Reign of Fire
Reign of Fire is Mad Max by way of Dungeons & Dragons.
Not Dungeons & Dragons the disgraceful kid movie
released two years ago, but the original role-playing game.
D&D: the ultimate symbol of smart-guy disenfranchisement.
An evergreen punch line that calls to mind a particular
breed of teen nerdboy spending his weekends rolling for
damage. And Mad Max: second only to The Blood
of Heroes on the list of best post-apocalypse movies,
and one of the few movies with a sequel as good as its predecessor.
Clearly, director Rob Bowman and his scriptwriters respect
both the fantasy and post-apoc genres.
The high concept is thus: What if dragons are real and were
reawakened in the modern world? The film opens when a construction
team punches into an uncharted cavern deep beneath the streets
of London. Quinn, the scrappy son of the forewoman, is on
hand and asks to hop into the hole to investigate the dank,
creepy HR Giger-inspired chamber. Inside: an honest-to-god,
fire-breathing dragon. Quinn's mother dies in this first
dragon encounter, with a good portion of humanity soon to
Twenty years later, dragons rule the earth, and Quinn (Christian
Bale) leads a small group of survivors who have turned an
old castle into a stronghold. In a nearby valley, they carefully
cultivate food, with Quinn trying desperately to convince
his starving community not to harvest too soon. Do not feed
from the crop until the seeds are mature enough, else we
will all starve to death next season, he warns. They are
ever watching the sky, and have no hope but to outlast the
dragons as they deplete their own food supply, i.e., humanity.
In some movies, you shouldn't see the bad guys because it's
a letdown. Signs fell apart completely when the mysterious
aliens appeared early as lanky men in green leotards. Or
take the 1998 Godzilla remake. Almost every monster
scene was jittery, dark and rainy because it's quicker and
easier and therefore cheaper to render the computer-generated
effects with less detail; somehow, the new American Godzilla
was no more realistic than the original Japenese guy in
a rubber suit. The Reign of Fire dragons are not
hidden in twilight; they are full-frame, day and night.
They are as beautifully rendered and as concrete as the
best dinosaurs in Jurassic Park.
They're also bad-ass. These are not fat-bellied, bulky majestics,
tossing riddles and verse to frightened hobbits. They are
not regal and magical. They are lean and swift omnivores--fire-breathing
locusts that feed on death. They killed the dinosaurs by
burning them and eating the ash. They soon rendered the
planet barren and starved themselves. The strongest went
Once awakened, the small brood reproduce like insects and
spread across the globe, consuming everything in their path.
The fall of mankind is told by magazine clippings from Quinn's
scrapbook. The first sightings were treated like UFOs, but
soon cities were in ruin. The Eiffel Tower and Big Ben are
shown swarmed by dragons like bats fluttering around a gothic
cathedral. They are the ultimate plague.
Enter the foil: Matthew McConaughey as Van Zan, a brusque,
arrogant, cigar-chomping American rough rider, come to British
soil to track down the granddaddy of all dragons. He rolls
up in a tank with a unit of commandoes and a talent for
dragon slaying. The pumped McConaughey--known first for
Dazed and Confused and more recently for being arrested
naked in his house for playing the bongos a bit too loudly--is
pure America. He's the would-be hero who shows up without
being invited, determined to rescue the locals and save
the world. Van Zan and his team are heading to London to
slay the only male of the species, or so they think.
of Fire is imaginative escapism. At times, even intelligent
and imaginative escapism. You'll see a dragon and a helicopter
in a dogfight. You'll see a man with an American Southern
accent wielding a halberd. You'll see dragons perched on
the crumbling spires of a destroyed London skyline. It's
a 100-minute, pure-hearted action movie that, for once,
doesn't take a dragon-sized dump on its audience.