Friday, December 22, 2006

Eragon: fan devotion, books and movies

Years ago, when I was a daily school librarian, one of my "reader" students, B, used to come by the library office after school to talk about books. Like so many teachers' kids (my own entling included) she was trapped at school until her parental unit finished the day's paperwork and prepared for the morrow.

She asked me over and over again if I had heard of this new book called Eragon. Since I had LOTR standups of the fellowship all around my library I would ask, "You mean Aragorn?" No, Mrs. P--ERAGON!

B and her family had met Christopher Paolini at a local bookstore where he was selling copies of this book that he had written and his family had published. Her younger sister had ended up in a pleasant and lengthy conversation with Paolini so their mom went ahead and purchased a copy of the book from him. I think B read the covers off her copy. Later she complained that the new edition that Random House brought out was different from her "original" edition.

I finally did read Eragon. The first 100 pages were an absolute slog. Normally, I would have abandoned the effort but my young friend's earnest devotion to the story compelled me to keep going even though I had to physically push my eyeballs from one word to the next.

At some point the story grabbed me and I enjoyed the last half of the story. Was the story derivative? Oh yes. Paolini is a devotee of Lord of the Rings, Dragonriders of Pern, Star Wars and it shows in every character, plot twist and set piece.

What continues to interest me though is how much kids still love this book. The second book, Eldest, has a devout following also. I have not read it -- my own entling did read it but was not very enthusiastic. It circulates frequently at the libraries where I sub and I know kids who think it is better than Book 1. Is it Paolini's teenager perspective that resonates with the kids?

The entling wanted to see the movie so earlier this week we rounded up some friends and popcorn and zoomed off the local multiplex.

I did not have high hopes. The reviews had not been kind and every word of this review in School Library Journal rings true (I liked this review because the reviewer has obviously read the book.)

On the whole though I enjoyed the movie. The dragon technology is amazing. Jeremy Irons never turns in a bad performance and I thought Edward Speleers did a perfectly acceptable job as Eragon, the dragonrider. I personally don't "get" John Malkovich and his delivery in a fantasy piece echos "Yondah lies the castle of my faddah" but we are not in the Oscar stratosphere here. The director obviously stole his vision from The Two Towers but if you are going to ape your betters, then Peter Jackson is the place to start.

Not having the book committed to memory may have improved my enjoyment. There were heapings of bitterness about the short shrift given to Murtagh and the compression of time on the way home in the car.

I expect I would have had the same reaction to Anthony Horowitz's Stormbreaker if it had ever reached my fair city. Michele at Scholar's Blog writes about Horowitz and his reaction to the limited release of Alex Rider in the USA. Michele enjoyed Stormbreaker and since she has pointed me towards some other good movies, I feel like I would have enjoyed it too. I will watch for it on Netflix.


Unknown said...

I haven't seen the movie yet, either, but the fans on my message boards are upset that the movie isn't true to the book. I expect you're right that it's probably a more enjoyable movie if you aren't a dedicated fan of the book.

Camille said...

Another movie that seems to be evoking strong opinions among readers is Inkheart. There is much debate about the casting apparently if the comments to my Inkheart posts are any indication.