Reign of Fire

Reign of Fire is a post-apocalyptic movie which pits man against the mightiest creature of legend - the dragon. Yep, you heard it - the dragon! To their credit, the makers of the movie go to considerable lengths to provide a plausible explanation to the origins of dragons and keep the story within the boundaries of science fiction.

Review by SAndman
April 17, 2009

Reign of Fire Movie

Director: Rob Bowman

story: Gregg Chabot and Kevin Peterka
screenplay: Gregg Chabot, Kevin Peterka and Matt Greenberg

Christian Bale as Quinn Abercromby
Matthew McConaughey as Denton Van Zan
Izabella Scorupco as Alex Jensen
Gerard Butler as Creedy
Alexander Siddig as Ajay
Alice Krige as Karen Abercromby

Released: 2002

Denton Van Zan: Look out that window, Eden isn't burning... it's burnt.

Apparently, dragons once inhabited the earth and were for a while the baddest show on the road. It was them who brought about the extinction of dinosaurs, which they preyed on. Then having run out of food they starved and consequently burrowed deep into the earth and hibernated for eons leaving the odd records of their existence in folktales and legends.

In Reign of Fire dragons spawn from eggs, they have different genders. Oddly enough, there is only one male at a time, one male to all the females (I know, it sounds like a bad adult movie, but it does make the hero's job considerably easier).

The dragons in Reign of Fire feed on ashes and they spout fire thanks to the two sets of glands in their mouth, which excrete different chemicals, the mixture of which turns out to be highly flammable in contact with air. And what is the most pressing issue for the characters in Reign of Fire, tough that they are, dragons can be killed. (And no, they do not ask riddles of an unwary traveler and they keep no treasure whatsoever- sorry, that's another story.)

The trouble began when our hero Quinn, a little boy at the opening of the movie, stumbled upon a dragon during the construction of an underground in London in the year 2008. The dragon, which later turns out to be the male, burns the whole construction site in a matter of seconds killing Quinn's mother, who supervised the works, and the rest of the crew, which gave the young hero nightmares to last him a lifetime. But that was only the beginning.

As we learn later in the movie, more dragons came along, razing all major cities to the ground, burning the countryside to cinders, in a word, wiping out the human civilization. Finally dragons brought about the nuclear armageddon when the cruise missiles, set off in the humanity's last ditch attempt to hold off the dragon invasion, destroyed the sky and exacerbated the damage to the planet.

Years later Quinn, now a grown man and a leader of a ragtag band of survivors, who have managed to eke out a living in their hideout in the English countryside, is doing his best to set up a viable community. His hope is to outlast dragons, which are by now starving. Perhaps they will, as they did the last time when they ran out of food, retreat into hibernation. But it's not only dragons that face starvation. His men are starving, too.

Dissent is growing among Quinn's men, but things really start heating up when a band of American irregular forces led by Denton Van Zan, a self-styled dragon slayer, arrive in a column led by a tank and armored vehicles with a helicopter in train.

Inevitably, power struggle ensues and at a point when the community is on the brink of the greatest crisis yet a dragon shows up.

The casting is awesome. Christian Bale delivers an excellent performance, which is a reminder that he was an outstanding actor long before he started sporting a black cape. Same thing goes for Matthew McConaughey who did a great job of bringing to life the character of Van Zan - a driven anti-hero of the movie.

You'll also likely recognize Quinn's sidekick, Creedy. That's young Gerard Butler, or the indomitable King Leonidas from 300. Personally, I like him much better as Creedy. At least, Creedy has a happy-go-lucky manner about him and a disarming sense of humor, which is more than you can say for the towering Spartan meat grinder.

The CG in Reign of Fire is pretty unobtrusive and the dragons have a consistently palpable, albeit a tad ready-made (they're all sort of dull earthen gray and sport tattered wings),look and feel. The director created an intriguing atmosphere shrouded in mists and archetypal fear.

I could brush aside a few holes in the script, for instance, you get the nagging feeling the characters are moving along the predictable lines and the story is basically about the two proverbial alpha males who will eventually have to set their differences aside if they should prevail in the face of overwhelming odds. What the heck is the character of Alex doing here, you may ask. Ah, well, as the stories go, the hero will kill the dragon, win the girl and live...

Overall, I enjoyed Reign of Fire as it gave me the opportunity to indulge in one of my favorite science fiction concepts - what happens in the aftermath of the downfall of human civilization. Now I don't know what that says of me as a human being, but I guess it's not something my colleagues at work would like to find out.

I also found lots of childish pleasure in the off-the-wall idea of throwing the fantasy stock image (dragon) into the science fiction context (ecological disaster). Besides, I've always loved the movies about dragons regardless of whether the dragons in them spoke Queen's English or didn't speak at all.

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