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Will ‘Eragon’ find its wings?

One of the films opening today is Eragon, the dragon-sword-quest film this blog’s been following. Why? Because the best-selling high fantasy novel—while not that original in story or character, it was still a page-turner—carried some biblical themes, and that brings God-talk into open spaces.

So, what’s the response to film so far?

So far, mainstream critics seem to be giving a thumbs down. It’s running at a dismal 11% at Rotten Tomatoes, which compiles its ratings from critic reviews. Samplings of the negative reviews compiled at RT:
Justin Chang (Variety): "Appropriating all the external trappings of big-budget fantasy but none of the requisite soul, this leaden epic never soars like the CG-rendered fire-breather at the core of its derivative mythology."

Stephen Hunter (Washington Post): "Too bad the acting is so lame, the story so derivative and the thing so long."

Claudia Puig (USA Today): "It’s a pleasant enough fantastical adventure, but it does feel naggingly derivative."

Kirk Honeycutt (Hollywood Reporter): "It is a world without much texture or depth. Heroes, villains, magic, love, honor and destiny abound, but there is little complexity in the social, cultural or political shape of this world."
On the other hand, RT includes some snippets from good reviews:

Joe Morgenstern (Wall Street Journal): "The film is the directorial debut of Stefen Fangmeier, a special-effects wizard of renouwn, and looks it—i.e. magically and sumptuously detailed."

Josh Larsen (Sun Publications): "Eragon is a rip-off, but it doesn’t look like one."

Michael A. Smith (Nolan’s Pop Culture Review): "Eragon is a fun film that is certain to join the ranks of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings in the world of fantasy films."
You can find links to these and other reviews at RT.

As to reviews from critics in Christian publishing, Lisa Rice posts a positive review at Crosswalk.com, observing the film’s acting, filming and special effects are wonderful, adding:

Eragon is a thoroughly delightful, highly entertaining movie that is chock-full of spiritual allegories. It’s all about promised deliverers, evil kings trying to kill boys, a sorcerer “possessed by demonic spirits,” etc. And how about these quotes: “Know the word, and you control the thing. If you use it wrongly, before you’re ready, it can kill you.” “It’s good to be brave, but sometimes it’s better to be wise.” “Our power is greatest when we’re together.” “Without fear, there can be no courage.” “When we are together, it is our enemies who should be afraid.”
Christopher Lyon gives his review at Dobson’s family-oriented Plugged In, focusing more on the presence of magic than anything else. He isn’t as generous with the filmmaking as Rice. While praising the special-effects (“Its dragon is fully realized and believable in thrilling flight sequences and battle scenes, especially in the film's last act”), Lyon feels the script leaves something to be desired:

It's in the overwrought script, choppy editing, low-budget sets and clumsy plotting that Eragon fails to take off. For starters, large chunks of the book are sacrificed to the film's 100-minute running time, leaving the final act, especially, vulnerable to a series of sudden character introductions and abrupt actions sequences. It's unclear, though, that more minutes would make for a more watchable film. Several scenes provide unintentional humor, especially those featuring John Malkovich as the evil king in his throne room who opens the film with the words, "I suffer without my stone! Do not prolong my suffering!" Even the talented Jeremy Irons can do little to save his screen time from awkward lines and "no surprises" character development.
Christianity Today doesn’t have anything up yet, but keep checking back.

Despite the reviews, I’m betting the film takes off at the box office, if only for its opening weekend (during which I’ll be contributing to those receipts—if my daughter recovers sufficiently from her flu and my son doesn’t get it).

But will Eragon soar? Only time will tell.

(Images: 20th Century Fox via ComingSoon.net)

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