Reign of Fire review by The Grim Ringler
Reign Of Fire dvd
Now me, I am a self-avowed nerd, I admit it and heck, I am proud of it. And being a nerd, I admire the heck out of a director that can take a well-worn subject like dragons and give it a unique angle and give it an interesting plot. More than that though, I admire a director that is talented enough to know when to say when and to know when to tuck it in, zip it up, and be secure enough in their directorial chops to not feel the need to show off. Rob Bowmen is such a director.
Reign of Firetells the story of a world where dragons exist, but more than that, tells the story of a world overrun with them and at their mercy. Having been asleep and dormant since before Man was a germ, the dragons wiped out the dinosaurs and sent the earth into an ice age, their need for ash, their food, so great that it ruined our planet. And when there was no more food, they slept, and millions of years later have been awakened again to find a healthy earth and plenty to feed on. The humans try but cannot fight the dragons, and within a short time the earth and its skies are theirs, and Man is sent into hiding, praying they can outlast their foes. And so it goes, for year after year after year, people content to survive another season, living in small communes and waiting for the day they can return to the world again. In one such commune a man named Quinn (Christian Bale) leads his survivors, day by day, keeping them together in the vain hope of outlasting the dragons. Leading them until one day when a band of American (the film is set in England) soldiers(lead by Matthew McConaughey as Van Sant) come barreling towards Quinns castle encampment with their tank and personnel carriers, hoping to rest and fix their equipment before heading out to slay more dragons again. It doesnt take long though for the American soldiers to take over the castle and declare war on the dragons, enlisting all that dwell there for their mission. Quinn fights this takeover but its futile, and out go the soldiers and their draftees to bag their first dragon. The killing is successful but the success is short-lived as this mutual alliance leads to the destruction of the castle and perhaps the end of this small band of survivors, as a dragon (one would perceive it as the queen as it is the first one you see in the film) wages its own war against the survivors and their new allies.
A very simple film which plays a bit like Mad Max meets a medieval story, this film is a wonderful piece of speculative filmmaking. Instead of making the movie jokey and full of false scares and silly thrills, Bowman plays it straight, making the dragons a fact, a living force of nature that Man must defeat or survive, and its that aspect that makes the film work so well for me. This is a bleak, grim world faced with real monsters and nothing is played for laughs. And its also thanks in part to some wonderful performances (McConaughey chews scenery like its a buffet and hes Mr. Mouth) that everything clicks so well. Everyone plays their part straight and they all do wonderful jobs. Part dark fantasy, part horror film, and part action film, this is a great piece of popcorn filmmaking and really shows Bowman as a director to watch.
The extras are pretty skimpy so if you are thinking of buying this you are totally buying it for the movie alone. There are three very so-so featurettes, one showing how the dragons were done, one showing how the fire was done, and one a brief interview with the director, but none really give you any great insight into the film, which is a bit of a shame. I think this is one of those movies that the studio just wanted to put out to get out there and sadly there is nothing really interesting as far as special features go. The disc looks wonderful though, everything seeming to be cast in grays and blues, and the picture is clean and particle free, and the sound is really well done, especially the great musical score which really hits the tone of the film dead on.
I have yet to really figure out why this movie got so much hate from reviewers, but then maybe I dont have to look far. Most film reviewers hate movies that cant happen. For some reason a lot of them hate scary movies, science fiction movies, and anything in the fantasy realm, and their hate comes out in their reviews. They can buy all these old Hollywood actors dating hot young actresses in all the movies that come out but they cant buy into a speculative fiction film. Whatever. (And I fully acknowledge that sadly, a lot of spec fiction films are utter crap and really deserve the vitriol they get, but not all of them). So no matter how good or bad this film was, I am sure it was pre-judged by a lot of people. For me, I loved this movie, and I love that it's much better than it should be. It should have been a cheap movie with awful special effects (the dragons really are terrifying) that came and went in the summer and was forgotten once you left the theater, but instead it's a smart, well written, well directed chiller that really manages to get under your skin. It takes a really tired and almost jokey concept and turns it into a very grim movie on survival and in the end gives you a pretty mean popcorn movie. And for me, theres nothing finer.
8 out of 10 Jackasses