Reign of Fire Review

by Steve Rhodes (Steve DOT Rhodes AT InternetReviews DOT com)
July 13th, 2002


A film review by Steve Rhodes

Copyright 2002 Steve Rhodes

RATING (0 TO ****): ***

REIGN OF FIRE rocks! Think of it as FIREWORLD with Christian Bale replacing Kevin Costner and Matthew McConaughey taking on Dennis Hopper's part.

As the American leader of a ragtag army contingent, Denton Van Zan (Matthew McConaughey) has come to England in the year 2020 on a mission to save the world, or at least what's left of it. Van Zan's a cocky guy who chomps on his burnt out stogie when he isn't spouting inspirational lines like, "I lead; you follow."

You may wonder, "What does the world need saving from?" Dragons. X-FILES's director, Rob Bowman, performs a miracle, with the help of some awesome special effects, and makes a ridiculous plot reasonably plausible and always fascinating. Just don't think too hard as there are logical problems around every bend, like how do Van Zan and his troops get their vast fuel requirements in a world in ruins?

The story begins in the present day when a long dormant dragon is let loose during an excavation in London. In the years that follow, the beasts spread and multiply until they've laid waste to the earth and most of the humans on it. But, as the narrator intones, "Only one species is getting out of this alive," and a few humans are naive enough to bet on the home team. One of the most effective moments in the movie occurs when we see old magazines that covered the planet's Armageddon. "Is this the end?" one cover asks poignantly. Don't be surprised if your mind drifts to 9-11 as you look at the covers.

The few people left huddle together in small groups with the sole goal of hiding from the beasts. One such group in England is led by Quinn Abercromby (Christian Bale). A brave but cautious leader, he doesn't trust Van Zan. As he puts it, "Only thing worse than a dragon is an American."

Van Zan and Alex (Izabella Scorupco), his helicopter pilot, are part of a small group that wants to take the fight to the dragons. When you see how powerful, fast, and deadly these fire-breathing monsters are, you'll understand why Van Zan's idea appears to be terminally stupid. (Don't even think about bringing kids who are frightened easily to REIGN OF FIRE, which pushes the intensity limits of its PG-13 rating. These dragons could give a child -- or an adult -- some major nightmares.)

The fighting sequences are excellent but never allowed to go on too long. The casting is a bit strange but works well. If you were a casting director, I'm sure your first choice for Van Zan would be Vin Diesel (THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS), but McConaughey brings a level of intelligence that adds a special something to a pretty bizarre character.

You will probably be asking yourself, "How does Van Zan plan on accomplishing what entire armies using nuclear weapons were unable to do?" Good question. The movie's explanation for his scheme has a certain plausibility to it so long as you don't think too hard. Leave your analytical self at the office, grab a bag of popcorn, and be prepared to just have some fun. REIGN OF FIRE provides good old-fashion, mindless entertainment.

REIGN OF FIRE runs a fast 1:41. It is rated PG-13 for "intense action violence" and would be acceptable for kids around 11 and up.

My son Jeffrey, age 13, gave it ***. He liked the special effects, the acting and the plot. Usually one to be critical of logical problems, he was able to ignore them this time and just go with the story.

The film opens nationwide in the United States on Friday, July 12, 2002. In the Silicon Valley, it will be showing at the AMC and the Century theaters.

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