By Joe Strange
To Whom It May Concern
To whoever is responsible,
Imagine the scene; you’re 14 years old; enthusiastic, naive, trusting to a fault. For your birthday you receive a book, this book is about dragons and swords and magic and, considering you love Harry Potter you devour it. You read it once, then read it again, you tell everyone you know about it, and then you read it thrice more.
Then you hear they’re making this book, your holy grail of literature, into a movie, and you lose your shit.
Eragon! On the big screen! You can’t wait to see how the studio effortlessly pulls off your favourite book, scene for scene without getting anything wrong.
Well, I already said you were naive didn’t I?
Suddenly it’s Christmas time, and you are unbelievably keen for the cinema, Eragon is out and you’re first in line. Your friends whom you had leant Eragon to and who had, understandably, fallen in love with it, because you’re all 14 and don’t know any better, are with you. You’re so psyched you can barely sit through the trailers.
One hour and forty three minutes. That’s how long it took you to become, in regards to movie criticism, a man.
The three of you walk out in a stunned silence, no one’s sure what to say, you wanted to like it, but something wasn’t right. Saphira wasn’t meant to grow up that fast, and where was the epic travelling, the arduous training and what on earth was that final fight scene? Smoke Dragon? What? You go home, still thinking over what you saw, until it finally dawns on you.
That film was… not great.
But it wasn’t just not good, it was bad, like, really, really bad.
They took your favourite book, tore out its heart and soul and turned it into, what you’d later realise to be, a mutant combination of Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, with all the great stuff cut out.
The effects were bad, the dialogue was clunky and the story lacked any of the gravitas of the book so it seemed contrived and rushed. It was bad, and you couldn’t forgive them. Whoever they were.
You then go into every film thinking; is this going to be good? Even if I like it, is it still a good film? What makes a good film? How can I erase Eragon from my mind? Does that technology exist yet?
In one hour and forty three minutes you went from enthusiastic, bright eyed child to a very cautious, weary movie goer.
Eragon was the first film I ever saw that made me think, not on an existential, ‘what is wrong with the world’ level, but on a base, critical level.
It took the butchery of my favourite thing at the time for me to realise that films could be bad, and that this was an art, something that could be talked about and discussed, in more of a way than when kids talk about their favourite Jurassic Park scene.
And I think it was the fact that Eragon, at the time, was my favourite thing in the entire world, that affected me so much. It was my passion for the book that really made me stop and think; No, I am not okay with this. It wasn’t just that I didn’t like it, I couldn’t stand it.
And that inevitably lead to me looking at other films and thinking; Do I really like this? Or am I just watching it, not experiencing the film. Film watching is a passive activity, but it doesn’t need to be, and Eragon made me realise that for me, it really shouldn’t be. I wouldn’t get fooled again.
Without the heaping pile of mess that was Eragon, I probably wouldn’t be running Axby, I wouldn’t have such a strong view on films, or an extensive watch list of old and new. I wouldn’t feel comfortable in saying, with conviction, that is not a good film, or that is a good film.
Eragon removed a substantial amount of wonder from my young mind, but replaced it with potential; potential to look at movies, at television, at entertainment and go; Hmm, maybe not eh?
So thank you Stefen Fangmeier, director of Eragon, a beloved childhood book, thank you for using your one and only directorial role to teach 14 year old me a valuable lesson; Bad movies exist, and can come in any number of forms, even the things you love most.
Avid movie watcher and writer, and it’s all your fault.