Monday, February 1, 2016

Your Ass is Dragon


Eragon is a painfully obvious feat of wish fulfillment, and yet I have to admit that it spoke to my inner teenage boy. Not the part about a young lad destined to fight orcs and woo maidens from the back of his pet dragon; I mean the part about a 15 year old kid who writes a mash-up of all his favorite fantasy books, gets it vanity published by his parents, and winds up selling 35 million copies. Because that was my fantasy when I was a teen. The other kids on my block wanted a light saber or a bat’leth or at least to see Jacqueline Bisset topless, but all I wanted was a royalty check and a lucrative subsidiary rights deal.

I never got around to reading Eragon, because it’s a YA book and I’m an adult, with adult responsibilities (like bitterness and jealousy), so I can’t speak to its quality. But I did see the motion picture, and while the plot and characters are derivative, I can forgive that because it’s based on a book written by a 15 year old boy, and that in itself is an amazing achievement. The movie, however, wasn't made by teenagers. It just seems like it

Eragon (2006)
Directed by Stefen Fangmeier
Written by Peter Buchman
Based on the novel by Christopher Paolini

We're soaring through the clouds as Jeremy Irons informs us that for thousands of years, the land of Allagash (known for its fine selection of Belgian-inspired ales and rich tradition of crappy ideas for movies) was "ruled by men astride mighty dragons" which is pretty impressive, even more so when you learn that some of them liked to do it reverse cowgirl style. "To protect and to serve was their mission," Jeremy tells us. So, a bit like the Los Angeles Police Department, if Adam-12 had featured Martin Milner and Kent McCord cruising Downtown L.A. on a pteranodon.

Unfortunately, one of the dragon cops was John Malkovich, and he went all Darth Vader one night and killed his fellow officers and their scaly rides and declared himself king, which is like if the pilot of the police helicopter suddenly declared himself Sky Marshal of the Universe and began shooting at the KTLA Traffic Copter.

Anyway, that's just the backstory. "Our story starts," Jeremy drones on, when Not-Liv Tyler, who's an ally of The Vardan (some kind of anti-government militia) steals the King’s stone.  Naturally, His Majesty Malkovich is enraged, because it wasn’t easy passing that stone, so it's got a lot of sentimental value.

Meanwhile, humble farm boy Eragon (who at this performance will play the part of the Chosen One), goes out hunting, while Robert Carlyle from The Full Monty tries to retrieve the stone for Malkovich by having a staring contest with the camera.  When that fails, he orders the Poor Man’s Uruk-hai (let’s call them the Urkels) to kill Not-Liv's militiamen, but she foils him by using the Enterprise transporters to beam the King's kidney stone directly to the Chosen One.

Even though it's warm and gross-looking, and came out of John Malkovich's urethra, Eragon falls in love with the stone, because he knows it's going to make him the beloved title character of a blockbuster franchise that will spawn multiple sequels and catapult him to the heights of stardom. So whatever else it is, the stone is obviously not a crystal ball.

Eragon goes home to his uncle's farm, where he and his lookalike cousin, Roran, engage in some horseplay, which, while homoerotic, is brief and unsatisfying, so I'll pause here for a moment to let the fan-fic writers take up the slack.

Anyway, Roran is a draft dodger and promptly leaves, which is a relief because he and Eragon were hard to tell apart, and while I'm tired of the Chosen One Narrative, it's even more irritating when your Chosen One is Multiple Choice.

Anyway, Eragon is bereft that his doppelgänger is departing, and to prove it he does the Sad Luke Skywalker Standing and Gazing at theTwin Suns of Tattoine pose, but with just one sun, and worse posture.

Then he goes inside to mope, just in time to see the royal gallstone. Eragon doesn't recognize the CGI creature that emerges as a dragon, and I can't really blame him, because it looks like a weasel molded from blue Play-Doh and dressed in a Batman costume. But when he touches it, a spark illuminates the screen so brightly that it wakes up all the guest stars and supporting players.  Eragon, however, is knocked out by the spark, and when he comes to his discovers that his right hand has been branded with a strange rune that resembles the Green Bay Packers logo, and the CGI weasel-bat is eating CGI rats, thus protecting the family's store of virtual wheat and ensuring that Eragon will totally dominate that Farmville game.

Full Monty tells Malkovich that the egg has hatched, and the dragon is in the hands of a blond farm boy, but fortunately not the one from The Princess Bride, because he was smart and hard to kill. But Malkovich is worried that his enemies -- "the elves, the dwarves" -- will hear that a Play-Doh weasel-bat has been born, and since they're from better-written franchises, they'll probably laugh at him.

Back at Farmville, the villagers are bitching about their lack of civil liberties, while Jeremy Irons waxes Obi-Wan about the old days, when Allagash was free thanks to the dragon riders, who were the defenders of peace and justice and tasty seasonal ales.

Eragon is thrilled to hear the era of the dragon riders will return, because the Play-Doh poultry-farming era has been kind of a letdown. He repeatedly throws the weasel-bat into the air, forcing the thing to fly; and when it does, it naturally flies away, which surprises Eragon and gives him a sad. But then his Green Bay Packers logo lights up, and the Play-Doh weasel-bat flies through some lightning and turbulence, and when it lands three seconds later it's a giant Play-Doh dragon that speaks fluently, if telepathically, and introduces itself as “Saphira,” which is cool, because that’s my wife’s favorite makeup store, so I’m hoping it can get us a discount.

"You," she says breathily, "Are my rider." It sounds rather sexy, coming, as it does, in the voice of Rachel Weisz, until you remember she's got a cloaca.

Eragon sneaks into Obi-Wan's -- I mean Jeremy's  -- oh hell, let's just call him Jeri-Wan -- home and just happens to stumble upon the ancient DMV Dragon Rider's Handbook. But knowing he's already on the verge of a cease-and-desist letter from Lucasfilms, Jeri-Wan throws him out.

Eragon overhears a peasant ratting him out to some Nazghul, so Saphira gives him a lift back to the Skywalker homestead, but it's too late; Uncle Owen has been killed by stormtroopers. Eragon throws a tantrum and decides to blame it on all on the dragon, sending her to the plot point penalty box. Then Jeri-Wan arrives, sees the Packers logo on Eragon's hand and scowls in confusion. "YOU?" he bellows, no more willing to believe this guy is our hero than we were. But we've had half an hour to get used to the idea, and promise to be his sponsor and help him work through it. I mean, we're not really doing anything else at the moment.

Our default heroes ride to the peak of Mount Exposition, where Jeri-Wan tells the boy that he's being hunted by the King's servant, Full Monty, who has dark mystical powers. He also reveals that Eragon is the rebels' only hope, whereas my only hope is that the kid who wrote this story was content with pilfering from A New Hope and we don't have to deal with a knock-off of Jar Jar Binks.

On their way to the militia compound, Jeri-Wan explains the rules of the game (dragons wait to hatch until their rider is born; if their rider dies, the dragon dies), teaches Eragon how to use a sword, does a little furtive mystical crap, and basically just chugs a pint of Alec Guinness.

At Mos Eisley, Jeri-Wan sends Eragon to buy bread, so the kid goes to a fortune teller, because apparently Eragon's not paying any more attention than we are. The palmist spreads the Chosen One stuff thick and extra chunky: Eragon’s coming has been awaited for thousands of years by hundreds of races, he has powers he hasn't acknowledged yet, there's a girl who calls to him in his dreams, etc. Jeri is upset that Eragon cheated on him by going to someone else for exposition; plus, he's got a low blood sugar headache, so he was really looking forward to that bread. They get attacked by Urkels and are about to die when Eragon decides he can makes his arrowheads turn blue and explosive, and he blows up his enemies like Sylvester Stallone in Rambo II because why not? Pile it on, kid! I’m hoping before this thing is over your hero also harnesses the powers of Captain Planet, Thomas the Tank Engine, and Inspector Gadget.

Eragon passes out and has a dream about Not-Liv, and then wakes up to a boner and more exposition. Jeri-Wan tells Eragon that he has magic, which comes from dragons, but before he casts a spell he must learn the ancient language of the Elves.  Of course he must. So we get a five minute lesson in Conversational Elvish, and while it didn't make me fluent, I'm pretty sure I can now order at the Rivendell Chili's without having to point at the menu.

Then we get a five minute flying lesson so Eragon can master the most important bit of Elvish magic, the one that allows the Rider to see through his Dragon's eyes. He shouts the spell ("Souvlaki Tent!", or something like that), and suddenly we're watching the world through Saphira's point of view. It turns out that dragons' eyes come equipped with zoom lenses and a variety of Instagram filters.

Jeri-Wan is attacked by Urkels, which results in a 90 second action sequence, and ten more minutes of exposition. We learn that Jeri is also a dragon rider, but his dragon was murdered. Or so he says. I think he probably just overfed it one night, found it floating belly-up the next morning, and then hastily flushed it down the toilet.

Later, Full Monty sticks his Lee Press-On nail into Not-Liv's sternum, which causes her to send an alluring Snapchat to Eragon.

He flies to Full Monty's lair, the dark fortress of Dar-Mach-Var-H’rus, which is Elvish for “My Agent is So Fired,” and uses the "Souvlaki Tent" spell to find Not-Liv thanks to his dragon's X-Ray vision.  Full Monty arrives for a magic duel, which mostly involves him throwing things at Eragon., so it’s like Harry Potter if the wizarding world’s sport wasn’t Quidditch but Dodgeball. Then Jeri-Wan suddenly jumps in front of Eragon and takes a spear to the chest. How he got there without a flying dragon is a mystery, but I'm sure the answer can be found in one of the many books or movies this thing rips off.

Jeri-Wan gets a big, meaty, Joseph Campbell-approved death scene, and gives Eragon his magic dragon-killing sword, Xerox.  Then they bury him in a big cubic zirconium so he won't rot.

Well, since we just lost a character, how about we introduce a new one? Meet Montauk, the young archer who would like to grow up to be Christian Slater for some reason, but instead turns into that guy who stunk up Tron: Legacy. Montauk’s family was slaughtered by King Malkovich, so he offers to lead Eragon to the militiamen, who are camped near a secret matte painting. And they better hurry, because Full Monty's Lee Press-On gave Not-Liv’s sternum a bad case of nail fungus.

They find the rebels, who are ruled by the guy from Amistad, and dress like the knights in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  Unfortunately, Eragon and his friends were followed, and the rebels are attacked by a whole army of Urkels.

Prepare for battle! (It involves pouring used motor oil into the koi pond). Saphira and Eragon both dress up in goofy armor, and she proves they're ready for combat by breathing fire for the first time. Mazel tov! Today you are a dragon.

The Urkels attack! Everyone kicks confusing, shaky-cam ass. Saphira napalms the crap out of the enemy like she’s working for Henry Kissinger, while Not-Liv throws batarangs for some reason.  Full Monty rides a giant bat and says to Eragon, "Come taste the blood of your dragon!" which is a terrible offer, and reminds me of those ladies in the grocery store who offer free samples of Hickory Farms Savory Meat Logs.

So it's CGI dragon versus CGI bat, and it's even more dull and pointless than you're imagining. Saphira is mortally wounded, but Eragon risks his life to save her with his healing magic that he somehow has for some reason.

The battle ends suddenly and inconclusively, because there's still three books to go. Not-Liv says, "The rebels already tell stories about you." They're not flattering, but still.

Eragon asks, "When will I see  you again?"  She replies, "Time movies quickly." Unlike this movie. Except for one part: I noticed that if you watch Eragon all the way to the end credits, at some point you will actually feel your will to live leave your body with the force, speed, and sound of explosive diarrhea. 

4 comments:

Fearguth said...

About what you would expect from a movie based on a book written by a fifteen-year-old who couldn't spell 'Dragon'.

heydave said...

Didn't see the movie, but I'm still pissed off that I was seduced (OK, let myself be seduced; thanks Obama!) into buying the books. What a whirling pit of word abuse those became.

Katy Williams said...

Oh Scott, I can't wait till you review Star Wars 7. (Sighs pleasurably at the thought).

Sue Z Boo said...

B-But, Katy, everyone says that Star Wars 7 is absolutely, positively fabulous and wonderful and touching and moving and uplifting and nostalgic and a whole lot more adjectives.Scott only takes apart Bad Movies.Yep, ask him.