Reign of Fire is directed by Rob Bowman and collectively written by Gregg Chabot, Kevin Peterka and Matt Greenberg. It stars Christian Bale, Matthew McConaughey, Izabella Scorupco and Gerard Butler. Cinematography is by Adrian Biddle. Story is set in Apocalyptic England 2020, and fire breathing dragons rule the skies as mankind threatens to become extinct. But in the North a small community of humans, led by Quinn (Bale), do their best to survive. Into their lives comes Dragon Slayer, Denton Van Zan (McConaughey) and his small band of American soldiers, it upsets the equilibrium of the community, but if they can pull together? Then maybe there is hope for mankind to once again thrive.....
It's one of those films that has a reputation, or internet rating, that's difficult to pin down as to how true to form they are. Reign of Fire without a doubt has a premise that's actually better than the film ultimately is. There is scope there for a big budgeted sequel/prequel or certainly for another big summer popcorn blockbuster where dragons rule the Earth. Bowman's film, I believe, was let down badly by the publicity junket that accompanied it. The trailers promised untold delights of dragons fighting mankind, dueling with helicopters and laying siege to man at his most vulnerable. The posters suggested a sky lit up by fire as London comes under attack by a number of winged beasties, the artwork stunning in its presentation. Sadly, as those who have seen the film can attest, neither promise is met, thus expectation levels were never going to be met. So is the low internet rating, and indifferent critical opinions, calling it on its own terms?
Entering with a low expectation does help one to enjoy the film more on a first viewing, definitely, but a repeat viewing also improves the film no end on account of just enjoying the look, feel and characterisations at work. Yes we are still hungry for more dragon attacks, in fact just one sequence of an army of dragons attacking would have been nice, but this is still a gritty little fantasy working well within its budgetary restrictions. The lead players are good value, Bale is grizzled and buffed, putting some quality emotional pathos into Quinn in the process, while McConaughey is on full tilt overdrive excess as the battle hardened Van Zan. You can call it ham or cheese if you like, but McConaughey is having a good time, and the film, and its delicious premise, calls for such a fun and blunderbuss character. While Scorupco and Butler hold their respective ends up well enough. There's a lack of depth in the community characters, so a problem there as it renders the film practically a three pronged piece, while as bizarre as it may sound, the dragons too have no background for us to be involved with as they go about their search for human food.
What action is here, and there's enough to appease the average thrill seeker, is well put together by Bowman (X-Files film and series). Again it helps to realise the budget afforded the film severely restricts the options, but he does well in the singular dragon/man confrontations, with a great finale between our heroes and old daddy dragon well worth the price of a rental. While one extended sequence involving "Ark Angel" soldiers freefalling from the sky is an adrenalin fuelled crowd pleaser. The look, too, is good value, where Adrian Biddle washes out the colours from the photography to create the classic apocalyptic look; where this of course then benefits the shots of the dragon's fire breath, scorching the screen to dazzle the eyes. Clearly it could have been better, but it still comes out far better than many other bigger budgeted action/fantasy movies. Set expectation level at medium, or give the film another chance, and you may find it gets in and does a good job of entertaining you for just over an hour and half. 7/10