“…may be the coolest story I have ever experienced…”
Last night I had the absolute pleasure of watching Reign of Fire, and it might be the coolest movie that I have ever seen. Just to give you some insight into my movie-watching habits, I have a list on my phone of countless films that I want to watch. On a night like last night where I can’t decide what I want to watch, I quickly scroll the list and stop it on a random title. Now I have been using this list for the better part of two years so I don’t recognize most of the movies on it, and let me tell you that is absolutely the best way to experience Reign of Fire. If you are reading this and you like action/adventure movies stop reading now, and go watch Reign of Fire. If you know nothing about the plot, Reign of Fire becomes one of the most outrageous (in a good way) films that I have ever seen. For those of you who won’t take my word for it, you’re definitely missing out but I understand the reluctance to listen to some random guy on the internet.
Reign of Fire is a movie with possibly the coolest premise that I have ever seen. When visiting his mom at her construction job, Quinn (Christian Bale) witnesses the discovery of a weird cave that houses a very dangerous secret; A FUCKING DRAGON! The dragon leaves this newly opened cave, kills literally everyone, and spawns thousands of other dragons who quickly take over the world causing a dragon apocalypse. The story then picks up in 2020 (about 18 years later) where Quinn is the leader of a group of survivors, who may be the last piece of humanity left. That is until Denton Van Zan (Matthew McConaughey) shows up with his band of has-been military personnel. It turns out Denton likes to kill dragons, and he wants to rid the world of them. We then get to watch a ridiculously fun action movie as Quinn has to deicide how to deal with his new house-mate, while at the same time avoiding all of the dragons that plague the earth.
With fear of sounding like a broken record, I really need to talk about how fucking cool Reign of Fire is; this is mainly because it is the reason that I love the movie so much. First of all, the plot catches you completely off guard. The film is normal, and then there is a dragon, and then it is a full-blown apocalypse. It is absolutely amazing to watch this story unfold, and if you’re anything like me you’ll be watching it with your mouth simultaneously agape and in the biggest smile you’ve ever had in your life. Then the ‘real’ movie starts, and what we get is this really cool modern apocalypse, but the dragons add a very medieval feel to the film. If you are familiar with video games watching Reign of Fire is like playing a mixture of Fallout and Skyrim. the world that is built is absolutely stunning, and the details to make this world as real as possible are also very much appreciated. These are only small things (like the explanation of how the dragons breathe fire), but they don’t go unnoticed and are certainly not unappreciated (at least to me). The film is chock-full of brilliant action scenes that pit humans fighting for their lives against dragons who have almost nothing to lose. The set design, while bland (seeing as the dragons burned everything), is very creative and reflective of the tone of the story being told. Where the set design really shines is when we get to see interior shots of Quinn’s castle, and how it has been altered to accommodate their needs.
Reign of Fire also features really good performances from most of the cast; well, at least in the beginning of the film. When the film starts we are introduced to Quinn and his band of survivors. These are people who are obviously very battle-scarred and they will do anything to survive. We get a real sense of community at the beginning of the film, and we get to see Quinn (Christian Bale) be both a charismatic leader, and a leader that doesn’t take any shit. We also get to see Creedy (Gerard Butler), Quinn’s best friend, do his part to boost moral by standing beside Quinn and helping him do cool shit like re-enact Star Wars for the children. Then Denton Van Zan (by the way, even his name is cool) shows up. Denton is played by Matthew McConaughey and he is constantly toeing the line of being brilliant in his role, or being terrible. As a matter of fact, I still can’t real make that call. Denton is a character who is very tough and McConaughey does a good job at showing that, but McConaughey also looks like he is about to cry in literally every scene that he is in. I know that there are very emotional moments in Reign of Fire, which make full-use of McConaughey’s very emotional performance, but through the rest of the movie it kind of feels like he is overacting. Don’t take my word as gospel, because honestly the jury is still out for me, instead watch the movie and make the decision for yourself. As you probably have seen, Reign of Fire is a star-studded cast. We even get to see a very tiny Jack Gleeson (most famously known for playing Joffrey Baratheon) playing one of the children in the film. And most of these cast members do a very good job, but some of them are pretty flat in terms of their acting range (of course I’m just basing that off of this single performance).
After gushing about Reign of Fire of Fire for a while I think it is time to finally discuss the film’s flaws, and there are quite a few of them. First and foremost is the fact hat the CGI was pretty fucking shaky (and that’s to put it lightly). I understand that the film came out in 2002, so the CGI has a right to be ‘bad’, but I do need to point out that it doesn’t hold up in the slightest. Not only do the dragons look like they are made out of plasticine, but there are very jarring size differences that are hard to miss. Whenever a dragon is on the ground (usually lifeless), the model is impeccable. The detail and care that went into them are amazing, but when that same dragon is in flight it not only looks awful but it’s also like half the size. The fire effects, for the most part, weren’t terrible (partially because fire effects haven’t really gotten better over the years), but the dragons were pretty hard to forgive. Again, I understand that this was probably great in 2002, but unfortunately I didn’t watch it in 2002. Next up we have the plot-holes. Now I’m not going to go into specifics with these glaring issues, because that would require me spoiling the entire movie, so you’ll just have to take my word when I say that there are a lot of them. Small things like characters knowing information that they haven’t yet been told, all the way to things like character motivations turning on a dime. I would say that these issues were small enough to look past, but the problem is that there were so many of them. It’s like if your favourite mug has a small crack in it, you still love it and it still does it’s job. But if your favourite mug has ten thousand cracks in it then it is practically dust in your hands and you have no choice but to conclude that the craftsmanship was less-than-stellar. The film also suffers from many movie tropes, but I didn’t really have issues with these because many movies use them (hence why they are called tropes). I’ll just say that it is good thing that Rein of Fire started when it did because according to the dialogue in the movie nothing at all happened for the last ten years.
Ultimately Reign of Fire is a movie that has countless flaws, but it is still very fun to watch. With suitable performances, great action scenes, and what may be the coolest story I have ever experienced, it is easy for me to forget about all of the film’s issues and just enjoy myself while watching it.
I give Reign of Fire a B