A lot of good movies came out in 2002 – Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, Lord of the Rings: the Two Towers, The Bourne Identity, Spider-Man, Treasure Planet... the list goes on and on. This review has nothing to do with those movies (although those are all great films), this is about another great, but far less critically acclaimed movie, Reign of Fire. The other night I decided to share this classic from my childhood with my wife, and see if it still held up all these years later.
The movie stars pre-Batman Christian Bale (Quinn) who, along side pre-300 Gerard Butler (Creedy), serves as the de facto leader of a small band of survivors in post-apocalyptic England. What caused the apocalypse you ask? Dragons. Flying, fire-breathing, people-murdering dragons.
Quinn and his band of survivors weather the dragon onslaught by living deep in a mountain stronghold, farming what little they can, and trying to keep their heads down so the dragons will leave them be. Unfortunately some of the survivors question Quinn’s leadership and decide to harvest the crops before they have a chance to ripen. Dragons had other plans and obliterate the food leaving rest of the crew to starve and fend off the dragons that now know where they live.
Enter pre-Rust Cohle/Cooper Matthew McConaughey as quintessential badass, Denton Van Zan. Denton is a gruff, cigar chomping Kentuckian who, like Tallahassee in Zombieland, found his calling in the apocalypse – traveling the world with his team (the Kentucky Irregulars) hunting dragons.
To say that Van Zan and Quinn don’t particularly agree on how to approach the dragon problem would be an understatement. Quinn prefers to continue laying low and surviving as long as possible, while Van Zan’s plan is a little more… aggressive. I don’t want to spoil it for you, but there are several awesome action sequences mixed in with a surprising amount of drama, and plenty of Texany one-liners uttered by uber-American McConaughey (example: while talking about flying, “It’s my territory. It’s your territory. Their just rentin’ it.”).
Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a somewhat low 40% calling it “an enjoyable B-movie if you don’t use your brain.” I am not saying that it’s The Shawshank Redemption (IMDB’s top-ranked movie, and for good reason), but I also think that it actually is an enjoyable film even if you are moderately intelligent. What I am saying is this movie deserves more credit than it gets. It stars some of today’s biggest names, has a fun story, and surprisingly good CGI for it’s time. I give this movie a 3 1/2 out of 5 for being just as fun now as it was when I was a kid, a feat not all that easy to pull off.