Saturday, May 31, 2008

Eragon -- Why me?

opens with a narration by Brom (Jeremy Irons) introducing us to the land of Alagaësia and its history, including the dragon riders. "But the riders grew arrogant, and began to fight among themselves for power. Sensing their weakness, a young rider named Galbatorix betrayed them, and in a single bloody battle, believed he had killed them all, riders and dragons alike. Since then, our land has been ruled by Galbatorix. He crushed all rebellion, including the freedom fighters known as the Varden." This is as much character development as you will see in this dull dragon discourse.

As the story begins, Arya (Sienna Guillory) is riding for her life with a blue stone, stolen from King Galbatorix (John Malkovich). When she is caught by the evil wizard Durza (Robert Carlyle), she somehow transports the stone to another place in the forest. How she got the stone and how she transports the stone are never explained. Perhaps the director thinks the viewer will be so caught up in the "action" that he will not ask.

When Eragon (Ed Speleers) finds the stone on a hunting trip, he takes it home. Of course it is a dragon egg, the last remaining dragon egg, and it hatches into a very cute beastie. Quickly, so quickly it grows from a small hatchling to a giant flying dragon, Saphira (voiced by Rachel Weisz). And this underscores the main problem with this movie. It moves so quickly that there is no character development, no time for nuance of plot. Many of the characters have so few lines that they come on stage and are gone before you know they were even there. What dialog there is comes across as wooden and stilted.

Eragon can be compared to another recent movie with a monster's egg found by a youth that hatches: The Water Horse. Both aim at the youth market. Where Water Horse engaged with appealing characters and a cute plot, Eragon overflows with tedium. Silent Nessie easily wins over speaking Saphira.

When Eragon hooks up with Brom, it gets a little more interesting, but not much. With a confusing clutch of characters, many unnamed, Eragon fails to keep the viewer's attention. At one point Arya says to Eragon, "Time moves quickly" but not for this audience. Eragon seems to drag on and on, with action sequences that are simply dull. Though many of these scenes bring to mind Peter Jackson's terrific trilogy, try as it might to be a youthful Lord of the Rings, this is more like Bored of the Dragons.

Eragon does raise a number of questions such as: how did Eragon learn his magic, why does John Malkovich never leave his dark war room and why does he only interact with Durza, why does Eragon smile so much, and why did so many good actors commit to this doozy of a project? One of the biggest questions is why was Ed Speleers cast as Eragon in his debut role, since he looks like a deer in the headlights through most of the film.

The one serious question and challenging issue that is raised in Eragon is "Why me?" A universal question raised by men and women when something unexpected and difficult, even tragic, occurs, Eragon asks this of Brom and of Saphira. "But you were chosen," says Brom. As a son does not choose his father, so a rider does not choose his dragon. The dragon waits for the right time and chooses the rider. Indeed, Saphira explains why she chose Eragon: "You choose a leader for his heart." When Eragon replies, "But I'm not without fear," Saphira retorts: "Without fear there cannot be courage."

When we face tough times, and are tempted to ask "why me?" we can remember that as followers of Jesus, God has chosen us. We did not choose him, he chose us (John 15:16). He allows us to be in the positions and situations we face. And fearful as we might be, we can trust that we will lead with courageous hearts, with hearts of faith.

Copyright 2008, Martin Baggs

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