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It’s the second most asked question we get here on Shur’tugal (“When will we see Book 5?” comes in first). It isn’t hard to understand why: the 2006 Eragon movie was a less-than-stellar take on a book we are all passionate about. Mistakes were made, the movie didn’t quite resonate with audiences, and hopes of a film franchise faded.
Let’s address the big question straight away: there is no news from Fox regarding a future film. The studio has been silent for nearly a decade. However, future films are still possible, and it is our hope that the recent success of similar films (which we explore below) may help open their eyes to the series’ big screen potential.
Fox’s purchase of the film rights was first announced in early 2004, aimed at a 2005 release. Filming began in the summer of 2005, with the intent to release the film exactly one year later. Bumped from June, 2006, the film hit theaters in December, 2006.
The film industry often defines a “flop” as a film that fails to earn back its budget. In the case of Eragon, the movie more than doubled its budget of $100 million (not including its marketing budget, rumored to have been substantial). Eragon opened to $23 million in the United States, earning a total of $75m during the entirety of its domestic run. The film saw success overseas, grossing $174.4m for a total worldwide take of $249m. (These totals do not include DVD sales or rentals, where Eragon is rumored to have done quite well.)
The box office wasn’t the film’s only problem; critics panned the film and audiences were on the fence. Rotten Tomatoes, a popular review aggregator, offers a critic score of just 16% and average audience rating of 47%. (Other films’ critic scores: Hunger Games – 86%, Maze Runner – 63%, and even Twilight scored 47%.)
Reviewing audience scores and the total box office take leads us to a major conclusion: the film did have an audience. We’re left wondering what the film’s true potential would have been if the work were approached differently. Could the franchise have matched the success of more recent book-to-movie adaptations, such as Twilight, Hunger Games, and Harry Potter? We think so.
We’re closing in on a decade of no news about a new Inheritance movie. We know that Fox had high hopes for Eragon, intending from the start to build a powerful film franchise based on the series and that these hopes were never realized.
Much has changed over the past nine years. Movie studios (Lionsgate, Sony, Fox) have made a key observation: staying true to the formula that made books successful will often lead to box office success. Moving away from what fans loved in the books—such as seen in Percy Jackson, Beautiful Creatures, and Mortal Instruments—saw results similar to Eragon. These movies underline the importance of taking the adaptation’s source material seriously.
The book-to-movie franchises that have nailed it over the past decade, such as the Maze Runner (James Dashner, produced by Fox), The Hunger Games (Susanne Collins, Lionsgate), and The Fault in Our Stars* (John Green, Fox), all had key things in common: the authors were regularly consulted (in John Green’s case, the author was allowed to live on set); they remained in touch with the film’s fan base, working to keep them passionate, excited, and happy with the results; and lastly, the studios gave the films proper treatment, respecting their universes and avoiding the cheesiness that often plagues fantasy and sci-fi adaptations.
*While The Fault in Our Stars is not a fantasy movie, it highlights the importance of working with the author, staying true to the source material, and being loyal to its fans. The film grossed $305m on a $12m budget.
Don’t ignore your audience, don’t disregard the heart of the source material, and work closely with the author – they know their world better than anyone!
Moviegoers are hungry for well-done fantasy/sci-fi, and especially dragons!
How to Train Your Dragon and How to Train Your Dragon 2 (DreamWorks Animation/Fox), a series based on the premise of dragons and dragon riders, grossed a combined $1.137 billion in the box office. (critic review average of 98%, 92%, respectively)
Peter Jackson’s three part Hobbit adaptation, at its core a fantasy trilogy featuring a dragon, grossed $2.917 billion (critic review average of 64%, 74%, 70% respectively)
The Narnia film trilogy launched with a smash hit in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which grossed $745 million. Its two follow-ups grossed $419.6 and $415.6, for a total series take of $1.58 billion. (critic review average of 76%, 67%, 49% respectively)
The Lord of the Rings trilogy conquered the box office with a combined $2.917 billion gross. (critic review average of 91%, 96%, 95% respectively)
Hunger Games, Maze Runner, Divergent, Rise of the Guardians, and more total a box office gross in the billions.
Another sign of an existing hunger for fantasy: HBO’s massive hit, Game of Thrones, demonstrates that a low-magic fantasy world filled with dragons, battles, and epic politics can attract tens of millions of viewers. It’s one of the most successful cable television shows of all time.
It isn’t impossible to make a book-to-movie adaptation that wins over existing fans and makes new ones. In fact, studios seem to be mastering the method as they listen to what the fan communities love about the universe and thoughtfully consider what makes these books the success they were to begin with.
There’s a lot left to explore behind Fox’s Eragon. Here’s a preview of what we’ll be discussing in the coming weeks:
- At what point did the film begin to lose its heart, and how could it have recovered?
- Which movies followed in Eragon’s footsteps, and were their mistakes similar to those of the Eragon movie?
- What elements in movies such as Hunger Games, Twilight, Fault in Our Stars, and Maze Runner appeal to their audiences?
- Is there a place in Hollywood for an Inheritance Cycle movie reboot?
- What other mediums could the Inheritance Cycle work well in?
- If the series is remade, how should they go about it?