Reign of Fire (2002) / Adventure-Fantasy
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for intense action violence
Running Time: 101 min.
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Christian Bale, Izabella Scorupco, Gerald Butler
Director: Rob Bowman
Screenplay: Gregg Chabot, Kevin Peterka, Matt Greenberg
Review published July 15, 2002
Rob Bowman may be known primarily as director for the movie and several episodes of the TV show, The X-Files, but none of the bizarre phenomena in any of those shows can compete with the strangeness that is the idea behind Reign of Fire. The premise is one of those that makes you wonder how anybody could successfully pitch it to a major motion picture studio and not get run out of town laughing. Yet, even with the ludicrous idea and lack of big star power, the film at least had two things going for it: dragons and the potential for some decent action.
In London, a construction engineer uncovers a long dormant dragon, which kills her and many others. She is survived by her young son Quinn (Bale, Laurel Canyon), who 20 years later is still alive in a much different world...a world overrun by fire-breathing dragons. Patches of human communities still exist in sparse parts of the world, and Quinn's people inhabit a 15th-century castle for protection. One day an American, Van Zan (McConaughey, Frailty), and his crew pull up their tank and helicopter to the castle and offer assistance for volunteers to aid them in Van Zan's plan to rid the world of the dragon scourge.
Let's face it, Reign of Fire is a dumb idea for a film, and there are so many severe logic issues during the course of the narrative that I fear naming any or I may never end the review. It's a film that begs a ton of questions, answers none, and demands that you suspend all disbelief for the payoff of solid action. However, even if you are sold on the feeble premise and every aspect of the nonsensical plot, the film is still a bit lacking because there isn't much to watch other than some nice-looking CGI dragons and a lot of stunt-work amid dark and dank locales. There isn't much in character development, dialogue, clever ideas, humor or any twists and turns. The film solely exists for action and adventure, and considering we don't care for the characters nor do we find the dragons very scary, the resulting thrill-ride is tepid at best.
Reign of Fire isn't horrible to watch, as it doesn't tax the brain and does maintain an interest level because we are constantly looking for clues to the answer that is the dragon existence. But the film cheats us in the end by offering no explanation to almost anything, and as the credits roll we are left wondering as to the worthiness of the movie's reason for being. Taken as a pure popcorn movie, Reign of Fire is recommended as a time-filler rental for an otherwise uneventful evening, but there just isn't enough to justify any more time and money than you need to for such minimal returns.
©2002 Vince Leo