PictureEragon's 1080p MPEG-2 (at 20 MBPS) transfer can, at times, be quite spectacular. The three-dimensionality of Blu-ray is effortlessly showcased within the 2.35:1 frame and there are many occasions when the image literally pops from the screen with hi-def sharpness. Colours are boldly captured and feature a strength and a depth that is reliable and rewarding. The bright orange and yellows of the dragon-fire and the streaming bolts of energy from nasty Durza are beautifully presented. The lush greens of the forests and the varied shades of the mountain ranges and rocky passes are well-handled too, and the image, as a whole, seems to radiate an embracing warmth, and is devoid of smearing, chroma-shift or over-saturation. Flesh-tones are more than decent, with a natural-enough sheen to most of the characters' faces and an agreeable sparkle in the eye.
And whilst the outdoor scenes, save for the odd smattering of grain in some distant and sky-heavy shots, look deep, sharp and crisp, the darker interiors of gloomy castles and dungeons are treated to magnificent black levels that betray no slide-off into grey and remain strong and thick and possess oodles of inky atmosphere. Torchlight probes the darkness with a nice sense of realism and vibrancy and detail amidst the murk is not skimped on either, with lots to see within the shadows. Contrast is spot-on throughout, with the final battle marvellously presented amidst flames and shadow and without any glitches.
Detail on the whole is terrific, with the leaves in the woods, the striations in the rocks, the embroidery on the costumes and glint of weaponry all looking nicely polished and lifting cleanly from the image. Saphira, however good she looks as a creature when set aside from the live-action she is placed within, can appear a little softer on occasions, though this is hardly to the detriment of the image and just one of the aspects of CG and hi-resolution when combined. And I've certainly seen far worse effects integration than here. There are some moments when edge enhancement is visible, but this really only affects some of the far-off landscape shots and, once again, should pose no problem with the enjoyment of what is an otherwise splendid transfer.
SoundHearing just the core DTS of Eragon's DTS HD Master Lossless track, due to the restrictions of current equipment, only added to the terrific presentation of the film on disc. The soundscape is immediately expansive and enveloping, with Doyle's score swirling around the speakers and energetically buoying up the drama on-screen. The intention to fill the room with sound is often overt, with lots of ambience taking place and plenty of surround activity. Steerage is impeccable, with swoops and flybys from Saphira making seamless passages around the soundscape and dynamics that are always natural, open and engrossing.
The clanging of steel on steel is always resonant and the various melees and skirmishes ring out nicely with sword clashes and impacts that take place convincingly around the set-up. Bass levels are superb and there are quite a few moments to illustrate this point with a pounding presence that shakes the floorboards. The approach of Galbatorix's army of Urgals as they smash their way through a huge wall is a wonderful spell of reverberating menace, and there are a couple of dragon crashes and landings that serve the sub well. Saphira plunging through a roof is quite well handled too, with plenty of weighty impact and a nice scattering of debris. Dialogue is presented with clarity and naturalism throughout, as well. Though this actually poses a problem when it comes to the rather naff telepathy between Eragon and his dragon, which strangely just seems all the more unconvincing.
Overall, this is a great track - loud, aggressive and full of well-directed activity. The full lossless track would obviously be a lot better but, for now, this will not disappoint.
ExtrasThe Standard release apparently has loads of extra material to bolster it, but Fox's BD edition chooses to jettison everything except for the commentary from director Stefen Fangmeier, and even this isn't mentioned on the box!
To be fair, Fangmeier comes across as quite personable and is keen to point out the differences that he and the writer made from Paolini's original text. Pretty scene-specific, the filmmaker can't help but be a little too technical at times, describing how shots and effects were achieved. It is not exactly the most humorous or anecdote-rife track that I've heard, but it is certainly passable. Personally, I would have liked to have heard Carlyle and Malkovitch get together for a joint-attempt to explain just what they thought they were doing and perhaps even a “Golly-gosh, mum, look at my story as a movie!” track from Christopher Paolini, himself. On second thoughts, perhaps not.
We also get some hi-def trailers for Fantastic Four, Ice Age 2, The League OF Extraordinary Gentlemen, X-Men: The Last Stand and Night At The Museum, as well as one for Eragon, itself.
VerdictIt is almost impossible to recommend this film to anyone other than a fan of the original book (part of a trilogy, apparently - but then these things always are, aren't they?), no matter how good its AV quality may be. It would be akin to endorsing a beautifully prepared meal that looks and smells delicious, yet is riddled with SARIN. For grownups, the derivative nature of the material is just too much to handle even with the best of intentions, and judging from the reaction of my own son to the film, just too hollow and uninvolving for some kids, too. Which is a grand shame.
This BD release, shorn of virtually all the extras that grace the SD edition, has only a terrific AV performance to boast of. But, at least, this is where the film comes alive. It is not the best looking or sounding Blu-ray transfer that I have seen, but it is still extremely good by anybody's standards.
Just one for the fans, then. But perhaps even they'd better opting for the regular release for the bonus features to round out the package.
All things considered, Eragon struggles to reach an overall score of 4 out of 10.
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