story structure obviously taken from George Lucas’ script for Star Wars and comes up with this movie.
Hollywood’s casting choices and script for the movie are simply retreads. The original books, however, aren’t much better. Although, based on the box office returns of the movie, as well as the drubbing it received from critics, the chances of suffering through John Malkovich playing the underwhelming Galbatorix are indeed slim.
Women are nothing more than adjuncts to Eragon. People of color are far and few between. Everything that happens in the film occurs in the same fashion as it did back in 1977, when the movie was called Star Wars. The faceless soldiers die in horrible fashion, and it is even worse when you consider that they fight against their will, having been kidnapped and threatened with death and/or the death of their families.
In short, Eragon is not that good of a movie.