Here, There be a Writer

Monday, February 25, 2013

Eragon: Book versus Movie

Eragon: Book versus the Movie

I sat down and watched the movie, Eragon after having read the book. The book was still fresh in my mind and I was ready to takes notes. I wanted to pay close attention to the little details that were either in both and what was changed and/or omitted. It is my first attempt to compare two mediums and right off the bat I was rudely awakened to how much different of a difference there was.

It was quite the viewing I must say. I was very angry by the end. There were a number of points left out of the movie (some with reason of course) and some blatantly incorrect information presented as fact. I will take you and a trip through my viewing and what I consider to be a thorough review of the movie and the book.

Before I begin, there will be spoilers! If you haven’t seen the movie or read the book proceed at own risk! You have been warned!

Emotional outrage aside, there are some things that I can accept in movie adaptations:

  1. There is a time limit! A movie is only so long and logically you can only put so much into said movie.
  2. Sometimes you have budget constrains. You can only film what and where you can afford to film at/where.
  3.  There are director’s cut. Director’s have a right to pick and choose what gets in the movie. They can also adapt the story to fit their needs, or budgetary demands are.

So there are things that even if they are not what is presented in the movie, I could and would ultimately forgive for not being correct to the book. The things that are in the movie that royal anger me range from the omitting of crucial details or flat out presenting incorrect facts, as I stated earlier. Eragon is guilty of these two on numerous occasions.

To start of with the biggest peeve with this movie is that they blatantly disregard a character that is critical for the second book, “Eldest”. In the Eragon, Sloan, the butcher has a daughter, Katina who us in love with Eragon’s cousin Roran. She is not included in any of the movie. First, if you don’t include Katina, then how are you going to continue the movies series, when (for those who have read the book) she appears in “Eldest” (the book) but is not in the movie version of Eragon? Katrina is not central to the story of Eragon at this time; it is frustrating because she is to become a central character (for those who have read the books). But, something else, Katrina has interactions with Roran and Eragon. Without these interaction in the very beginning in Carvahall (Eragon’s home) is rushed and not well developed.

Speaking of Roran, in the movie he tells Eragon he is leaving because he is of age to be recruited to Galbatorix’s Army. The book’s has Roran being apprenticed out to Dempton a Miller from Therinsford. This is because Roran wants to marry Katrina, but doesn’t have the money to do so. By becoming Dempton;s apprentice, Roran will be able to save up money with which is can ask Sloan for Katrina’s hand properly. This causes Eragon a bit of stress to know Roran is leaving in addition (in both versions). Not only tha, but now Eragon has Saphira. The tension from this part of the book is non-existent in the movie, which make you feel for Eragon. Now in the movie this is very rushed and thus Eragon’s and Roran’s relationship is barely developed. Even Sloan has only ONE short scene with Eragon (plus one very short scene with the Ra’zac).

Speaking of characters that misplaced in this movie, there are at least 3 scenes throughout the movie that feature Galbatorix directly, while in the book he is only referenced. This is a distraction, because the story is supposed to be focused on Eragon and HIS journey. But now you also have this King who is not critical to the story. You don’t need to have Galbatorix when you have the Ra’zac, Durza (the shade), the Varden, Brom, and Murtaugh, all of whom actually interact with Eragon. He learns more about all of these characters as he goes on his journey, hence the concept of a JOURNEY. You don’t need to bring in Galbatorix, unless you just promised John Makovich a role, when clearly he isn’t even interacting with Eragon directly. In fact, here’s another point, Galbatorix in the book doesn’t learn of Eragon’s existence until about halfway through the book. By then, he has sent his army of Urgals (not the human army) to track and catch Eragon and Saphira. I feel that getting John Malkovich to play Galbatorix was just reason to get more butts in the movie theatre seats. His scenes do not even add anything to the story, more of an exposition dump.

Okay, let’s focus on plot. The purpose of Eragon leaving Carvahall is because his uncle (Garrow) had been killed by the Ra’zac. In book has Eragon is angry at the Ra’zac, he wants to kill them for Garrow’s death and the destruction of their farm. He also has a dragon and guilt about what Roran will think. The presentation is wrong in the movie has Eragon is afraid of the Ra’zac and is now fleeing for his life. This irritates me when movie makers change the character’s motives. I like how Eragon is angry at Sloan, at Roran, and even Garrow (to an extent), but when he realizes that what the Ra’zac are and that they have done, he wants revenge. The movie changes the dynamic of the story by doing this. I feel that you lose something when the story is changed like that. Also, Eragon’s character is a boy on the cusp of manhood, faced with a cruel and changing world. He has to react and adapt, grow up. The book shows his changing and growing emotions, whereas the movie just glosses over many of these. Eragon in the movie is already the character he is by the end of the book.

Speaking about weakened character development, there’s Brom’s poor character. He is an awesome father figure to Eragon. Who is an enigma at the beginning, but is grows and developes throughout the story (in the book anyway). In the movie he gets the short end of the candle. His role in Carvahall is not even explained and when it’s revealed that he was a Dragonrider with the Varden and his dragon was killed in battle, he went into hiding/was shamed when he went to Carvahall. This isn’t even correct! In the book he came to Carvahall to act as a watch for the Varden. Also, what setting they show of life in Carvahall doesn’t mention much of Brom let alone anyone  else in Carvahall. Did you know that Brom was masquerading as a storyteller? You couldn’t tell in the movie. You don’t even get his motive. The storyteller point is a set up for Eragon to get more information from Brom on dragons. the movie uses the opening narration to give us most of this information. This feels like cheating, because Brom is supposed to be a teacher and in a way a father figure to Eragon. You don’t get invested in Brom in the movie because of this. You donlt even get Brom teaching Eragon much of anything, except a bit of ‘sword fighting’ with sticks and a magic vocabulary.

Forced character development, something that movie used easily is getting you vested into Arya. She is the lady who originally rescued Saphira’s egg from Galbatorix. In the book you see her in the beginning fleeing from some of Galbatorix’s men (as with the book). The difference is that in the book she is captured and tortured. She only interacts with Eragon through telepathy, yet in the movie she is awake and an active member of Eragon’s journey (still captured and needs to be rescued in both versions) instead of another character in the story, Murtaugh who is Eragon’s traveling companion in the book. Arya is a FRI (forced romantic interest), similar to Arwen in the Lord of the Rings movies (even though Arwen was already a love interest so to speak). Movie: Eragon has a dream with Arya and Eragon talking together in a forest. Book: Eragon has a dream of a woman who is imprisoned and being tortured. This is very forced and very trite in modern movies. Also, Arya is an elf! But you wouldn’t know that from the movie, would you. She has no pointed ears, nor are her ‘people’ referred to as elves. She claims to be from Ellesmere, but you know nothing of her people. There are also no dwarves in the movie. There is ONE line from one of Galbatorix’s scenes that mention elves and dwarves. Only one!!

The whole movie feels forced and lacking in character development for the characters that are present. Alsom there are characters not mentioned such as Katrina, Orik (Hrothgar’s nephew), Hrothgar (the Dwarf King), and the Twins; while Sloan (the butcher), Horst (the black smith), Angela (the fortune-teller), and Murtaugh (out-cast) are barely touched upon. There are those who are like Eragon, Brom, Saphira, and Durza who are not fully developed and that loses something for me when watching the movie; when you don’t feel connected to the characters.

There are facts that are incorrect, or stretched, such as when Eragon meets Angela. They meet her in Daret (which is by a lake?) in the movie, where originally Angela resided in Teirm (which is by the sea) with the were-cat Solembum (also not mentioned). These are things that, in my opinion are crucial to the story. I found that their lack of inclusion or distortion of the fact made the story weaker as a whole.

I most also note that when I first watched Eragon in the theatres back in 2006 I enjoyed the movie immensely, as I am a dragon nut. When I read the book, much later, I was surprised by the differences, but hardly as upset as I am now having really compared the two. The part of the absent Katrina in the movie still frustrates me (after I had read “Eldest” and realized what had been done). I still thought that I could live with both, after all I have seen some poorer movie adaptations or sequels, but still found them enjoyable to watch as a stand alone movie. It’s hard to watch Eragon now, knowing how vastly different the book and the movie are from each other.

To those who like the movie. Go ahead and like it! I did. It’s a decent movie if you have no reference point to the book. It’s still not a great movie, in my mind as the characters don’t feel fully development and there are many forced plot points that are too trite for my taste. But, it not bad! I will stick with the book, personally. If I must watch the movie, I will watch the Rifftrax version, because at least I can see the humour in it.

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