According to wikipedia, the scale-feathers were dubbed "sceathers" by the production team. I think they were lame too, but only in the sense that the dragons I'm exposed to on a semiregular basis are meant to be evil and badass, and a powder blue sceathers do not a badass dragon make.
I don't know what to say about the Varden. You'd think the desperate remnants of a defeated rebellion would spend less time and resources making their armor all glittery and, well, fabulous. Although... one thing I will say about the movie is that for brief, refreshing moments it uses historically plausible armor in the costumes. The soldiers that antagonize Brom in the beginning are a good example of this, wearing reasonably realistic lamellar armor that covers vital areas! (as opposed to leaving the midriff or biceps open). The shoulder guard only covers the right shoulder which had me staring at first, but then it's not unheard of for soldiers to leave their shielded side less armored. Of course it all goes right down the drain with Eragon's little scale Gary Glitter costume at the end, but... *sigh* it was nice while it lasted.