Rant #9: In Which the Author Discusses His Flavor of Fantasy
OK, let's not beat around
the bush. The reason for this particular rant is Eragon.
Well, not precisely Eragon in and of itself, but rather
the thinking behind it, and what it represents.
Eragon, in case
you haven't been watching television, movies, the internet,
or the face of the moon lately, is the latest attempt at a
fantasy blockbuster for the holiday season, one that hopefully
can scoot in under the radar whilst Aslan, Harry Potter, and
Gandalf are busy elsewhere and plunder the (and forgive me
phat l00t of the yuletide moviegoing season. It's
got big-name actors, special effects, and a lead actor from
the Young Anakin Skywalker school of tousled blonde surliness,
all of the ingredients of something perfectly calculated to
lure the youngsters while simultaneously convincing their
parents that it Can't Be That Bad Now, Can It? I mean, John
Malkovich is in it. Surely there must be something serious
Oh. Wait. I forgot. There's a dragon. A telepathic one, which I suppose makes sense,
because dragons don't appear to have lips and thus would probably have a hard time with any dialogue involving sibilants. But I digress.
So. Eragon. The big fantasy release
of the holiday season. I, as a dyed-in-the-wool fantasy geek,
should be seriously (for lack of a better word) geeked about
it, right? In a movie season of uplifting holiday cheer and
grim Oscar contenders, a rooting, tooting dragonriffic throwdown
ought to be right down my alley. I ought to be getting out
my old t-tunic, strapping on ye olde boffer sword, and sojourning
down to the multiplex, there to do battle with the beast of
the popcorn stand.
And yet, it's not happening.
Instead, I saw the trailer
and thought to myself, "My God, it's a Sci-Fi Pictures Original."
I swear, if I squinted just right, Malkovich (here apparently
Ben Kingsley's rent-paying performance in Bloodrayne)
had turned into Mansquito.
Honestly, my reaction puzzled me. So, I poked around the net, found the trailer, and watched it again. The second time,
however, I wasn't bored. Instead, I got mad. And I thought about it, and watched it again, and got madder. That's when it finally
I have no problem with
Eragon itself. I haven't read it and probably won't,
but that's not the point. The
creation of the book is a great story - more power
to any teenager with the willpower to put together a 550 page
book. At that age I was writing Villains
and Vigilantes campaign notes, not a coherent manuscript,
and I applaud the author's being able to harness his particular
muse in that way. I'll leave judgments on the quality of the
book to others; right now, it's not my interest.
No, what's getting me geek-mad is the
movie, and the presentation thereof. It does not feel like
a movie called Eragon. It feels, just from the trailers
and commercials and omnipresent CGI bumps during football
games and God knows what else, like someone looked at the
last few fantasy/geek hits and made a checklist of what they
thought were the important elements, then filmed and packaged
the movie like they were shopping for groceries. Dragon? Check.
Horde shot reminiscent of Helm's Deep? Check. Slow-walking,
slow-talking bad magic-user in robe chewing the scenery? Check.
And so it goes, with all of it slabbed, steaming, onto a plate
and shoved in front of us with a cynical "Trust us, you'll
like it." It's not a movie, it's an event and a construct
and a Frankenstein monster, bolted together like a mouse designed
by committee and looking a lot like an elephant.
If, of course, that elephant had wings. And breathed fire. And were a dragon.
It shouldn't get me
mad. It really shouldn't. But in the wake of the obscene success
of the Lord of the Rings films and the Harry Potter series
and the first stab at Narnia, it should be nicely proven that
good fantasy movies can make money. That fantasy is a viable
film genre, and that there is a wealth of strong material
to be adapted out there. Give me a filmed version of a Vlad
Taltos novel, or Amber,
or one of Glen Cook's Garrett
mysteries, or a Charles
DeLint urban fantasy, or…well, you get the idea.
The list, it goes on and on. The market is primed for good
fantasy films because we've been blessed with so many. The
ground is fertile to grow the genre into an evergreen, with
just a little care and attention to something besides the
Instead, we get Eragon: the breakfast cereal. Speaking strictly as a fan, it's easy to envision Eragon and a few others like it rendering
that ground fallow, burning out enthusiasm for fantasy and discrediting it in the eyes of those who'd been lured into giving it a shot
because so many of the recent stabs at it had been just plain old good.
But hey, it's got a dragon, and the marketing surveys say people like dragons. And if they don't like them next week, that's someone else's
Well, yeah. But I'm that someone else, and if you're reading this, you might be, too.