Eragon—20th Century Fox

By and large, dragons have had a tough time of it in Hollywood. Past attempts from Pete’s Dragon, to Dragonslayer, to Dragonheart—heck, even Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story—have failed to set the world on fire. Enter Eragon (based upon the popular book by Christopher Paolini), the latest cinematic tale of winged, flame-belching lizards and the humans who befriend them. There’s nothing really new in this sequel-ready fantasy/adventure: an evil king and his minions; the brave underdog resistance; a young hero who loses everything before coming of age. It all borrows a lot from the original Star Wars trilogy, while looking much like Lord of the Rings.

But dragons do tend to make for good home theater, what with all the whooshing, roaring, and big, blasting fireballs spawned within their scaly nether regions; and, in this digital age, the visuals can be pretty impressive, too. Fox Home Entertainment’s 2-Disc Special Edition of Eragon begins with the feature film in anamorphic 2.35:1, which, despite a surprising amount of artifacting, displays vibrant colors across a variety of stylized environments, each with its own family of hues. Detail, be it real or CGI, is excellent throughout—even a faint rainbow by a waterfall—and blacks are natural in this very shadowy film. The audio is presented in DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1, with ample bass available for the hoofbeats of charging horses, the epic score by Patrick Doyle, and the 360-degree thunder. The surround channels are seldom dull, with appropriate individual effects and big crowd fill elsewhere.

First-time director Stefen Fangmeier, a visual-effects supervisor by trade, offers a well-rounded solo commentary, the only special feature on disc one. The second platter is where the action is, with an in-depth look at the source material and its young author, including readable excerpts from his works, plus a clickable array of character studies. There are also samples of Fangmeier’s previsualization of the movie, breakdowns of the digital effects by Oscar winner Michael McAlister, and galleries of design artwork, with one batch dedicated solely to drawings of the starring dragon, Saphira.

The disc further includes storyboards, including many for unfilmed scenes; seven extended/deleted sequences in anamorphic video with optional commentary, albeit nothing too vital to the final cut; and even a pronunciation guide. This last bit puts me in mind of the real problem with disc two: The various sections are organized by the locations of the saga on a maplike menu, but they seem to have been arbitrarily chosen. So, the trailers are hidden in the Beor Mountains, for example, and, worse, the rest have utterly alien names like Teirm, Uru’Baen, and Farthen Dur (I left out the weird punctuation), leaving me with absolutely no idea where to find anything. It’s frustrating, but what I did eventually watch from the scattered supplements was actually more interesting than the movie itself.