Fairies and Fantasy: Eragon

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I watched Eragon with Sam (7) and Kit (5) tonight, and, now that I know that there are untold legion of fantasy-movie fans within my readership, I have a question:

Why wasn’t this movie a bigger hit?

It had a reported budget of $100 million, a US gross of $75 million and a foreign gross of $174 million. Those numbers are not to be sneezed at exactly, but with a budget of $100 million, the studio (Fox) must have expected at least that for its domestic return, especially given the movie’s massive publicity campaign. (Full numbers can be found here.)

It’s strange to me: it looks like the studio did everything exactly right. The movie is based on a bestselling book, a publishing phenomenon really, it’s a handsomely mounted production, the production design is detailed and evocative.  There are some wonderful magical creatures that give kids the willies without being horrifying.  It’s very well cast, the only real complaint being that some of the actors look a litte overqualified for their stock roles.  John Malkovich, Robert Carlyle, Jeremy Irons, Djimon Housou, all escape with dignity intact.  The direction, while not exactly Wellesian, is efficient and doesn’t get in the way of the story. The script, while not breaking new ground, is solid enough — miles ahead of, say, The Dark Crystal, even with its, yes, utterly unnecessary narrator-with-deep-voice spoken prologue. (Halfway through the prologue, Kit turned to me and said "When is he going to stop talking?") There are no embarrassing gaffes, there are no puzzling plotholes, there are no baldly under-produced sequences. You don’t feel buffaloed or ripped off. The whole package, while perhaps not state-of-the-art, is still slick, professional, studio-driven 00s moviemaking.

It is, essentially, Star Wars with a dragon, with a wet-behind-the-ears farmboy who is given a great responsibility to save the kingdom from a wicked king, and a dark wizard who has the power of dark magic at his disposal, and a beautiful princess who’s been taken prisoner, and plenty of action and adventure. All of which strikes me as, well, why not? If anyone has the right to produce a remake of Star Wars, it’s Fox. Star Wars was 30 years ago, I’m surprised it hasn’t been cannibalized more often than it has. The audience for Eragon isn’t necessarily going to make the connection between the stories, and it’s not like Star Wars wasn’t an imitation of an imitation already.

Why didn’t it work? The reviews were abysmal, even cruel. Yes, it’s derivative, yes, it’s formulaic, yes, it’s strictly by-the-book moviemaking, but certainly, from a marketing point of view, all those things should augur for the movie’s success, not its failure. It doesn’t plod, it doesn’t condescend, it doesn’t give knowing winks, it doesn’t descend into camp.

Can a movie do everything so right that it fails? Did Eragon feel too familiar, too timid, not fanciful or daring enough, to attract an audience? Was it simply released at the wrong time, was there something else in the marketplace that stole its audience? It was based on a huge bestseller with an enormous following, it should have been an event regardless of its quality. Did the audience find its fill-in-the-blanks efficiency bland and uninteresting?

(Sam and Kit, while they enjoyed the movie and asked plenty of questions during and afterward, could not remember any of the characters’ names — and neither could I; I just kept referring to them as "the Han Solo guy" and "the Obi-Wan guy" and the "Emperor guy.")

I got my copy at my local video emporium for $4.99. Ouch.


46 Responses to “Fairies and Fantasy: Eragon”
  1. avferreira says:

    Personally, I didn’t go to see the movie because I’d read both Eragon and Eldest by then, and I found them a little wanting. Not that they’re terrible, but they were written by a teenager, and it shows. I think I was planning to see it on video at some point but then forgot about it all together.

    • Todd says:

      I wonder if it’s a case of the popularity of the book somehow working against the movie. If people had already read the book, maybe they felt like they didn’t need to see the movie. This happened with Stephen King a lot — imaginative re-workings of his material caught fire while dutiful re-creations just sat there staring at you.

      • stormwyvern says:

        I never saw the movie myself. I hadn’t read the book yet, so I was a little wary of seeing the movie, despite my love of all things dragon. (My userpic is actually a tattoo I have on my right arm.) Then the reviews were pretty negative, so I opted not to see it. I eventually got a copy of the book and, like avferreira, found it somewhat lacking. “Star Wars with a dragon” may make for a perfectly decent movie, but it makes for a weak and formulaic novel. Paolini is quite good at the world building aspects of fantasy writing, such as creating languages and cultures and locales. But his characters all feel like mishmashes of characters from other fantasy tales. I felt like I was reading the story of a completely uninteresting guy who has a a lot of very exciting things happen to him but still remains a very boring character, Characters like Luke Skywalker and Harry Potter are still appealing individuals even before they start having exciting adventures, but I never really felt that was the case with Eragon. I know there are at least a few other people who feel this way too, but the book has sold extremely well, so it’s evidently not a widely held view.

        As for why the movie didn’t do better, I think bad reviews can only go so far to explain it. Rabid fans of an existing property will usually go and see a movie based on that property regardless of what critics say. However, I do seem to recall that some fans were not happy with the film treatment of the book and that can hurt a movie in a way that no professional critic can. Maybe people who found the book less than satisfying would find the movie to be a much tighter narrative while people who loved the book were upset by how much may have been cut.

        How is the ending, by the way? The book’s conclusion was very much “Not the end. Sequel coming soon.” so I’m wondering if the film has a similar lack of closure.

        • Todd says:

          They hint at a continuance, with a love story waiting in the wings and the evil king having his own secret dragon, but you get that kind of thing so often in franchise movies these days it barely registers as an offense.

          • stormwyvern says:

            The ending of the book is kind of like if Obi-Wan had told Luke to go seek out Yoda and the end of “A New Hope” instead of towards the beginning of “The Empire Strikes Back.” It’s not a horrendous cliffhanger, but it does still feel a bit more like an OK place to stop reading for a bit than a real ending, even for a book that’s intended as part of a series.

            I’m definitely enjoying your “Fairies and Fantasy” series, but I would like to request that you do one of the next few installments on a fantasy film that is actually really good, rather than “visually interesting, but weak in the story department” or “a perfectly acceptable ripoff of ‘Star Wars’ to the point where you’re substituting the names of Star Wars characters because no one can remember the “Eragon” characters names and everyone knows what you mean anyways.” There are certainly some really excellent fantasy films out there and I hope you’ll touch on those sometime soon.

            On the other hand, I did just watch “Legend” for the first time and while that is in no way a good movie, I think it would make for a fun discussion.

            • Todd says:

              I’m glad you’re enjoying the posts. My only restriction on whether or not to write something about a movie is whether I find anything to say that hasn’t been said yet. For instance, I watched Willow a couple of weeks ago and found it competent, reasonably well-executed and not particularly revelatory. It added little to my understanding of the genre and wasn’t a woefully misconceived disaster. I saw no angle to pursue and moved on. When I find a fantasy movie that blows me away in ways I didn’t expect, you’ll be the first to know.

              • stormwyvern says:

                I can dig it. I hope you find that genre-exploding fantasy film soon.

                I checked out the link to RottenTomatoes’ collection of “Eragon” reviews and I think I can now pretty much confirm than the film’s problem was not just scathing reviews keeping casual filmgoers away. I’m now convinced that the last nail in this movie’s box office coffin was bad word of mouth among fans of the original books, who should have made up this movie’s core audience. Now I fully understand that the translation of a book into film cannot always be verbatim. Some things that work very well in print do not make for good film and may have to be cut or altered (such as Hermione solving the potion logic problem in “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”). Some books can even be expanded on and fleshed out a bit in ways that really honor and enhance the source material. (I actually believe I liked the film version of “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” better than the book.) But from the reviews I read, it sounds like the process of turning “Eragon” from a lengthy novel to a movie with a running time of just over an hour and a half resulted in so much omission, alteration, and outright rewriting that fans of the book could barely recognize the story they had enjoyed so much. Nearly every review I saw on RottenTomatoes made a point of mocking the fact that Saphira the dragon matures from infant full grown fire breather in the space of a single flight. Reviewers who actually read the novel point out that this is even more ridiculous because it isn’t in the book. Saphira grows up fast in the novel, but nowhere near that fast. Yes the book is long and there is a lot of story to cover, but why try to shave off time in a way that steals time from the development of Spahira and Eragon’s relationship, draws scorn from critics, and infuriates fans? It seems that this is not an isolated incident, as one review points out numerous characters and scenes missing from the movie and what sounds like a major rewrite of the final battle scene. With many of the recent major fantasy films taking pride in remaining faithful to the books they’re based on, it’s no wonder that fans of “Eragon” were taken aback when they saw a film that changed so much. And when they started telling their friends to skip the film, it’s no wonder that the movie tanked.

                • dougo says:

                  Wow, I was reading this thread thinking “oh yeah, I never got around to seeing that, I should see if it’s on cable”. But then I read this comment and I remembered that I did actually already see it on cable. I think I even sort of liked it, but apparently it’s totally forgettable.

      • smithereen says:

        I think possibly the popularity of the book also worked against the movie in that some people resented how successful it was. (See also: sites like this) Because it was derivative, and because it was written by a teenager, and because his parents published it for him, etc. I didn’t read it myself (or see the movie) because I’d seen reviews that made me think I wouldn’t like it, but I wonder if any of the viciousness of the reviews was coming from resentment about this young kid writer’s monstrous success not really being “deserved.”

        By the way, I don’t mean to imply Paolini’s success wasn’t deserved. He’s successful because a lot of people enjoyed his books. But I do think there’s this weird illogical thing some people do – I include myself in this though I recognize that it’s not a rational impulse and I try not to indulge it – where we see other people’s successes as somehow taking away our opportunities for success in a zero sum way. So when there’s a feeling that this success (which was, you know…stolen directly from you) isn’t earned, it creates a bitterness that’s out of proportion. And I feel like there was some of that with Eragon, especially because Paolini was so young when he wrote it. I’m sure there was more to why the movie wasn’t a bigger success than just that, but I wonder especially about harshness of the reviews.

        • stormwyvern says:

          Of course, there’s also the reverse, where a person makes a perfectly valid criticism of a book (or film or TV show or whatever) and the book’s supporters dismiss it as jealousy because the book is so successful or the author is nineteen or what have you.

      • popebuck1 says:

        I think that same phenomenon may be set to happen again with the upcoming Twilight movie. There are already legions of fans of the books who are up in arms over every little thing in the movie. The same thing happened to Interview With The Vampire – it seemed they couldn’t please the book’s fans no matter what they did.

  2. I haven’t seen it, but my daughter (11) loved the book and the movie. And you’re right, it should’ve done much better at the box office. Look at the first two Harry Potter movies. Not exactly breaking out of the “formulaic” box, and yet, the Harry Potter movies are hugely popular.

  3. teamwak says:

    My knowledge of this comes from the stories that the boy couldnt get the book published, so his rich parents did it for him. Although they must all be laughing now due to how sucessful it became.

    The best review I read for the movie came from Aintitcool.com (which I know I shouldnt always believe), but does confirm that the story seems to be ripped from Star Wars. Here is the opening paragraphs of the review.
    I’m still not sure I want to watch this though….

    “If no one has told you yet, Eragon is one of the greatest stories ever told. Seriously. The story is absolutely amazing, a classic tale full of archetypes, intrigue and magic. You see, it’s about this young, blond farmboy, who has been mysteriously left with his uncle by his mother – who discovers that he is the last of specially chosen group of warriors. Those warriors, long ago, were betrayed by one of their own and slaughtered – leaving only the betrayer (now the king of a vast empire), an old Hermit, and the young boy, to carry on the traditions. The hermit takes the young boy under his wing and begins to train him in the ways of magic and they set out on a mission to venture to a rebel base which struggles against the empire – and along the way he picks up a young rogue and together they have to save a princess from a dark fortress.

    And, no. I’m not kidding. Eragon isn’t what many of you think it is. It is not a ripoff of Lord of the Rings crossed with Anne McCaffrey’s Dragon Riders of Pern. Oh, there’s certainly enough stolen from both of those to make more than a few assholes pucker – including a long ride to save someone poisoned by the magic touch of a ‘shade’ and, well, the Battle of Helm’s Deep. But really, this movie doesn’t simply borrow from Star wars – it doesn’t simply pay homage to Star Wars. Eragon rips off Star Wars. Beat for fucking beat.”

  4. vinic says:

    In all honesty, I just remember that movie looking really lame, even with Jeremy Irons lending his badass self. This may have something to do with the fact I am in my twenties, or simply that I’ve read far too many dragon-related books in my youth and I’ve been oversaturated with giant kickass lizards; there are far better dragon-related books that should have been optioned.

    I am, however, interested in the Rifftrax.

  5. faroffstar says:

    I didn’t read the book, but I remember my husband and I bought the movie and ended up giving it away to my Mom the next day (she pretty much loves every movie ever made). I felt like the pacing was off or something. I think we both thought it went by really fast and we just weren’t very engaged by it.

  6. pirateman says:

    – Because no one knew how the movie was supposed to be pronounced.

    Also, wasn’t this the first fantasy movie to be released after Lord of The Rings? It looked silly by comparison.

    • ja_samonikla says:

      agreed. I’m pretty sure that’s why I never saw this movie. It looked a little silly, but mostly because it came out soon after the Lord of the Rings, I believe, and in comparison…well….there just was no comparison.

      Bad timing for the release, otherwise it likely would have been a bigger hit.

  7. curt_holman says:

    “It was based on a huge bestseller with an enormous following, it should have been an event regardless of its quality.”

    But how big a bestseller was the Eragon book compared to, say, the Harry Potter books? I have an impression that Harry Potter has a massive following among adult/mainstream readers, but Eragon seems to belong in the Young Adult/Fantasy genre niche (while still being very popular).

    I get the impression that the Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and Narnia movies (at least, the first Narnia movies) are exceptions as blockbuster hit fantasy films.

    • Todd says:

      You may be right, it might be that Harry Potter, because of its adult “crossover” appeal, got a much bigger audience, adults dragging their kids to see it, while Eragon was seen more by parents as “ugh, not that, I get enough of that at home.”

      • sheherazahde says:

        Fairies and Fantasy: Eragon

        I am just the sort of person who should have goon to see Eragon. I watched “Dungeons & Dragons”! and that was a lousy movie.

        I really think Eragon was too slick, too formulaic, it would have been better if it had been more campy. If it had anything fresh or entertaining about it.

        from what the people who saw it say, they just couldn’t identify with any of the characters.

  8. A friend loaned me the book and reading it, I not only realize that a lot of my Pern-fan friends were right, it really did have a LOT in common (I had been arguing against them, saying “Oh, it’s not like McCaffrey trademarked DRAGONS!”), and not only did it bear more than a passing resemblance to Lord of the Rings, it was not an homage to Star Wars (as Star Wars is somewhat to Kurosawa), it wasn’t cannibalizing, it was practically a scene-by-scene rewrite. With dragons!

    I’m not saying Star Wars has an original plot. If anything it’s derivative of about a thousand other stories probably as far back as Cro-magnons painting on cave walls. But this went beyond being derivative and into filing-off-the-serial-numbers territory. After finishing it just because I hate not finishing a book, I had no interest in seeing the movie. Or, for that matter, buying the sequels.

  9. robjmiller says:

    Well, the Rifftrax was great

    I think this movie didn’t hit it big because the fantasy genre fans are fairly discerning. Typically, there are two audiences for fantasy movies that the movies are pitched to: children and adults. Films like Lord of the Rings are made for an adult audience but kept PG-13 so kids can watch it also, and the Harry Potter movies are made for a young audience but with enough going on that adults will watch it.

    Eragon feels somewhere in between, like a teen-oriented film. It also came out in a year where it was competing with the big franchise SF/fantasy films like LotR, HP, and SW and a lot of people just don’t want to see that many fantasy flicks.

    That being said, it wasn’t a bad movie. It wasn’t very good however, and likely a lot of people didn’t recommend it to their friends. On the plus side, the Rifftrax for it was great.

  10. gdh says:

    Speaking as someone who never saw the film and had no idea it was even based on a novel, I think Eragon‘s biggest problem was that it couldn’t beat the public perception that it was a lame LOTR cash-in.

    Sure, lots of movies are unoriginal, but the promotion for Eragon really failed to convince people that there was anything there that they hadn’t seen before. Just look at the trailer. It’s nothing but a list of the must horsebeaten fantasy cliches being read in a Dramatic Voice over a sequence of expensive but uninteresting clips. Even if you’ve never read a Dragonlance book, that trailer is full of things that have been so drilled into the public consciousness that everyone is way too familiar with them to be interested. It’s a real achievement in genericness (genericity? generitude?). I mean come on, even the most hackneyed of feel-good sports movies has some sort of gimmick to capture our attention. What did Eragon have? Is there one thing in that trailer that we haven’t seen before?

  11. ndgmtlcd says:

    It was panned by the critics, like you said, and that’s why it wasn’t a monster hit. You just convinced me to go out and buy a discounted copy though. Because from what you say, Eragon seems to be the movie Star Wars should have been: Something based on fantasy world and not a science fiction world.

    When the very first Star Wars came out, it was panned by the serious critics of Science Fiction? The problem with it was that it wasn’t based on a science fiction idea, like 2001 or Forbidden Planet. It was a straight and unoriginal adaptation of a story that could have been lifted out of a Western or out of a medieval swordfest. They cited the infamous “Bat Durston” example that Galaxy Science Fiction Magazine put on its back cover, to stress their dislike for this kind of adaptation of tired ideas.

    You Won’t Find It in Galaxy

    Jets blasting, Bat Durston came screeching down through the atmosphere of Bbllzznaj, a tiny planet seven billion light years from Sol. He cut out his super-hyper-drive for the landing… and at that point, a tall, lean spaceman stepped out of the tail assembly, proton gun-blaster in a space-tanned hand. “Get back from those controls, Bat Durston,” the tall stranger lipped thinly. “You don’t know it, but this is your last space trip.”

    Hoofs drumming, Bat Durston came galloping down through the narrow pass at Eagle Gulch, a tiny gold colony 400 miles north of Tombstone. He spurred hard for a low overhang of rim-rock… and at that point a tall, lean wrangler stepped out from behind a high boulder, six-shooter in a sun-tanned hand. “Rear back and dismount, Bat Durston,” the tall stranger lipped thinly. “You don’t know it, but this is your last saddle-jaunt through these here parts.”

    • stormwyvern says:

      I think the problem is less that “Star Wars” is a fantasy tale/samurai epic set in space and more that so many people perceive that as what science fiction is. I have no problem with Disney’s animated 2D fairy tale musicals – I love many of them dearly – but I could certainly do without the notion that the only thing 2D animation is good for is fairy tale musicals. I see your point and I would personally hesitate to call “Star Wars” “science fiction pretty much for those reasons. I’ve heard the term “space opera” from time to time and it seems to fit. I’m similarly hesitant to call Anne McCaffrey’s Pern books “science fiction” since – at least in the ones I’ve read, the reader can go along blissfully unaware that the humans and many other creatures not including the dragons and fire lizards are not native to the planet and came from earth to colonize Pern many ages ago. Like “Star Wars,” the books are fantasy for all intents and purposes. They just happen to take place on another planet. My impression is that the film industry largely avoided being flooded with fantasy films with a space setting, so maybe the literary world bore the brunt of this unintended consequence of the films’ success. Anyway, while I can see how such stories would annoy fans of hard SF, I don’t think that taking the trappings of a different genre and transplanting them to an outer space setting is an inherently bad thing to do. A bad story is still a bad story, no matter if it’s really just a romantic comedy in space or a true science fiction concept. A good story that mixes genres a bit shouldn’t really be faulted just because the dragons have been replaced with alien creature or the six-guns now fire lasers.

      • ndgmtlcd says:

        Yes, Star Wars dealt a hard blow to “classical” science fiction by changing what it was supposed to be (Science-based entertainment or ideas-based fun) into a simple-minded romp, in the eyes of most people.

        I have to admit that I actually enjoyed the very first Star Wars movie, back in 1977. For one thing, it was visually original. Later on a lot of people in the SF field enjoyed the bigger market that Star Wars created, together with Star Trek. Suddenly, SF lit wasn’t a tiny niche thingie anymore, and there was also a bit more room in the bookstores for “traditional” SF titles in addition to a lot more room on the new shelves reserved for Star Wars and Star Trek novels.

        But eventually I didn’t like the long-term effect it had of saying that anybody or any group could suddenly, without any study, decide by itself (and collectively vote on) what the word Science meant and what the centuries-old culture of Science meant, and that solid empirical research and practical training wasn’t important as long as you had faith. You just close your eyes and use The Force within you.

        By the way, I love most of the well-crafted “straight” fantasy books that McCaffrey wrote, long years ago. I just can’t stand the way she tramples some pretty basic scientific knowledge in her supposedly SF works though. I’m currently reading one of her (supposedly SF) collaborations with Jody Lynn Nye and groaning as she gets everything wrong about high gravity planets, and other matters.

        People who can’t bother picking up an encyclopaedia to get their facts straight shouldn’t bother writing science fiction, unless they have literary skills like Harlan Ellison and Dan Simmons and unless they’re willing to use those skills to dazzle the reader while slipping rotten science under their noses. In other words, dazzling the reader with original words and phrases, like the 1977 Star Wars dazzled the audience with new visuals.

        • iainjcoleman says:

          All science fiction novels get the science wrong – or at least bend it and hope you don’t notice. Whether you perceive an SF novel as scientifically accurate or not depends on the skill of the author, and the level of your own scientific knowledge. Hard SF is not a principle, it is an aesthetic.

      • greyaenigma says:

        Fortunately for Star Wars, virtually no one listens to serious critics of science fiction. Especially not in 1976.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Im amazed no fans of the book have commented, yet. There is a distinct issue: the film is a drastic failure at being an adaptation of the book. It is just — TERRIBLE. I will maintain maybe it was not so bad, although really formulaic and not really gripping, IF you haven’t read the book. However, the adaptation is just so mind-boggling awful, changing large portions of plot, characterization, physical appearance..
    The book wasn’t terrible. It was YA lit, sure, but not too bad for all that. Decently engaging for fantasy fans. Everyone I know who has read the book agrees it’s one of the worst movie adaptations ever. And I can’t help but think that must have hurt the films chances, since they were obviously banking on a built-in fanbase, and the word of mouth that that entails.

  13. marcochacon says:

    I’m enjoying these as well as the other person. I think this “kind” of movie has often had problems with its execution and content. At first it was general Fx limitations (how do you show a believable fantastic world? What are your limitations). Now, though, I think it is about not knowing what the requirements of your audience are.

    Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings are both very clear. Harry Potter has to appeal to kids who liked the books (and are a built in audience) and LotR is geared to appeal to adults (who either read the books are are totally new to them).

    Outside of that, though, I think they exist in a gray space. The movies I remember that seemed to totally know where they fell (I’m thinking of Sword and the Sorcerer which, to my recollection was Robert E Howard style S&S–not to mention Conan … the first one) came out as better products than those who tried to exist in a gray-zone between the two.

    It’s just a hypothesis I’m thinking on now as I’m typing this looking at your essay. But maybe Eragon wasn’t quite for kids–but wasn’t wholeheartedly for grown ups.


  14. Anonymous says:


    Seems as though most commenters haven’t seen it. Maybe that’s why no one can give a good explanation as to why it didn’t do better.

    It was boring.

  15. mitejen says:

    I think honestly the reason that I personally haven’t seen it yet is because it seemed like a blatant cash-in product to me. I haven’t read the books (although when I was teaching my students all raved about it) so that might have been another strike against it, but it just seems like rather than making films out of older, classic fantasy books they’re going with what seems like a guaranteed sell to audiences. Which I understand sort of, but there are plenty of older books with better writing and characterization than whatever was on the NYT bestseller list within the last four years.

    I guess I’m just still waiting for a Dragonriders of Pern movie.

  16. greyaenigma says:

    Haven’t read the book or seen the movie — I was hardly watching any movies around the time this came out and I heard it was terrible anyway. (Granted, if I already want to see a movie, bad reviews don’t keep me away.)

    Again, I’d curious to see your review of Dragonslayer. It may not have aged well, but I think the special effects were extraordinary for the times, and the story has a little more meat on it and even some social resonance. In fact, I think I’m going to watch it right now while I curl up on the futon and try and recover.

  17. because it couldn’t do the book justice at all (no that any movie usually does)… but I refused to let it ruin any part of my enjoying the book. I couldn’t really sit through more than 10 minutes before I was just annoyed with the movie in general.

    Also the movie went too far out of its way to go so far as to make Saphira cute, or too human even. which just sickened me. Had they made a greater effort to simply make saphira a spectacular mysterious dragon first which she was not in the movie, and a strangely humanized character second with relation to her rider, then I wouldve accepted the movie as less a cash gimmick.

  18. monica_black says:

    There might have been too many people who had read the novel that saw it and thought, oh wow, this differs greatly from the book (I read the book after seeing the film, but didn’t really like the book).

    I saw it because John Malkovich was in it.

  19. curt_holman says:

    Box Office Mojo

    The success question of ‘Eragon’ reminded me that, when Lord of the Rings came out, I heard commentators says that sword-and-sorcery type fantasy films were considered risky. So I looked up ‘Fantasy – Live Action Movies’ in Box Office Mojo, and saw these results for the most successful fantasy films:

    Not surprisingly, Eragon is nowhere near the Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter or Narnia movies. In relative terms, Eragon (#14) was a bigger success than certain others — it outgrossed The Golden Compass (#16) which was probably more expensive and more of an ‘A’ list production. Willow is #17 at $57 million 1988 dollars — and wouldn’t that be at least $100 million today, adjusted for inflation?

    Even though Star Wars-style space opera and the fantasy genre tell very much the same kinds of stories, just with different trappings, one gets the opinion that audiences tend to be more excited by sci-fi trappings than fantasy trappings. I

  20. cassiacat says:

    Hey! Thanks for writing this! I enjoyed the book but was afraid to watch the movie since it kind of came and went before I even noticed. I figured it didn’t bode well for the film. But now perhaps I shall be brave enough to give it a go.

  21. swan_tower says:

    For the generalized audience: didn’t have the name recognition of LotR or Narnia. Those books, they maybe read when they were kids. This one, not so much. So no hook to drag them in.

    For the fanbase: apparently, based on what others have said here, not faithful enough to be praised.

    For the fantasy genre audience: no sensawunda. Everything I’ve heard about the book has convinced me I don’t want to give it even the two hours it might take me to read, because everything in it is a pure rehash of things I’ve seen before, without the literary chops to make it interesting even if it isn’t new. (The only thing the trailer did for me was give me the seed for a really vicious deconstruction of epic quest fantasy, that I really hope to sell someday. Tried once already, but it was not what my editor was looking for.) Anyway, back to the point — most fantasy readers I know looked at it, yawned, and went back to what they were doing. We want something new, even if it’s just a really cool visual gimmick. And there’s enough fantasy in film these days that few people will go see every such movie just on principle.

  22. book_pusher says:

    I’ve not read the book but I wasn’t all that excited with the film. You’re right: by all accounts, it should have been a hit, but I found it without soul. I described it to my friends as ‘all icing, no cake’. All the icing stuff was there – great cgi, the talking dragon, the Star Wars flourishes, fun fight scenes, and the rest of it. But there wasn’t anything underneath that ever connected to me on an emotional level – I was never really given a reason to care about the characters or what happened to them.

    Oh, and I remember that the prophetic witch, played by singer Joss Stone, was laughably awful.

  23. Anonymous says:


    I(30)took my nephew (10) to see this when it first came out. We had both read the book and were excited to see the movie. He had just finished reading the book that afternoon so it was still fresh in his head so he kept mentioning the bits that were different from the book. It was enjoyable while we were watching it and seeing how they portrayed certain things, but when I asked him if he wanted to see it again he was all ‘meh’. He liked the audio book version better. We really wanted to like it and buy the dvd later but there was nothing spectactular about it. Even when we got home and his mother asked what was our favorite parts we had a hard time remembering anything that stood out. So I guess thats why it didn’t do too well, it was meh. Like Prince Caspian.