Even if it all seems a bit familiar, Eragon is still a fantastic tale of a boy and his dragon.
Based on the widely popular novel by Christopher Paolini, we meet Eragon (Ed Speleers), a simple farm boy living in a land overrun by evil King Galbatorix (John Malkovich) and his murderous army of Urgals. Eragon finds a large blue stone, sent to him by a princess named Arya (Sienna Guillory), who has been captured by an evil sorcerer, Durza (Robert Carlyle). He needs to get the stone back to the king because, well, it's not really a stone. As Eragon quickly finds out, it's an egg that hatches into a dragon, and as cute as it is, it eats meatlots of it. Eragon seeks advice from a grizzled outspoken villager, Brom (Jeremy Irons), who explains to the boy he is a dragon rider, part of a legendary group killed off by the king long ago. Brom helps the boy and his voracious pet get to the Varden, a group of rebels, lead by the tough Aijhad (Djimon Hounsou), who have been waiting for just this moment. Meanwhile, Eragon learns how to communicate with his dragon, Saphira (the voice of Rachel Weisz), through his thoughts, and they learn about their extraordinary powers the more they connect. Of course, Durza and the Urgals won't stop before they kill the boy and his dragon.
Newcomer Speleers makes the perfect dragon rider imagined by Paolini. The young actor has depth, showing believable emotion throughout his journey of turning from a farm boy into a hero, a lad into a man. He's destined to be a superstar, coming across like a young Brad Pitt. Guillory (Resident Evil: Apocalypse) also looks the part of a princess and has great chemistry with the young master Speleers. And together, they hold their own with a superstar cast of Oscar winners (Weisz and Irons) and nominees (Hounsou and Malkovich). Despite such talent, however, this A-list cast doesn't really have much to doexcept Irons and Malkovich, who manage to chew up the scenery regardless. But it's Carlyle (The Full Monty) who seems to have the greatest fun as the wild-haired, heartless wizard with bad teeth who kills at a whim.
Director Stefen Fangmeier is a neophyte to filmmaking, much like the film's young star, Speleers, and the story's young author Paolini, who was only a teenager when he first wrote Eragon, the first in a trilogy called Inheritance Trilogy. It's an impressive directorial debut but not too surprising since Fangmeier has been mostly working in the CGI and special effects field for companies such as Mental Images and ILM and has worked on movies such as Jurassic Park, Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. He gets it, trust us. The computer graphics of the dragon are superb, from the big, blue-eyed baby--looking like a cuddly dachshund with wings--to the large clumsy winged beast, who is still learning to fly and breathe fire. Fangmeier brings to life frightening moments to make us grab our seats but still be enjoyable and not too violent for the PG crowd. Sure, it's a story we've seen before, i.e. Star Wars, Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings, but Fangmeier has created a unique world, raw and innocent. The result is a perfect adventure film; this should be the beginning of a successful franchise.
Hollywood.com rated this film 3 1/2 stars.