Written by Dan Bradley
Ever since Dragonslayer lit up the screen, I’ve been waiting for a comparable dragon movie to come along. There have been a few between then and now, most recently the lighthearted Dragonheart, but none have come close to capturing the style and mood of Dragonslayer. Finally a dark depiction of the mythical beasts has returned to ravage audiences and scorch anything in sight, although it could have been a lot better.
The premise of Reign of Fire comes across like a classic bad B movie. Dragons are awakened…from a long slumber under the streets of London and over many years, burn the earth and leave humanity on the brink of extinction. A ragged band of englishmen, led by stoic Quinn (Christian Bale), lives in fear of the dragons to the point where the children are versed to sing songs about them to save their lives. Reluctant to ever leave his post-apocalyptic compound, Quinn is faced with a new challenge when a band of American militia arrive, under the command of Van Zan (Matthew McConaughey), with the sole purpose of destroying the lone male dragon they’ve tracked to London.
Although the script, story and subsequent plot problems read like a B movie, the production and execution are first class all the way. Each shot is as professionally executed as the one before, tricking the audience into believing this is a big-budget film when it is not. First evidence of this appears in the opening sequence and never lets up.
Not since Dragonslayer have these magnificent beasts been so wonderfully rendered. They look absolutely real in every frame, right down to their tattered, ripped wings. When they shoot fire from their breath, never does it feel like a special effect.
As great as the dragons are, they could have used much more screen-time, especially in bunches. Only one money shot contained many dragons, sqandering an opportunity to really dazzle audiences – or perhaps that is being saved for the sequel.
The mere thought of dragon’s breath cries for and receives the DTS 5.1 surround treatment. The rear channels are not overly used except in the large set pieces. Dragons on the other hand are given the real noise, from thunderous booms to perfect directional surround as they fly overhead. For replay value, their screen-time is ideal.
As with post-apocalyptic films before it, Reign of Fire was shot with muted greys and a washed out palette. The result is effective, emphasizing the fact that the lands and skies have forever been scarred by the dragons smoke and flames. The transfer itself is solid, keeping the extremely dark nighttime scenes in check and perfectly recreating the dragons fire.
Watching the extra material can be compared to jumping in a pool. It’s cold at first but then warms up after awhile. The first extra is Breathing Life into the Terror, a brief look into the creation of the dragons set to a techno and rock beat. I would have liked to seen more the work that went into the dragons and heard less of the bad music. Next up is If You Can’t Take the Heat, an intriguing glance into the careful preparation and execution of the dragon fire, narrated by special effects supervisor Dave Gauthier. Rounding out the featurettes is Conversations with Rob Bowman. This is an adequate replacement for a commentary track. Topping off the extras are a trailer and DVD-ROM registration link.
I really wanted to love this movie based purely on the subject matter. Unfortunately the weak plot and lack of dragons made me feel like I was teased and left me wanting more.
Special Features List
- Breathing Life Into The Terror” Making-of featurette
- “If You Can’t Stand the Heat” Pyrotechnics featurette
- Conversations with director Rob Bowman
- Theatrical trailer