Reign of Fire

Only one thing worse than a dragon.  Americans.

There’s a great tradition to dragons.  Look at the word, the word even looks cool.  They’re a terrible enemy.  They fly, spit fire, have lethal claws and fangs, and are often highly intelligent.  Sometimes they’re evil, sometimes purely feral.  The best of the dragon tradition is probably from Tolkien in The Hobbit (1937)(to be its own trilogy) and The Silmarilian (1977) (for some reason, there are no dragons in The Lord of the Rings (1954-55)).  There, the dragons have their own personality and dark power.  There are other, less mature, illustrations of dragons.  One of the better ones is Reign of Fire (2002).

Quinn (Ben Thornton/Christian Bale) was a smart but poor kid from London.  His mother was foreman on a construction crew when, during a visit to the job site, he comes across a dragon.  Fast forward to 2020 when Quinn and best friend McCreedy (Gerard Butler) lead a group of survivors in Northumberland.  But there are difficulties in remaining fed.  Along comes Van Zan (Matthew McConaughey) supported by Alex (Izabella Scorupco) the helicopter pilot and a band of other Kentucky irregulars that have flown to England in the hopes of putting an end to dragons.

What stands out to me about this movie is how good it looks.  There are one or two examples of rough CGI, but the vast majority of it is flame, long-off dragons, and smoldering.  Two of those can go horribly wrong,  and yet they create a believable post-apocalyptic world from director Rob Bowman.  Part of that is image and the rest is in story details.  Quinn and McCreedy do a two-man rendition of The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and the survivors have a common prayer they say every night.  On the latter, I can imagine some would find it corny, but I thought it was reasonably well written (Gregg Chabot & Kevin Peterka and Matt Greenberg).

In fact, much of the movie is written just fine.  It’s not a thinker, but an action movie like this is about avoiding traps.  The biggest trap is phony masculine talk.  This movie goes the other way and is mostly about giving directions and exposition.  “I’m going to do this, you do that, and you do the other thing.”  There’s some occasional plot confusion.  Like does McCreedy go with Van Zan to London or no (as he’s at the Castle later)?  That’s a little unforgiveable.  Still, I was so thoroughly entertained by the story and not even in the way where I feel the need to cover myself.

I have a complicated feeling about the performances.  Bale/Quinn and Butler/McCreedy are great and well done.  They’re very human, very believable.  Sure, Bale sounds like he’s half way to being Batman, but that’s kind of the way he talks.  Scorupco/Alex is unaccountably weak and puppy dog towards Qunn as a brave helicopter pilot.  But McConaughey/Van Zan is a lunatic with a penchant for taking off his top.  If I had a bod like that, I probably wouldn’t put on a shirt for the rest of my life, but he’s got crazy eyes speaks on only two levels yell and gruff whisper.  But now, on my fourth viewing of the movie, I kind of like him.  Sure, he’s whacked out and a questionable tactician, but he’s got a kind of charm.

A very entertaining movie.  Easy to find for cheap–$8 on Amazon.

P.s. A link to another perspective; Erin on Point.

About Prof. Ratigan

A semi-lawyer and amateur enthusiast.
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