a critiQal film review Reign of Fire (2002)

Plot: While visiting his mother on a construction site, a young boy, Quinn, finds a new species down in the tunnels...and barely survives to tell the tale. 20 years later, Quinn (Bale) leads a band of surviving humans, guarding against the next dragon attack. Quinn meets Van Zan (McConaughey), whose claims of killing a dragon help convince Quinn to travel to London to kill the only male dragon, in the hopes the species will die out without him, and give back the earth to humanity...what remains of it.

Reviewed
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  • ...Bale and a bald McConaughey help make this dragon tale worth repeated viewings.

The preview for this film had me hooked from the start. A modern-day attack of the dragons storyline? Who can resist that? The action and special effects looked incredible, and throw in Christian Bale (of American Psycho fame), how could it go wrong? Luckily, the movie actually lived up to the expectations.

The characters were decently acted. Even Matthew McConaughy, who I’m not too fond of, played bad boy Van Zan rather well. Maybe he should take on more of this type of role, rather than the almost-too-sappy roles he normally plays. He was more convincing in this role then anything since A Time to Kill.

Bale continues to act well, giving another good performance here. Even the romance angle was plausible, since Bale and Scorupco seem to have pretty good chemistry together.

The plot was a little far-fetched. The beginning, where the dragon is discovered alive and well in a tunnel, is so over the top as to be ridiculous, but the movie doesn’t try for reality. A monster movie at it’s core, it pulls you into a place where reality doesn’t exist, and only the world they create does.

Any good monster movie will do this. Take a look back at Godzilla or even King Kong. You really think these giant things are going to be walking around? And in King Kong‘s case, have an obsession for a pretty girl, yet not hurt her? C’mon.

Reality is suspended, and you are pulled into the movie anyway, despite the glaring difficulties. It’s said you can see “Tonka” written on one of the vehicles in the original Godzilla. Does that detract from the movie? Not really.

One other thing this film did well was the romance. Too often in big-budget action movies, they tend to concentrate too much on the romance, and throw off the whole pace of the film. With Reign of Fire, the dragons are the centerpoint, and the romance is an aside. They give you enough to get the idea, but they don’t try shoving it down your throat.

And we come to the special effects. In monster movies, special effects are a big deal. The character needs to help you suspend reality. If it looks too fake, it’ll turn out cheesy, and your disbelief will mount, ruining the film.

One notable exception: Classic monster movies, such as Godzilla. They run a fine line between utter cheese and monster movie, which none of today’s films could hope to balance on. If you set out to make the film that way, you’ll fail. People expect the monsters to look realistic now. The movie goer has much higher standards for special effects now than even 5 years ago. We’ve seen what can be done. If you don’t do it, we now ask why not?

Reign of Fire lives up to the moviegoer’s higher expectations. The first few dragons that attack are amazing, looking incredibly realistic. Just when you think you’ve seen the height of the special effects, in comes the male dragon, who is immense! He’s big enough to make the other dragons look insignificantly small in comparison. You have to see it to believe it.

With it’s ability to suspend reality, thanks in part to the acting, continuous storyline, and amazing special effects, this is one monster movie you’ll want to watch again and again.

Screw renting this. Buy the DVD today and let the Reign of Fire begin.

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