Tuesday, December 26, 2006


Eragon (2006, Theatrical, 96 minutes)

Here is a brief analysis of ERAGON and how the movie version incorporates a true moral premise allowing it to resonate with audiences.

The movie, of course, is based on Christopher Paolini's novel of the same name. Paolini was 15 years old when he began writing Eragon, having just graduated from high school and deciding to wait a while before entering college. It is written as a children and teenage fantasy, and draws heavily on other fantasy works such as Star Wars and Lord of the Rings. Consequently, ERAGON is seen as a derivative work, and not an inspired original. But as a derivative work, Paolini has demonstrated "great talent," say literary reviewers.

Derivative Elements

The "rip-offs" are almost obvious from the start. Luke Skywalker is driven into the story's central conflict under the same pretense as Eragon's—their uncles, with whom they are living, are murdered. Both Luke and Eragon have special powers bequeathed them by fate. Neither choose their calling. Both are called, in part, by a single, attractive, and mysterious woman (Leia, and Arya) -- notice how similar their names are. But if you're into naming protagonist similar to earlier works, consider the similarity between the names Eragon, and Lord of the Rings' Aragorn. (geez!), both "savior legends" of their respective myths. But the similarities don't stop there, there are Orcs and there are Ra'zacs, and so on and so froth. Enough, already.

This analysis is based on viewing the movie and additional research into the world that Paolini creates.

In terms of the moral premise, the movie's promotional tags give us a hint of direction:

You are stronger than you realize.

Wiser than you know.

What was once your life is now your legend.

The tag lines beg the question. They encourage the audience to think about where the extra strength and wisdom come from, that we have but don't realize or can't access.

There are some themes in the movie that support the moral premise, but are not directly part of it. Recall that the moral premise should describe the psychological and physical arc through which the protagonist (Eragon) travels. Thus, the moral premise describes how the protagonist changes. Eragon (Edward Speleers) has certain virtues that are evident from the beginning to the end of the movie. In the words of his mentor, Brom (Jeremy Irons), Eragon is one part brave, and three parts foolish. We also discover that Eragon has a pure heart, and is not tempted to move toward the evil side. We also sense that although this is a coming of age story, Eragon retails a significant part of his innocence throughout the movie, right up to the last scene. All of these are virtues that endear us to the protagonist (that and his good looks...cue the young girls).

But there is one thing that Eragon learns in this tale. It is this, here stated in the form of a moral premise:

Self-reliance and a wicked heart lead to defeat;
Reliance on others and a pure heart lead to victory.

Now, recall that a moral premise must apply equally to all the main characters if the movie is to be about "one thing" which is illustrated by both sides of the tale.

Act 1 (Fade Up)

In Eragon's life, before much of anything happens, we find a farm boy who's learning to hunt -- when a smooth, shiny stone stolen from the evil King King Galbatorix (John Malkovich) by the elf Arya (Sienna Guillory) is mystically passed into Eragon's care. The King sends his demonically-possessed-with-dark-magic minon Durza to retrieve it the egg and/or kill Eragon. From this situation arrives the one truly funny and original line in the whole movie.


(to Durza)

I suffer without my stone.

Eragon is told by his dragon, Saphira (Rachel Weisz's voice) that he is her rider. He doesn't know what this means, but goes to investigate and learn from and older village storyteller Brom, who happens to be an old dragon rider in hiding from the King. In a playful fight with his cousin, we see the Eragon is fearless, brave, and confident.

Act 1 (Turning Point) (27min. - times are approx.)

Eragon discovers his uncle is killed.

Eragon is drawn into the conflict, but rejects the larger physical goal of being a dragon rider for the sake of helping the Varden (the good resistance) defeat the evil King. But, both Galbatorix and Brom see this as Eragon's fate. As revealed later, and as we see and recognize even now, Eragon is chosen to be the new dragon rider because of his purity of heart, as if only pure goodness can defeat pure wickedness.

Act 1 (Climax) (36m)

A near death encounter with the Ra'zar looking for Eragon's egg, and the pleadings of Brom convince Eragon to accept the physical goal. We also see a hint of Eragon's over-confidence in fighting the Ra'zar on his own. He is warned against it by Brom and Saphira who seems to have inherited an encyclopedia knowledge of the human condition and the situation confront them.

Act 2 (Begins)

Eragon begins to learn to ride from Saphira and with Brom on horseback the three venture toward Varden's fortress, hidden deep within the Beor Mountains. Eragon thinks he can do battle and kill the Ra'zac's without the help of others and relies only himself. Brom tries to convince him otherwise. It is not until he becomes aware first that the journey ahead of him and his fate may be greater than he anticipated (via the witch Angela foretells his future) and then...

Act 2 (Moment of Grace - 48 min into a 96m movie -- exactly half-way)

...a direct run in with more Ra'zac that Eragon's innate magic saves him. It is the warning of his friends, and now the realization that without the magic he is doomed.

Eragon begins to believe what Brom and Saphira have been telling him, and their warnings of being over-confident. Eragon accepts the importance of the moral premise and embraces his need of others to attain his goal, not only Saphira but the magic bequeathed to him as well.

Now he can see things different, especially through Saphira's eyes...and through the use of the Elven language also referred to as the 'Language of Power', with which it is impossible to lie, he begins to learn how to use the source of magical power. But, there is a responsibility with the magic and he must also work to be physically strong enough to use the language or it will kill him.

But Eragon's "over confidence" is not over come. Now, with only a beginner's level of magical skill (which gives him added boldness), Eragon answers a recurring dream and decides that he needs to rescue Arya from Durza, at all costs, with or without Brom. It is this foolishness that has not yet be trained, and his over confidence, now with the magic that sends him into danger.

Act 2 Climax (59m-63m)

As a result of Eragon's decision to rescue Arya, he confronts Durza and minions (entering their lair) and in the fight risks Saphira -- and Brom is fatally wounded. But if it wasn't for all of them working together, including a newcomer, Murtagh, and Eragon's magic of truth, Eragon, would have been killed.

After they create a monument and honor Brom's life, Murtagh leads Eragon to the Varden hidden in the distant mountains, where they prepare for battle with Durza, the Ar'zac's and the huge Urgal army.

It is the death of his mentor Brom, and the admonition of Arya and Saphira, that Eragon seems to finally rally with the truth of the moral premise, even as he now prepare for the final battle.

Act 3 Begins (79m)

Eragon and Murtagh enter the Varden's fortress that will become the lair of the great battle.

Saphira tells Eragon that without fear there cannot be courage, although Eragon never truly seems afraid, but always brave -- perhaps foolishly so. He is simply never afraid. Again we are reminded of Brom's comment that Eragon has 1 part bravery and 3 parts foolishness, which both need to be tempered with wisdom and the strength and skills of others. We begin to see that another possible way to articulate the movie's moral premise:

Foolishness and falsity lead to self-sufficiency defeat;
Wisdom and truth lead to reliance on others and victory.

This seems also to be true and an even clearer understanding of what the movie is about, and so as the story prepares for Act 3, the protagonist enters the lair of conflict and hand-to-hand combat with the antagonist.

Act 3 (turning point) (82m)

Eragon riding upon Saphira confront Durza and and his dark dragon. It's hand-to-hand combat.

Act 3 Climax (85m)

Eragon stabs Durza through the heart with the dragon-sword and Durza and the dark dragon dissolve...but not before sending Eragon and Saphira to earth in a terrible crash. Saphira seemingly dies.

Denouement (88)

Eragon and Saphira live on. Eragon is now a legend, and he and Arya hope to meet again.

Finally we are introduced to the Kings wrath and his scary dark dragon which alert us to the inevitable sequel.

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