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Reign of Fire (2002)

Reviewed 2001-12-06
: I am at a loss to explain this film. Reign of Fire takes place in a post-holocaust world, desolated by dragons Second Look Reviewwho, ten years ago, were disturbed from their underground hibernation by English miners and soon took over the world. What is left of humanity lives hand-to-mouth in enclaves here and there around the world; government is non-existent; technology survives, but not enough of it to fight back on a large scale.

The dragons are the stars
of Reign of Fire
One English enclave is nominally ruled by a not-so-mighty Quinn (Christian Bale), the grownup version of the boy who discovered the dragon lair while his mother (Alice Krige) was working. Into their suspicious embrace one day come some Americans: "Only thing worse than dragons: Americans," says Creedy (Gerard Butler). Among them are a half-crazed leader named Denton Van Zan (a buffed-up Matthew McConaughey) and his helicopter pilot, Alex (Polish-born beauty Izabella Scorupco, who I hadn't seen since the 1995 James Bond film, GoldenEye). They teach the obviously slow-witted Brits how to fight back against the beasts. This takes them to London, where they battle the king — no, not that King, the king dragon, by whom all female dragons are fertilized. (If the analogy to a queen bee holds, how can they be sure there is only one?)

I admire the obvious effort that this film required, from making dragons fly to simulating the scorched-earth look of future London and its environs, but the whole concept of Reign of Fire troubles me. Even granting the possibility of dragons (no beast that heavy could fly; no creature can stand fire, much less spew it), it doesn't make sense that a species that has the weaponry to wipe itself out in mere hours could fail to eradicate this winged menace. It's much more likely that humankind will fall to a microbe than to a monster. It's also not likely that a devastated earth would have petrol (gasoline) and working vehicles, especially helicopters. Finally, the whole film is grim, as if photographed through the grit of a miner's boot. The human interactions carry no substance and no importance. By the end, I was rooting for the dragons: I just wanted it to be over.

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Ronald Bruce Meyer is a freelance reviewer.