Growing up my parents constantly encouraged me to read. They saw it as a positive alternative to the rather addictive gameboy that seemingly never left my hands. I read a diverse array of works, spanning many genres, but my true love was always fantasy. I dedicated countless hours to the works of Tolkein, Rowling, Tad Williams, and many others. I would lose myself in these alternate universes, letting my imagination run wild. As I grew older my passion for these works never died, I was constantly rereading them just experience that feeling of excitement once again.
As you might expect I was elated when I discovered that many of my childhood favorites would be made into movies. I would be able to experience these foreign worlds in a completely new way. I counted down the days until the release of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, barely able to contain myself. In the back of my mind I was somehow worried that Jackson would fail to do justice to the book that I loved, would he depict middle earth the way I had always imagined it? I knew ten minutes into the premier that Jackson had pulled it off. The second and third film’s in the series were equally as impressive, each one a masterpiece in its own right. The success of LOTR trilogy only made me more excited for the future release of other film adaptations of fantasy novels. I nearly went through the roof when I heard that there was going to be a film based on Christopher Paolini’s Eragon. Again I awaited the release of this film with baited breath, would it live up to the standard that the LOTR trilogy had set? Sadly not. Eragon fell flat, it was a complete disaster.
I spent a great deal of time thinking about why Eragon had failed where LOTR hadn’t and I finally came to the conclusion that the success of a fantasy adaption is entirely based on the directors vision. Peter Jackson respected the LOTR trilogy, recognizing that the books are something more than a simple fairy tale. The films were intense and thoughtful, Jackson diligently portrayed middle earth in a mature way. Jackson’s middle earth was highly realistic, favoring natural settings over special effects backdrops. Stefen Fangmeier, the director of Eragon, decided to go in the opposite direction of Jackson. Eragon had an extremely childish visual style, relying heavily on cheesy special effects. The plot was completely butchered down to appeal to a younger audience, a 544 page book was made into a 1:39 movie. The characters I had come to love just looked goofy on the silver screen, the dragons looked like giant chickens rather than fearsome beasts. Fangmeier made a movie for children far to young to have read and appreciated the book. All of the truly dedicated fans were completely snubbed, and not surprisingly the film was a failure. It is a tragedy when a filmmaker fails to appreciate the roots of their project.