Why Eragon (2006) Should be Remade Sooner Rather than Later
“It’s a pleasant enough fantasy tale for younger teen audiences and even if that’s how it was meant to go, that’s not what comes across on the screen” – Scott Gwin, CinemaBlend.com
When Christopher Paolini’s fantasy phenomenon Eragon hit cinemas in 2006, it created a ripple of anguish worldwide. Book fans and movie goers alike dismissed the film as mediocre, try-hard kiddie trifle. A Metacritic score of thirty eight is just the start of its online booing. Naturally, cries from die-hard fans on message boards demand a remake of the four book fantasy series. Their sadness was backed by the author in December 2011, whom wrote in response to a online-chat interview:
“I gave as much input as I could, but ultimately, the film reflected the filmmaker’s vision of the story, just as the books reflect mine. Hopefully there will be some more movies made from the Inheritance cycle, though. […] I’m glad that the film was made, because it introduced a lot of new readers to the series, which I think is a good thing.”
The existence of an already-rabid fan base is the biggest go-to argument for film production nowadays. The 2013 film version of Stephen King’s first novel Carrie marks the 3rd remake to date. It is therefore fair to guess that no matter how many times you remake something it can still draw in an audience. Even if you watch a movie sequel expecting frustrating disappointment, plenty of viewers simply can’t resist the chance it could be superior to the original. When Eragon came out, it was the 3rd best-selling title of 2003. The last novel in the series, Inheritance, was published in 2011, and sold half a million copies on its first day. 2011 is hardly ancient history in the world of film. Even though the books have been criticized for overly long descriptions, ‘ripping off’ other big-name stories like Lord of the Rings and Star Wars and the deus ex machina ending, The Inheritance Cycle remains incredibly popular and is considered an enjoyable work. Its problems of being ‘too long’ could potentially be improved upon in a TV series format. Besides, Hollywood cares about popularity and dollars, not whether something is of high quality. Our most recent fantasy TV series adapted from a literary work is further evidence that the decision should not be delayed.
With the high ratings and rumble about HBO’s Game of Thrones (2011): an intricate, intensely detailed fantasy series based on A Song of Ice and Fire (1996) by George R. R. Martin, it is a potential indicator that another equally lengthy story such as The Inheritance Cycle could work as a television series. Game of Thrones is a rare case where ratings have risen with each passing season. The first season raked in seventy nine thousand viewers and season three amounted to staggering ninety. How will the ratings read in 2014? While the Inheritance Cycle is different from A Song of Storm and Fire in many ways, it could give viewers means to satisfy their thirst while they wait for the next big instalment and are addicted to dragons and fantastical settings.
The copious amounts of sex and nudity in Game of Thrones has been the focus of much of the criticism of the series, although it has had the bonus of drawing in those whom don’t care for story. Even though Eragon was written when Christopher Paolini was 15, the books contain their fair share of blood, violence and power politics. It is not the same heightened level of Game of Thrones but it is enough to draw in younger audiences as well as older. Eragon does not share its standard of eroticism, but there is a fair share of likable female characters who could fulfil the role of eye candy (like the elf Arya). With its fun battle scenes, dragons, magic and mystery, The Inheritance Cycle may draw in a younger demographic and those who enjoy rich world building, characters and fantasy elements. If Game of Thrones is soda, The Inheritance Cycle is the diet version.
Those who haven’t read the books may be wondering just how horrific the movie adaption was. Unless a book is fairly short like The Hunger Games (2008) or Twilight (2005) it is inevitable that plot points will be skewed in order for the material to stagger the film format. It wasn’t just Harry Potter-esque changes the fans were mad about. The quickest way to display how low they sunk is to look at the films running time. There are four books in the series, around 1000 pages long depending on the font used. That’s 3 times the size of the first three Harry Potter books so it deserves a 2.5 hour time slot as a minimum. The 2006 feature clocked in at an hour and a half, which is throwing itself out in the open for a brutal plot beating. Who knows whether it was the writer Peter Puchman (Jurassic Park II), the producer or the director whom influenced this grave mistake? Was it Christopher Paolini’s fault, for telling the director Stefen Fangmeier that he didn’t care what changes were made so long as “the dragon was done right”? Dare I add that Stefen has only directed Eragon and usually lends his talent to special effect teams, one of which includes Game of Thrones?
The changes made to the storyline and characters were so enormous it would be quicker to explain what they did right rather than its shortcomings. So I don’t sound like a fan with obsessive compulsive disorder, let’s get some positives out-of-the-way first. The things they did right are were the technical aspects, which thankfully make up 90% of the crew. Well done, guys! The filming, location choices, acting, costumes, make up, special effects and soundtrack are wonderful… well, except for baby Saphira resembling a chicken. The only thing done right script wise was the scene where Brom explains to Eragon how to use magic. It is both faithful to the book and explains the rules of the Eragon universe accurately so not to cause plot holes. If someone muted the television and watched the film, it is pretty close to what I imagined in my head.
It is a shame something as critical as the screenplay which involved 10% of the crew was butchered beyond belief. Fans complain about minuscule, little or major changes made to a book, not all of which are consequential to the progression of the story. Eragon had lots of little changes – like Ayra’s hair being blonde instead of black, but these were a breath of fresh air compared to the chainsaw destruction that wrecked havoc throughout. Within the first five minutes things go wrong and they continue every minute (I am not exaggerating). Firstly, Katrina a young, attractive woman whom becomes Eragon’s cousin’s fiance does not appear in the movie. One may think a side character does not contribute to the overall narrative but she is the main reason for Roran leaving and her role only expands as the books progress. Removing Katrina erases any chance for a sequel. Scenes are rushed illogically, most famously a single shot which depicts the dragon, Saphira growing magically into an adult. In the book this is done over the time frame of a couple of months, and could so easily been made into a montage. This would strengthen and display the relationship that grows between Eragon and his dragon. Instead there’s an unbelievable, artificial ‘best buddy’ relationship from Mars. What’s more, other characters that were removed also defeat the chance of a sequel. My professional whingeing could go on forever if I tried to list everything, so I will save you the gory details.
The problem with turning the hearty Eragon into an anorexic stick is that it removes any connection the viewers may have to the setting, story or characters. The characters are skimmed over like foam on coffee. In order to shove the story forward, their actions were turned nonsensical, impulsive and mindless. Brom, Eragon’s highly intelligent mentor consistently emphasizes the importance of revealing information in secret. In the film he yells at Eragon one moment for ‘being out in the open’, then in the next exclaim plot points at the top of his lungs… in a public place. Not only is this out-of-character but it makes Brom out to be rash, hypocritical and unsympathetic. Being 15 years old, Eragon is already quick to jump to conclusions and have intense bursts of emotion, but Brom only amplifies this in the film. It is hard to tell whom is more ridiculous, considering Brom is supposed to kept Eragon in line.
The worst choice in terms of storytelling was to jump between the baddies saying cliche, repeditive sentences such as ‘Kill the boy!” and the main character’s journey. In the book the baddies are left in the dark until the mid way point. This keeps the mystery alive and gives us reason to care. Instead, viewers are subdued to cliché torture of screaming villains like something off the Care Bears (1983). Another terrible, suspense-killing decision was to make Arya conscious. In the book, she is unconscious for three-quarters of the story, which gave us a reason to keep reading and find out who she is or what her motives are. Getting it spelled out for us is both unappealing and dull. Character details and back story are left in the dark so much that the narrative becomes incomprehensible, characters know things that haven’t been explained to them, and so on.
Blood, torture and gory points which made the story dark are completely omitted. The film version of Eragon seems like something made for young children, and even the kiddies deserve something more exciting to watch. Even though the book is mostly travelling, like our other fantasy favourite Lord of the Rings, Eragon still had the potential to be something coherent and beautiful. If anything, this gives ample opportunity to show off artistic skills of the crew. Overall, Eragon deserves a remake as it is a very low risk product. The fan base still want to murder the 2006 movie crew seven years later. In film land Eragon receives brownie points because only the first of four books were adapted. What is the harm in giving the green light? A box office flop is very unlikely if the right team comes on board for the production this time.
What do you think? Leave a comment.