Once dragon riders kept the peace in the land of Alagaesia but after treacherous infighting the tyrannical Galbatorix now rules over a subjugated people. When young farm boy Eragon finds a mysterious stone he sets out on a hero's journey and, under the tutorage of the mysterious Brom, becomes a dragon rider with the potential to defeat the evil king.
The concept of the monomyth, Joseph Campbell's theory that claims many legends share a basic pattern, was documented in his seminal book The Hero with A Thousand Faces. The inspiration for several authors and filmmakers, the most well known example being George Lucas, its influence hangs heavily over this latest potential fantasy franchise. The debut feature from Stefen Fangmeier this tale of heroic dragons and evil wizards in a far away land fails to capture the imagination or generate the same levels of excitement that thrilled fans of Lucas' classic trilogy.
Adapted from a novel written by teenager Christopher Paolini it's fantasy by numbers with genre clichés so rigidly adhered to that even younger audiences will fail to find anything too surprising. The hero that gives the movie its title is nothing more than a two-dimensional archetype, inexperienced newcomer Ed Speleers adding nothing to the part. Casting more established actors in pivotal supporting roles should've leant some much needed gravitas. But with both John Malkovich and Robert Carlyle delivering hammy panto performances as Galbatorix and malevolent sorcerer Durza it's up to Jeremy Irons to engage the audience as Brom. Providing the obligatory opening narration he does his best with the limited material and generates some interest in proceedings whenever he's on screen. A gaping hole in the film is never filled once he departs in another obvious plot development.
There are a handful of impressive visuals in Eragon, a convincing cgi dragon, the mandatory epic vistas and an action packed finale. But it's an insipid offering with woefully underwritten characters and a functional script that can't rise above the conventions of the fantasy genre. If there's a plus point it's that the running time is roughly half that of Lord Of The Rings but it shares that film's origins in a literary trilogy. On this poor showing though the likelihood of further sequels seems slim.