Saturday, January 13, 2007

The profanation of Paolini

If it weren't for the popcorn I was mechanically munching, I would have fallen asleep in the middle of watching Eragon. The film adaptation of Christopher Paolini's celebrated debut novel-- which I didn't like to begin with-- exceeded my expectations... by sucking even more than the book. I don't know if Paolini's youth and inexperience led him to be bullied into surrending to the creative control of money-grubbing Hollywood honchos, but it was really sad to see his work (never mind that it smacked of LOTR and Star Wars) mangled into a misshapen mess by director Stefen Fangmeier. It was if Fangmeier and his crew stole a car, took it to a chop shop, stripped it and removed all the serviceable parts, and attempted to build another car out of the bits and pieces. The result? A soulless Frankenstein of a vehicle that sputtered to a weak start, rolled forward a few feet, coughed pathetically, and died.

I don't know whether to feel sympathy for Paolini for the sacrilegious slaughter of his book (they should call screenplay writer Peter Buchman "Buchman the Butcher"), or disgusted at the young author for being such a spineless sell-out. The movie haphazardly fast-forwarded through key events that should have given the characters' relationships more meaning: farm boy Eragon painstakingly caring for the dragon hatchling Saphira as she grew
(in the film, she grew to full size within a few minutes of learning how to fly); Brom training Eragon in the ways of the Riders (the extent of his invaluable lessons? 4 handy-dandy magic words); Eragon forming a mental link with Arya (why bother when love at first sight is SO much easier?); Murtagh earning Eragon's friendship and confidence (the movie makes Eragon out to be the most trusting idiot in all of Alagaesia, blindly following anyone who happens by); Eragon finding the Varden after an arduous search and assimilating into their community (instead, he arrives on their doorstep and immediately joins Ajihad's gang, no questions asked from either side). As if that weren't enough, the transitions between scenes were abrupt and sorely lacked cohesion, and anyone who has not read the book would probably get lost at several points in the movie.

But the most obvious, and most appalling, liberty taken by the filmmakers was the complete omission of Paolini's Tolkien-inspired elves and dwarves, his sorcerers and werecats and other creatures. Arya was relegated from elven royalty to human princess; the Urgals looked not like frightening beastly foot soldiers, but primitive WWE wrestlers; instead of crashing at the dwarves' pad, the Varden had their own mountain digs; and Angela the funky bohemian sorceress was Joss Stone in a costume that looked like it was borrowed from a Thai transvestite, doing nothing more impressive than a Madam Auring fortune reading. Stripped of its mythology (as unoriginal as it was in the book), Eragon was flat and flavorless as a film, even with a cast boasting the likes of the great Jeremy Irons (hey Queen Elizabeth, knight the guy already, would 'ya?), the fabulous Robert Carlyle (as the Shade Durza, he would have been much more effective if his makeup hadn't kept changing from scene to scene), and the awesome John Malkovich (I wonder how much he got for sitting on a throne and reciting a few menacing lines? probably more than what Paolini got for the rights to his book).

The only good that came out of watching Eragon was that it made the novel seem much more entertaining, in hindsight. I am currently reading Eldest, the second book in Paolini's Inheritance trilogy, and I haven't been liking it very much. But given the sorry piece of cinema that was produced from its predecessor, I think I'm going to start appreciating the little enjoyment I can derive from it... before it too gets desecrated by Hollywood.


At Saturday, January 13, 2007, Anonymous Tarin said...

haha i can see how much fun u had making this entry! haha

At Sunday, January 14, 2007, Blogger Ailee Through the Looking Glass said...

Definitely more fun than I had watching the movie. :p


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