What does Fox need to do to remake a successful Eragon movie? (Part two)

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Yesterday we explored the first batch of things we believe Fox needs to do to get hypothetical future Inheritance Cycle films right. Of course, we believe the only way to move forward would be to reboot the series – something that will allow the studio a chance to right wrongs and properly tell the story.

The first part of our article proposed rebooting the series, getting Christopher involved, finding a team passionate about the story, hiring a director and writer with experience in adapting epic fantasy book worlds, not using a large budget as a crutch, not straying far from the plot of the books, looking at the big picture, and possibly splitting the books into multiple films. If you haven’t already, we recommend reading the first article before continuing with this one!

Part two recommends focusing on the characters and their development, paying attention to the “small stuff,” aiming for a PG-13 rating, and more!

Focus more on the bond, friendship, and development of Eragon and Saphira

The relationship between Eragon and Saphira is the heart of the Inheritance Cycle. The pair are partners, bonded together as something beyond friends. They see each other as equals, and their growth together, including their failures, struggles, and defeats, further that bond and result in some of the story’s most important and moving moments.

We lost this in the first portion of the film as Saphira flew up to the clouds and instantly grew to maturity. In the book, the time Eragon and Saphira spent together before Garrow’s death cemented key aspects of their relationship and allowed the pair to understand each other and grow together. These moments defined what would come in the rest of the book, and eventually, the series as a whole.

It may be hard to translate a telepathic relationship to the big screen, but by treating Saphira as a human character, Fox will likely be able to capture the relationship between the pair as it is in the books.

Don’t dumb the series down for a PG rating.

The books are bloody, gritty, and a realistic interpretation of life in a medieval fantasy world. The plight of the characters, the endless war, and the results of Galbatorix’s rule resonate throughout the books. Eragon lost a lot of what made the books so special by “dumbing” the series down in favor of a PG rating. Films such as The Chronicles of Narnia succeeded with a PG rating because the source material was more child-oriented. The Inheritance Cycle may be published as “young adult” fiction, but its dark and serious subject matter appeals to readers of all ages, similar to Harry Potter and Hunger Games.

Eragon contains many adult elements that set the series apart from others, and keeping true to the themes of the book will ensure a less cheesy, more serious film. Be open to a PG-13 rating – it’s likely the only way the adaptation can be faithful and successful.

Details matter

We can’t stress this enough. Those “small things” add up quickly when ignored. Characters and events are written the way they are because they add up to something much larger. Character’s appearance, demeanors, and personalities complement each other and push the plot forward.

The “small things” ignored in the Eragon movie were fairly bad on their own, but combining them all resulted in one giant mess… Saphira was a half-bird, with feathered wings; Roran leaving to conscript with the Empire; Saphira instantly transforming into a mature dragon in the clouds; Angela’s appearance; dwarves, elves, and Urgals were all humans; costumes and sets did not come close to matching the culture and scenery in the books.

We could go on and on.

Don’t shove a love story down our throats

Eragon was tripping over himself in his quest to win Arya’s love throughout the film. It is true that Eragon has feelings for Arya, and on occasion throughout the book, these feelings led to awkward encounters between the pair. However, the love story is not a prevalent theme in the first book (or any of the books, really) and should not take center stage for the sake of having a love story in the movie.

We understand that many films play on love stories as a major plot crutch and can see how Eragon’s bumbling affection and unsuccessful advances toward Arya make for an interesting Hollywood story. However, let’s look at Harry Potter – the “love tension” between characters was fun and subtle, while still maintaining a presence. It wasn’t “in our face,” but it wasn’t fully excluded, either. This played well, accurately represented the love story in the books (as a background theme), and didn’t alienate audiences on either side of the spectrum – those who enjoy love stories and those who don’t.

Start at the drawing board – literally

Picking Christopher’s brain to understand his vision for Alagaësia and its inhabitants would be a great place to start. We have a collection of inspiration art and photos Christopher discovered while writing the Inheritance Cycle, and we plan to share these images in future articles. Taking these pieces and understanding how they represent the books would be a great first step.

Work hard on concept art and ensure that it captures the books and the world before moving forward. Every film starts with concept illustrations, and these pieces are what the production team works from as they design sets, costumes, and the film’s visual effects. Not getting these right almost guarantees major bumps in the road and a less-than-stellar adaptation. The flow of imagery should be in tune from author, to artists, to production staff, ensuring one streamlined vision throughout the entirety of the process.

Be mindful of major plots and themes

Dwarves, elves, Urgals, and Werecats were left out of the Eragon film, and their exclusion took away from the world’s fantasy feel. It also undermined many of the key themes and struggles prevalent throughout the books. Without the dwarves’ in-fighting and political conflicts, the elves’ withdrawal from the world and its events, and the humans’ propensity for picking fights with those they are at odds with, the world feels hollow.

Galbatorix was revealed from the start in the movie, removing the sense of mystery behind the villain. In the books, we don’t meet Galbatorix face-to-face until Inheritance, and only hearing tales and second hand accounts of Alagaësia’s ultimate villain created the necessary suspense, mystery, and wonder needed to make readers fear him. When we finally encountered the rogue Rider in the final book, the moment truly felt epic. The Ra’zac, Durza, and eventually Murtagh, act as fulfilling villains throughout the book and channel Galbatorix’s evil in all the right ways. There’s no need to reveal the king before his time.

The timeline of the characters in the movie as well as character omissions greatly reduced the sense of wonder and surprise we got from the books.  When the army of elves was revealed in Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers film, it gave a great sense of epic mysticism because until that point, we had only seen elven leaders.

Don’t let characters lose their heart. Angela the Herbalist ends up as one of the series’ best characters through her quirks, mystery, and badass-ness seen throughout all four books. Had the Eragon movie led to a full movie series, all of that would have been lost as a result of Solembum’s exclusion and Angela’s wildly inaccurate interpretation.

Set the stage with a prologue of the Riders’ fall

There’s a lot of background to cover in order to successfully tell the story of Alagaësia and its inhabitants. It’s tough to pack that much history and information into a single movie, and we believe the film may be able to convey a lot of the necessary backstory by opening the movie with a prologue looking at Galbatorix’s rise to power and the fall of the Riders. If this was done, it would be best to leave Brom out, as his inclusion would ruin a lot of the mystery surrounding his background and the moment we learn that he was once a Dragon Rider.

If not for a prologue, opening the film with Brom’s story of the Riders told around the campfire in Carvahall would be a great way to set the scene, although it may conflict with the book’s prologue showing Arya fleeing from Durza, and eventually the moment we first see Eragon hunting in the forest.

You can’t please everyone, but you sure can try.

This is a lesson we all need to learn. The final book in many beloved series – Harry Potter, Hunger Games, and even Inheritance, to name a few – were widely loved by their fan base, but some passionate readers did not like the series’ endings. No matter how hard an author tries, they simply can’t please everyone.

The same can be said for film adaptations. Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and Hunger Games are some of the more recently and widely-loved book-to-movie film franchises that were embraced by readers and an entirely new audience. However, these films took many creative liberties, and those changes didn’t always win over all of the series’ fans.

Someone, somewhere, will always be unhappy. It’s an unfortunate reality.

Let us know in the comments what you think Fox needs to do to get future movies right, and be sure to add your signature to the petition encouraging Fox to reboot the series!

Read part one of our “What does Fox need to do to remake a successful Eragon movie?” article!