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Overall Rating

Awesome: 12.28%
Worth A Look32.46%
Average: 27.19%
Pretty Bad: 17.54%
Total Crap: 10.53%

7 reviews, 72 user ratings

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Reign of Fire
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by Erik Childress

"Dragons Are Cool. Not 'A' Dragon."
3 stars

Dragons are cool. Let’s face it people, from age 8 to 80, we love ‘em. They’re giant flying lizards who can breathe fire and prey upon two of our most primal psychological and childhood fears – being burned to death and eaten alive by a big monster. Dragons have come in all shapes and sizes from movies to storybooks to songs, but screw that friendly Magic Puff ‘n’ stuff. We want ugly, mean, scary dragons; not playful pseudo-disguised drug references. The new film, Reign of Fire, tells us they’ve got millions; miles and miles of creatures hellbent on wiping out humans from the face of the Earth. Yet, like a used car salesman, the commercial pitch is a lot better than the delivery because when the fire burns out, we’ve only come face-to-face with a couple dragons and that’s where the film ultimately fails.

Trailers for Reign of Fire boast its Time of the Dragons in 2084 A.D., alas the film begins in 2008 when the first dragon is discovered and settles in 2020 at the height of their reign. Seems the world’s governments were a little hasty when they decided to launch nuclear weapons in an effort to destroy the evil entities that were laying waste to cities and trying to conquer. (Not all that far removed from current history.) The geniuses in office end up making a cozy little nesting ground for the winged ones who strive off the ash of the ruins. Whether they eat it, bathe in it or enjoy its decorative patterns is never quite explained. Then again, neither is the glorious sunless gardens or how a shoddy broken-down castle still has one of the nicest kitchens this side of Good Housekeeping. But who cares, we want DRAGONS!!!

In true post-apocalyptic Mad Max fashion, a group of survivors have gathered not to mount an offensive but to protect what they have left. Christian Bale (American Psycho) plays Quinn, the leader of one of London’s surviving castle domains, who came eye-to-eye with the original beast that killed his mother. He now spends his time preparing those who remain for the future, if there may even be one. That’s all about to change when Denton Van Zan (Matthew McConaughey) arrives with his group of Americans. Armed to the teeth with guns, tanks and a helicopter (yet barely using any of it), Van Zan is ready to lead everyone to victory against the objections of the more safety-conscious Quinn.

Movies like this eventually come down to two things – attacks and exposition – and if the attacks are hot, the talking is usually not and vice versa. Reign of Fire mostly plays it straight, which is a welcome encouragement when originality and idealic notions are at the heart of a sci-fi adventure, but can also be a distraction turning a goofy premise into an unintentional laughfest. The setup is encouraging enough to at least keep us on the “what if” road of man’s struggle vs. a flock of mythological firebreathers, but “what if” the movie constantly promises us the ultimate showdown and then never delivers.

There’s a handful of action sequences to be sure, but never once is the audience pleasured with the heroes having to ward off more than a single dragon. Every mano-a-beast confrontation is just that – mano-a-beast – never manos-a-beasts. For a group of creatures intellectual enough to hunt in armies to destroy cities, you wouldn’t think they’d be lazy enough to just send one at a time to wipe out the final few.

And why is it that every time a great premise of insurmountable odds is bestowed onto its heroes, the filmmakers always find a way to simplify it the lowest common denominator. This is a cheap storytelling tactic that has been employed all throughout fiction from Robert Heinlein’s The Puppet Masters to Aliens to Outbreak. The odds are a million-to-one so let’s reduce it to the good guys finding a single source to destroy and claim victory. In the case of Reign of Fire, it’s the daddy dragon fertilizing the eggs or the way I see it, the audience with a bunch of dragonshit.

Most of the action is sloppily directed by TV’s Rob Bowman (The X-Filesseries and movie). In what should have been a showstopper, Van Zan and the Americans stage a dragon attack involving motorcycles, their chopper and paratroopers. These jumpers have a life expectancy of 17 seconds once in flight, which leads one to ask the question, how many of these guys have been lost to come up with such a clocked figure? From what I gathered in this sequence, the ground forces must triangulate a 3-D tracking system while the Rangers jump in hopes of two of them snagging the dragon’s wings with separate nets as a cyclist becomes bait for the creature to fall into the crosshairs of Van Zan’s big gun. Individual elements of this prove to be quite entertaining, but Bowman botches the overall feeling of it to maximize its excitement. He seems more intent on finding a place for self-homages like black helicopters and little boys exploring dark caves (I understand the Vatican has already denounced this movie) then pumping up the adrenaline.

Where those juices could use an injection, the testesterone level is boiling over thanks to the oft-shirtless Bale and the outrageously entertaining performance by McConaughey. Over-the-top goofy machismo hasn’t been this gloriously displayed since Kurt Russell brought Snake Plissken to the screen in 1981’s Escape from New York. Shaved bald and full of heroic gravelly-voiced speeches, McConaughey goes to town with this role creating both a character and a characterization that we can root for. (Just wait for his perfect delivery about his signature flask.) Bale, so Oscar-worthy for American Psycho, makes a fine leading man bringing some nice human touches that may have fallen by the wayside with your typical A-list heroes. Make no mistake about it, this is most certainly a man’s world with no place for a model-turned-actress (Izabella Scorupco) whose only defining trait outside of her pretty face (why is she so clean?) is that she gets really scared once.

Reign of Fire is serviceable enough entertainment on a rainy day of channel surfing, but even with the testesterone drip of sweat and dirt running throughout it lacks the balls-out quality that should have turned this into the kind of classic that guys would love when they were just boys. We love giant marauding creatures from the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park to Larry Cohen’s cult winged serpent “Q” to even the amazing CGI creation of Dragonheart with the Scottish accent and it’s a shame that this movie doesn’t take the opportuntity to truly assault our senses.

The movie world has become more sensitive to the needs of parents and it’s a shame that kids can’t get a good scare anymore without a PG-13 rating being slapped in their face. How telling is it that the all-time classic dragon feature (for my money), 1981’s Dragonslayer, is far more exciting, scarier and violent (all with a PG rating) than Reign of Fire where the fears of being burnt and eaten are subdued when the victims all but disappear into CGI before they or the audience can be scared. Maybe the ads showing us the year of 2084 suggest a time when the better story will be told. For better or worse, as one character poignantly puts it in the film, “here’s to evolution.”

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originally posted: 07/12/02 11:11:22
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User Comments

3/25/18 morris campbell not bad some good effects 4 stars
8/24/09 zenny suprisingly entertaining flick 4 stars
11/02/08 Samantha Pruitt great effects and great visuals, lots of fun action and cool dragons! 4 stars
10/22/08 dina This movie kicks major butt and bonus! Matthew Mcconaughey & Christian Bale are smokin'hot! 5 stars
8/13/08 Shaun Wallner I love Dragon movies!! 5 stars
10/09/07 emma the movies the best shows good acting and the prayer gets stuck in my head its easily 5 stars
5/08/07 Tracey Chambers christian bale, and matthew mcconaughey what more could you want 4 stars
1/11/07 Jake Dragons are really the only cool thing about it 3 stars
12/29/06 David Pollastrini great fx 3 stars
11/06/06 Bitchflaps The definition of a steaming pile.That is a pile that gets so septic, it begins to steam. 1 stars
8/05/06 David Cohen It's good as long as you don't think about it (Dragons eat ash? Sure, why not) 3 stars
3/10/06 Dk Underated, this is the best monster movie since Jurassic park and its sequel 5 stars
7/12/05 Mark Radburn This movie is totally awesome, stop slamming it you idiots 5 stars
4/25/05 Quigley Matthew McConaughey, please no! if this movie was a thermometer, it is below freezing. 1 stars
3/29/05 Tyrantis It sounded like Indepeddence Day with dragons. I was disappointed. 1 stars
3/24/05 Alice Colwell boring 2 stars
10/22/04 Matt Thiel Good opening, but the rest is a mess 2 stars
8/27/04 brendan glad i didnt pay to see it at a cinema. check your brain in at the door. 2 stars
7/09/04 Daveman One dreary cliche after another and not a shred of real fun. 1 stars
6/09/04 Nobody completely implausible and unconvincing, with occasional ok acting 2 stars
6/01/04 jack bell love the way they dargons look, but the plot could have been better. 5 stars
4/23/04 HorrorScribbler Nonsense, but it does have a lot of dragons. 2 stars
1/21/04 will the actors were so into it, it just made the movie 4 stars
1/16/04 Dean Um, I still dont get the dragon bit 4 stars
12/17/03 tatum Just plain cool 5 stars
10/02/03 y2mckay Cheap, sometimes plodding, and full of plot holes - but vaguely entertaining 3 stars
8/31/03 john radice What about a prequel about the dragons destruction of the world? 3 stars
8/28/03 baldor this movie has changed my life bought new tv to watch it 5 stars
7/18/03 I Would Neither film fans nor macho boneheads will like this, so what's the point of this movie? 1 stars
6/27/03 imbrium monster movie! 5 stars
6/13/03 Jerry Cool action. Better than dungeons and dragons!! 5 stars
5/06/03 Jareth Boring, braindead and offensive. I'd rather get vaporised by a fire breathing dragon. 1 stars
4/09/03 JL Movie was alright, but Christian Bale is delicious! 4 stars
4/06/03 Jason Banta Visual effects were very nice, the storyline needs work. 3 stars
2/01/03 Goofy Maxwell Dragon made a last stand 4 chivalry? *hee hee* So there WAS a method to this madness! 3 stars
1/31/03 Donn Kixote The Best Symbolistic, Metaphorycal, Intricated, PosModern, PreIIIWW XFCrap I´ve Never Seen! 5 stars
1/02/03 Vince Reed SUCKS THE TURD'S OUT OF A DEAD MAN'S ASS! 1 stars
12/15/02 Laurian Diaconescu Pretty cool,I enjpyed it.Could have been a bit more spectacular though. 3 stars
12/08/02 Monster W. Kung Really dull. 2 stars
12/06/02 Brandon Little The previews showed something exciting but mindless...OK. Instead, it was just dull. 2 stars
10/19/02 Darren Kennedy Where were the attack choppers? 2 stars
10/14/02 Jake lee crap movie, it ended b4 it even got started, lets bring and axe to kill a dragon..dumb ass 1 stars
9/27/02 John McNew Visually stirring, but awfully unintelligent. Dumb entertainment that just isn't fun. 2 stars
9/08/02 Roy Smith Their big solution makes no sense at all. Only one? Cheap. 4 stars
9/08/02 Valerie Jones (in 15 days I'll be 13 & can post in my name on amazon!) Fairly dumb and boring - could've skipped all but last 20 minutes. 2 stars
9/06/02 Priscilla Postlethwaite Fighting dragons in London in 2020? WHY?? 1 stars
8/30/02 Matt Stone OK 4 stars
8/18/02 Craig The dragons didn't kill McConaughey soon enough. 1 stars
8/18/02 Cibeus Matthew McConaughey as a tough? I didn't buy it going in, but was pleasantly surprised. 4 stars
8/03/02 Akira_773 Finally, post-apocalyptic women sans makeup! 4 stars
7/30/02 John P. May This may be good stuff for an action TV series. 4 stars
7/26/02 titaliwink Pretty fucking boring. But good acting and a hell of a concept. 3 stars
7/20/02 Peter Marshall 4 stars
7/19/02 Bleah Where did they get all chopper fuel from? 1 stars
7/19/02 Jeff I want to have sex with Mr. Bale - woof! 5 stars
7/18/02 ian great "promise" really flopped on the delivery. 3 stars
7/18/02 strider3700 not oscar worthy but a damn fine summer action movie 4 stars
7/17/02 John It had a number of action sequences, but was sort of short, and boring at times 3 stars
7/17/02 STEVE this movie rocks!!!!! 5 stars
7/16/02 Vera Sparks McConaughey is a radical mofo, and the death toll is surprisingly high. Coulda been better 4 stars
7/16/02 rgtp Pretty Crappy 2 stars
7/16/02 n6ko long, boring, and dumb. too much crap for me to enjoy myself 1 stars
7/15/02 Caiphn Slow at parts, evil dragons! 3 stars
7/15/02 ajay I liked it, but I wish they would've made up more technical junk about the dragons 4 stars
7/15/02 Obi Wan I wanted to love it, but I left with nothing . . .no wow, no aww, just nothing. 3 stars
7/15/02 Law better than half the other crap out there 4 stars
7/14/02 Danielle Ophelia almost wonder what they're trying to save. But not bad...not at all. 4 stars
7/13/02 David Its a dragon movie, keep that in mind when you buy your ticket and have some fun.... 4 stars
7/12/02 Nick2k my original post was 'deleted', so...this movie was hiding behind false advertising. eh! 2 stars
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  12-Jul-2002 (PG-13)



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