DOASKDOTELL MOVIE REVIEW of Eragon, Beowulf

 

Title:  Eragon

Release Date:  2006

Nationality and Language: USA/Hungary/New Zealand, English

Running time: 104 min

MPAA Rating: PG

Distributor and Production Company: 20th Century Fox

Director; Writer: Stephen Fangmeier, Novel by Christopher Paolini, pub. Knopf (part of Inheritance trilogy; second novel is called “Eldest” due in 2007 on film.

Producer:

Cast:  Tonmy Lee Jones, Barry Pepper, January Jones, Melissa Leo

Technical: Full 2:3 to 1

Relevance to DOASKDOTELL site:  authots

 

This movie attracted interest because of the youth of its author, Chris Paolini, who wrote it at age 19. On the surface, this looks like another “Rings” trilogy, but the storytelling and concept seem a lot simpler. The kingdom is Alagaesia, which looks like New Zealand and seems to have the same geography as Middle Earth in Rings. The script seems a bit wooden at times.

 

The hero is Eragon (Edward Speleers), 17 year old adventurer who seems based on Paolini himself (in the spirit of the Richard Strauss tone poem “Ein Heldenleben). With his brother Murtagh (Garrett Hedlun), he forms a kind of Frodo and Sam pair; they horse around, but break apart as Murtagh leaves to avoid being drafted by the evil king (Gary Lewis). One day, Eragon finds a beautiful blue egg, which hatches with a baby dragon Saphira (voice of Rachel Weisz). The dragon burns the palm of his hand, and gobbles a rat. She looks like Nim in the NBC Surface series, and grows up all too quickly, speaking telepathically. Eragon learns that he is the chosen one for the Dragon to find and return to life with to oppose the king. Jeremy Irons is Brom, his mentor, and John Malkovich also appears. Speleers is innocent and likeable (and buffed, appearing shirtless once), but he lacks the subtlety of characters like Frodo, Harry Potter, or Clark Kent. There is a character named Katrina (Tamsin Egerton) and the novel predates the disaster.  

 

Beowulf (2007, Paramount / Shangri La / ImageMovers, dir. Robert Zemeckis, PG-13, 114 min, USA). Senior English in high school usually starts out with this epic poem (it's hard to understand at first and usually the teacher gives a detailed quiz on it), and translated to the screen in 3-D digital (that's how I saw it, 2.35 to 1) is comes across as a bit like an Asian monster movie. But the ideals behind the epic poem come through. The kingdom is beset with monsters (the burnt up Grendel to start) and needs salvation from them. They (Anthony Hopkins as Hrothgar and John Malovitch as Unferth) talk of the "Roman God Jesus" not quite getting the point of Christianity yet. A hero Beowulf (Ray Winstone) appears and slays the monster. Since the king has no male heirs, he bequeaths his kingdom to Beowulf and jumps off a cliff. Now Grendel's mother (Angelina Jolie, of course) complicates things for a while, and eventually Beowulf has to slay a dragon that could have almost come from Eragon. He amputates his own arm at the shoulder to extend himself at one point. Eventually he falls and passes on, as will the kingdom.

 

Much is made of the animation, and I'm not sure of the technical details as to how it was superimposed on the actors. But the details are quite breathtaking -- reflections in water or off of metal, even Beowulf's slight chest hair, which somehow survives him. The scene is supposed to be Denmark in 570 AD, but there are no mountains in Denmark (unless you count Greenland, which, as we know, is starting to melt).  The indoor scenes early in the film work the eye pretty hard (but that may be how life then looked, really), but then the film opens up about midway.   

 

 

 

 

Related reviews:. Lord of the Rings (trilogy)

 

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