DVD Review: Eragon

20th Century Fox
Movie •• Picture •• Sound ••• Extras •••½
Beasties, wise mentors, and plucky peasants populate the screen once again, but with much less success than in other recent fantasy films. That's not surprising, since as a would-be epic, Eragon barely clears 100 minutes and feels rushed throughout. Most of the cast look either overwhelmed or uninterested, and the plot is beyond derivative: It starts off with a princess on the run from the forces of an evil emperor and goes downhill from there. But voice talent Rachel Weisz does manage to give depth and humanity to the dragon, and the special effects are solid. So if a cute lizard and some dazzling eye-candy are what you're looking for, Eragon at least delivers on the basics.

The transfer is pretty dreadful, with excessive grain and a low level of detail throughout. There's plenty of artifacting, particularly noticeable during the battle sequences, and a good deal of smearing whenever the camera moves. With all of the movie's stunning location scenery, this is a real disappointment.

The sound is a bit better, with both Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 tracks included. Neither one is outstanding, but they don't have the obvious flaws of the picture transfer. An underwhelming use of the surround channels and the subwoofer in action sequences doesn't help each mix's lack of intensity, but Patrick Doyle's lush score is completely immersive and comes across warmly.

Disc 1 has an entirely bland and predictable commentary from Stefen Fangmeier. He's as excited as you'd expect a first-time director to be, but he doesn't go beyond production tidbits and the special effects. Disc 2, though, is a treasure trove of extras, including a couple of hour-long documentaries on the novel's adaptation and the special effects, a brief animation guide, a featurette on the characters and the casting, about 12 minutes of deleted scenes, and storyboard galleries. Eragon author Christopher Paolini shows up to make a pitch for the other books in his series, but it's hard to imagine a studio sinking any more money into a sequel after Eragon's spectacular crash and burn at the box office. [PG] English, Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1; French and Spanish, Dolby Surround; letterboxed (2.35:1) and anamorphic widescreen; two dual-layer discs.

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