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*** Official "REIGN OF FIRE" Review Thread


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#1 of 18 Scott Weinberg

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Posted July 11 2002 - 03:20 PM

Hi all. Here's my review for Reign of Fire. Hope you like it. (The review and the movie!)

Reign of Fire Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image (out of 5)

I love monster movies. There’s something about watching human beings get eaten by dragons, rats, bats, or cats that helps me to overlook a B-movie’s more obvious shortcomings. When I started seeing the early scoop on Reign of Fire, I was sure the film would be one of two things: either a really bad but FUN flick, or something on par with Battlefield Earth. Well, Reign of Fire effectively proved me wrong by ending up a pretty damn good movie! Well, whaddaya know? I love being proven wrong in a situation like this!

Best described as The Road Warrior meets Dragonslayer, Reign of Fire is an unapologetically kinetic b-movie that features a handful of staggeringly cool dragon sequences and performances from two leading men who know full well the potential silliness of the film they’re in - yet still manage to deliver characters that audiences can take seriously. (The main characters are the backbone of an FX-driven fantasy like this, because if they’re seen as ridiculous – the whole movie will be.) Simply put – if you’re willing to accept the outlandish concept of “futuristic battles between dragons and humans”, you’re halfway to enjoying this slick, dark adventure. And if you’re like me and you went “Oooooooh...” throughout the trailer, odds are you’ll have a real good time with Reign of Fire.

Thanks to the newly-awakened dragons and our politician’s ill-fated efforts at dispatching them through nuclear weapons, humans are nearly extinct. The year is 2020, and mankind has been diminished to the point where they’ve taken to hiding out in deserted old castles. It’s in one such fortress that Quinn (Christian Bale) protects one of the last remaining pockets of civilization in Northern England. As the accepted leader, Quinn espouses a lifestyle of simple survival; try to avoid the dragon’s attentions, while dutifully tending to the gardens and young children.

The community’s complacency is disrupted with the arrival of a kick-ass crew of crafty commandos, a devoted cadre of ‘dragon hunters’ under command of the violently obsessed Van Zan (Matthew McConaughey). Quinn initially welcomes Van Zan and his platoon into the shelter, but it’s not long before the marines attract some rather hot-tempered attention from a few of the local dragons. After a particularly brutal aerial attack on the castle, Van Zan and his remaining soldiers (along with a few of Quinn’s compatriots) head off to London in an effort to discover the source of the giant murderous lizards.

If you’re the sort of movie freak who, like myself, can’t help but nit-pick at various plot holes, Reign of Fire is absolutely rife with ‘em. Where do the marines find fuel for their helicopter? Why is the only female soldier made up in lipstick and eyeliner while every other human in the film is quite literally covered in filth? Why do the dragons only seem to attack in ‘solo’ missions, when a group attack would surely kill a lot more of those pesky humans? There are even more minor script hiccups like this to contend with, but let’s be frank: we’re not talking Hamlet here. Anyone ready to bash a ‘futuristic dragon’ movie for a bushel of minor plot holes probably wasn’t going to enjoy Reign of Fire anyway.

Fortunately, there’s more than enough ‘good stuff’ in Reign of Fire to make such unimportant contrivances seem nearly non-existent. If you’re too busy rolling your eyes at the sillier stuff, you’re bound to miss a few fantastic action sequences, a truly creepy and altogether impressive production design, and a lot of flashy CGI effects that actually manage to LOOK like ‘real’ dragons! Director Rob Bowman (The X-Files) obviously realizes that he’s working on a simple ‘popcorn flick’, yet still does everything he can to make Reign of Fire a quality popcorn flick. Bale and McConaughey both acquit themselves well, with Bale’s dedicated father figure a strong counter-point to McConaughey’s rabid commando, and (again) the actors are well aware of the comic-book nature of the film they’re in, and never try to stretch their roles beyond those constraints.

Reign of Fire may be dismissed by some as silly ‘high-concept’ demographic programming, but I think any film that offers a NEW concept is immediately worthy of some praise. ‘Futuristic dragons’ may not earn anyone an Oscar nomination, but in a genre littered with insipid sequels, moronic remakes, retarded video-game adaptations, and non-stop superhero revisits, it’s welcome to just see a fresh idea. Sure, it may be a silly idea, but Reign of Fire is, for the most part, a damn good monster movie/action flick that only occasionally delves into unintentional silliness. And even then...you’ll be having such a good time that you’ll hardly even notice.

Reign of Fire is precisely the kind of flashy, boisterous adventure flick that turns hyperactive 12-year-olds into lifelong movie freaks. Trust me; I speak from experience.

#2 of 18 Chris Harvey

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Posted July 11 2002 - 03:48 PM

Best. Dragon movie. Ever.

If perhaps the above statement seems a bit like damning with faint praise, none the less I mean it as the highest compliment. After all, it's not the fault of Rob Bowman (and his various collaborators on the project) that previous films in this particular sub-genre have failed to live up to their potential.

Reign of Fire is easily the most purely enjoyable movie I've seen this summer, and more successful at what it's trying to be than Spider-Man, Attack of the Clones, or Minority Report. There is a moment, fairly early on, when I realized I was watching something special. (I don't want to spoil it for people, so I'll be vague in my descriptions.) It was a scant 2 minute scene, no visual effects, no fancy camerawork, no important plot development -- a throwaway scene designed to flesh the characters out slightly -- yet this one scene perfectly encapsulated the importance Star Wars has been to our culture, how much of an impact it has had and why -- morever, it does a better job at this than all 4.5 hours of Lucas' prequel trilogy to date.

Reign of Fire is the perfect example of a movie knowing its genre. Like Speed and The Matrix and The Fugitive (my own personal examples -- yours may vary), it is a genre piece that understands its place beautifully. At the end of the day, all I can say is that it is a lean, taut piece of filmmaking filled with stylish gritty panache that revels in what it is -- a movie about fighting dragons.

Really there is no new ground broken here: no sudden twists, no brilliant new technique or transcendent plot point, merely the intense satisfaction that comes from watching something that people have lavished care and effort into -- effort into making the script tight and economical, into establishing and exploring characters to give the movie an unexpected bit of heart. The movie draws from familiar sources -- Jaws, The Road Warrior, Moby Dick, and countless others -- yet these previous works help define it as the genre piece it is, rather than being simple shots in the dark of "that was cool in that movie, let's try it here".

The performances, flat across the board, are fantastic given the material. Special kudos to Christian Bale and Matthew McConaughey for their focused efforts at being un-pretty (an important choice given the post-apocalyptic setting), and if Izabella Scorupco looks a little too hot, given the circumstances, what red-blooded male will argue that much? Posted Image The characters work within certain classic sensibilities -- the cautious Brits, the reckless Americans -- but the movie actually shows the strengths and weaknesses of both approaches. Ultimately, both sides are heroes.

I had a secret hope that I would see a true Armageddon writ large -- fields of tanks doing battle with hordes of dragons on a monumental scale. Yet such an effort would've cost the budgets of Titanic and Waterworld combined, so I'll forgive a certain breadth of scale in favor of a solid story intelligently told. That's really one of the very few (extremely minor) quibbles I had, and all of them are inconsequential.

Now forget everything you've just read, because I think the real charm of this movie is the surprise of a successful big-budget genre film that strives to be nothing BUT a genre film. I've over-hyped it enough as it is -- it is everything I hoped for and more.

Best dragon movie ever.

Go see it, now.

Grade: A

P.S. I saw a billboard for this the other day with arguably the worst tagline ever: "It was a beautiful day until the reign came." *groan*Posted Image

#3 of 18 Robert Crawford

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Posted July 11 2002 - 06:49 PM

This thread is now the Official Review Thread for "Reign of Fire". Please post all HTF member reviews in this thread.

Any other comments, links to other reviews, or discussion items will be deleted from this thread without warning!

If you need to discuss those type of issues then I have designated an Official Discussion Thread.



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#4 of 18 Chuck Mayer

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Posted July 12 2002 - 10:38 AM

I've had this one at the top of the pile, so I figured I'd better get my review in.

I didn't love the film.

I certainly didn't dislike the film.

It was decent. I was hoping it would be absolutely nuts, but it's a smaller story than I imagined. Both main actors do a very solid job, with special props to Christian Bale. I'd certainly like to see him in more films (as would many female film fans I am sure). The editing and construction of the film are a bit herky-jerky. I think I saw some conclusions to subplots that are missing their middles.

But that is of no consequence. Here there be dragons. Me like very much. It's an entertaining film that would have been served a bit better by a more kinetic (I was surprised to see my man Scotty W. describe it as such) director. There is plenty of mood to go around, solid sets, and decent action and thrills.

It might not be the perfect dragon movie I had always imagined...but it was close enough for now. I wanted to LOVE it, but I'll settle for liking it.

Score: 7.5/10

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#5 of 18 Patrick Sun

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Posted July 12 2002 - 02:55 PM

While this film was a bit too neat and tidy, I did enjoy the flaming carnage of the dragons. There's some good tension between the characters played by Matthew McConaghey (whom I nominate to play Oliver Queen in a Green Arrow film if one ever is made) and Christian Bale. The story starts out slow, but the last hour is worth the ticket price (at least a matinee, for sure).

If you like dragons, go see this film. It definitely doesn't try to be something it's not, so it's paced very well (almost too light in the dramatic tension in the 3rd act) and you don't have time to get bored with it. The "solution/battle plan" did seem too contrived based on how they presented their understanding of the dragons, but I went with it.

I give it 3 stars or a grade of B.
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#6 of 18 Seth Paxton

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Posted July 12 2002 - 04:48 PM

SPOILER FREE

7.5 out of 10

The film is a quality film for sure. At times it has some very nice sequences but it has one major fault....not enough dragons.

It appears to be financial limitation that has forced the filmmakers to avoid too many scenes involving confrontations between dragon and man, and the film is hurt by it.

This is not a call for more CGI, but rather saying that the narrative simply demands some of these moments and suffers without them. The film jumps over what would have been the most impressive section of destruction/confrontation when dragons first begin to take over. Instead a montage rather like Road Warrior is used. It's a solid technique but in Road Warrior the aspects being glossed over are not central to the main plot, while here they are. So we lose out on seeing the power of these dragons as they defy everything the world can throw at them. Sort of like seeing T3 without seeing the robots actually take over.

However, despite this weakness (which affects it beyond the section I just mentioned) they managed to skirt the problem pretty well. Much of the film plays with the Road Warrior vision of people trapped in a self-made city while incorporating the look and feel of Dragonslayer. This allows the film to get by for much of the narrative.

But then we hit some plot gaps where objectives seem iffy or totally unexplained and some obsticles aren't fully clarified either. And that always hurts a film, especially an action film.

Acting is outstanding though as is the art direction. The tone and moods are set and most of the scenes between actors work very well.

It's not the action film that Road Warrior was, but it works hard at being much more than just low-grade camp. It has at least one rather clever joke/scene (white knight) and a terrific action concept/scene (involving some in-air action). Still, I would say that Dragonslayer is a much better film.

#7 of 18 Quentin

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Posted July 12 2002 - 07:12 PM

I think it is a ROCKING COOL movie...up through the point where Van Zan scolds the people of the castle for celebrating.

And then it pretty much goes to hell. Posted Image

I mean, total disaster. I think it probably got rewritten about a thousand times and got some budget pulled. How else do we end so underwhelmingly when we have such a huge set piece in the middle? (the "dive bomb" scene)

I told a friend before I saw this, that it could be good IF the final scene to kill the dragons was a cool/good plan executed well on screen.

It wasn't.

I'll give it a C+ because the first 45 minutes are so promising. I'll watch The Road Warrior again...

#8 of 18 Sean Oneil

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Posted July 12 2002 - 08:38 PM

Posted Image

#9 of 18 JohnS

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Posted July 12 2002 - 09:48 PM

Reign of Fire *1/2

I know I'm going to get charred for saying this, but I thought this wasn't a great movie at all.
I thought the story was misstructured and not thought out to well.
Don't get me wrong, the visuals were great and the scenes of the dragons setting things on fire were great.
Especially the scenes of them on top of the castle type of building.
This movie lacked the big dragons battles that I thought were going to happen.

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#10 of 18 Julie K

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Posted July 13 2002 - 01:57 AM

I give this 2 out of 5. And one of those points is just because the dragons were really great.

I had some serious problems with the underlying logic in this film. I could handle a film with nearly indestructible dragons who awake and manage to tear down civilization overnight and reduce humanity to a few pitiful remnants who live in terror of the sky. I could also handle a film where dragons are clever beasts who can be slain by relatively low technology wielded by a bold hero who has learned an important trick.

The problem is that this movie tries to combine both those ideas. It just doesn't work. I was ok up until the first dragon-slaying scene and then I spent the rest of the movie in a funk - "Just what the f*ck happened to the F-15s, F-14s, laser guided missiles..." and so on. If I were to believe the initial set-up, then the ending simply could not work. If I were to believe the ending, then the initial set-up simply could not work. So, I spent most of the movie annoyed and consequently nitpicked it far more than normal. (Just where did that gal get her lipstick?!?) I won't detail many of them here (Just where did they get fuel - you know, most fuels don't last very long) but I could have overlooked them if I hadn't been annoyed by the bigger problem.

Loved the scene with the dragon and the castle. That's what moved this move from a 1 out of 5 to a 2 out of 5. I still can't recommend it, though.

Oh, and I think they ripped off dragon fire from the Assblasters in Tremors 3 Posted Image
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#11 of 18 Brian_J

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Posted July 13 2002 - 03:29 AM

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Overall, this movie was a pleasant surprise for me. I really didn't know what to expect going in and I really enjoyed the direction, the casting, the overall mood and the pacing. This movie does not start slow and generally keeps a very nice pace.

I took my seven-year old son and have to say that it was bordering on too intense for him. (thats a good thing for me though).

Yes there are some things that dont make that much sense
(like how the big bad dragon can torch everything in sight until the very end).
But the movie does not pretend to be something its not and there is no pretense at all. An overall good experience at the movies!

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#12 of 18 Todd Terwilliger

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Posted July 13 2002 - 01:12 PM

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I really enjoyed this film. I thought it succeeded because it didn't try to do too much. I liked the pace of it and I thought the dragons got just enough exposure to affirm their threat without overplaying it.

McConaughey was very memorable as Van Zant. I particularly liked his "Magic Hour"/"Dalton Boys" dialog when he's first introduced. Good performances all around.
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#13 of 18 Steeve Bergeron

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Posted July 13 2002 - 02:39 PM

Thumbs up! Posted Image

#14 of 18 Kami

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Posted July 13 2002 - 05:10 PM

Well I was pleasantly surprised after reading all the negative reviews. I really enjoyed the film. Good acting, OK plot, and most of the time the special effects were great.

I think the movie would've played better if it didn't take itself sooooooooo seriously. If they want it to be that serious, well....the writing just has to be better.

I also think this movie would've been 10 times better if it had been totally about the downfall of humanity in 2010. Maybe a prequel? Posted Image That little bit of history, magazine clippings, etc. of the world literally being destroyed really intrigued me. At any rate, it was still enjoyable. Matthew McConaughey impressed me the most...he REALLY played that character well, IMO.

I will be buying the DVD and I think it will be yet another film that is going to play a lot better on DVD.

Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image (out of 5)


#15 of 18 Bruce Hedtke

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Posted July 14 2002 - 03:46 PM

Loved it. It had alot of style and action and it walked a fine line between seriousness and camp. The acting was suprisingly realistic and the camera-work and CGI were very thrilling. Not without its faults (as Julie pointed out above-how can one man with a low-grade missile accomplish what an army with high-grade arsenals couldn't?), but for me, there was enough thrills and stand up and cheer scenes to overlook the faults. One of my favorite films this year.

Reign of Fire Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image

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#16 of 18 Derrik Draven

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Posted July 14 2002 - 04:16 PM

What can I say? If you like dragons and are like me in the notion that every movie made doesn't have to be worthy of a friggin' Oscar nomination...and you like dragons, you'll think this movie rocks!!!!! Posted Image
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#17 of 18 Evan S

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Posted July 16 2002 - 03:35 AM

I liked the movie but had to agree with Quentin that it went downhill just a bit after the "dive bomb" scene. Up until that point the movie totally grabbed me.
I think it would have been much better served to let that be the climatic scene (taking on the big male dragon with the "dive bomb" technology) and letting the initial kills be done with the crossbow type kill.
I just think that "dive bomb" scene had much more tension and suspense than the ending and it left me a little flat. I would still recommend it though for the acting by the two main men (Bale and MM). Not perfect though.

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#18 of 18 Stephen_L

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Posted July 18 2002 - 02:34 PM

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Back a couple decades ago, George Miller told the story of the collapse of civilization and the efforts of an unlikely hero to save a beleagered outpost of humanity against inhuman marauders. The film was "The Road Warrior" and remains in my mind the standard for post-apocalyptic excitement. "Reign of Fire" mines the same plot with skill and cleverness but doesn't quite achieve the level of excitement as the George Miller film.

In Reign of Fire, Quinn who witnessed the onset of the plague of dragons that overwhelmed our world, is governing a small outpost of humans in a ruined castle in Britain. Though the dragon plague is now withering due to lack of food, it is uncertain if the humans will be able to outlast them. The routine of the outpost's subsistence is interrupted by the arrival of an armed column led by Van Zan, a wild-eyed 'dragon killer' bent on reaching London. His people have realized that only a single dragon bull is responsible for the proliferation of the race. Kill the bull and the race will die out. Quinn, bent on protecting his people is suspicious of the headstrong Van Zan. In the end these two men must somehow collaborate to bring the reign of the dragons to an end.

Like the "Road Warrior", this film understands the power of keeping the conflict on a human scale. Some have complained that there was no footage of the destruction of the world by swarms of dragons or assaults of vast armies on the dragons. To me, it it more compelling to fear for a few people, than to view the destruction of faceless millions. And the shocking appearance of one dragon is more effective than waves of the beasts. (Jaws had only one shark and that was scary enough. Fifty sharks would not have been scarier.) Like the Road Warrior model, there is a tour de force action sequence, the 'archangel' dragon kill, a terrifying technique Van Zan and his team have devised for slaying the beasts.

The performances were solid with particular kudos to Christian Bale. Matthew McC, however was a bit over the top for my taste.

Where the film falters is in the plot structure. It sets up a situation and then doesn't play by the rules. I can buy the outpost with its combination of modern tech and Medieval design, but the appearance of an armored column moving in broad daylight hardly seems plausable. Surely they would have been dragon bait long before reaching the outpost or London. A smaller motorized band supported by helicopters that traveled only during the 'golden hours' then hid out would have been more plausable. The issue of fueling the column and helicopters was never addressed. Maybe Quinn could have helped Van Zan reach a fuel cache or depot but it is never addressed. And most disappointing, the filmmakers set up this extraordinary hunting sequence, the 'archangels' but uses it in the middle of the film and then drops it. The climactic confrontation was such a let-down compared to the earlier dragon kill.

Another objection is the bull dragon. The father of the race should be an extraordinary creature, larger and more impressive than the numerous females. The film I feel dilutes this ultimate menace in several ways. First, the bull is revealed too soon. I would have much preferred seeing less of him until the final conflict.Here I remember Jaws as a template. We never see the villain until near the end of the film. Maybe show Van Zan's column being straffed and some fleeting, dark glimpses of the menace and have Van Zan return to the colony to find it burned. But don't show us the beast until closer to the climax. Secondly, the scale of the beast seems to vary throughout the film. The bull seems no larger than the females during the attack on Van Zan's column, but far larger at the colony. In the film's climax, the size of the bull was impossible to truely appreciate and that reduces the beast's menace. Again Jaws is a good template. We see the tiger shark killed by the fishermen midway in the movie and are impressed (just like Van Zan's killing of the female) When the great white shark shows up, it is vastly larger and all the more terrifying.

Even so, I found "Reign of Fire" exciting and satisfying. Not a classic, but a good time at the movies
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