Reign of Fire

dir: Rob Bowman
[img_assist|nid=1030|title=Matthew McConaghey trying to fuck a dragon in mid-air|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=344|height=260]
Dragons. Post apocalyptic scenarios. People dressed like Mad Max. People being burned or eaten by big lizards. Gay pirates. What's not to like?

Yes, the film has been out for a donkey's age, but I only got to see the film a few days ago. And I must say that I was pleasantly surprised, in that I wasn't violently disgusted by the film that transpired.

I do have to wonder who thought this would be a good idea for a film. Audiences stayed away in droves. Critics collectively scratched their heads and groins. Still, someone must have thought that wasting nearly a hundred mill on a film that grossed $30 was a worthwhile exercise. Damn, I wish I worked in the industry. At my place of work if 30 bucks goes missing they bring in the auditors and the Federal police and the guys we refer to as the ‘nutcrackers’.

Hollywood is a place of magic, which extends to their accounting practices as well. Still, what zeitgeist or movement were 'they' trying to capitalise on? Did someone think that audiences driven ecstatic and orgasmic by Fellowship of the Ring would be so desperate to see anything with a fantasy theme that they'd be selling their firstborns in order to be able to get in line? Have dragons ever really been that much of a box office draw card?

Should one even mention the appalling Dungeons and Dragons as a starting point for the resurgence in dragons and dragon related shenanigans? Do you think the people responsible for those films will ever work again?

I certainly hope not, but life being what it is you know they're going to end up as studio execs, or even worse, living next door to you. You'll probably catch them going through your trash at 4 in the morn, trying to come up with ideas for their next film.

I can't say I really loved the film, as it doesn't exactly grab you by your organs of reproduction and fling you mercilessly from side to side, dragging you from one rollercoaster ride to another until the messy, brutally rapturous climax. In fact, it doesn't even come close, and I mean that literally. What it does do is amuse and entertain for a couple of hours, distracting you from the meaninglessness of your own life until the lights come back on and you're forcibly removed from the theatre.

That could be a plus, I guess. The director, Rob Bowman, manages to capture that same utter lack of tension and suspense that was the trademark of his direction when he used to draw a weekly check working on the X Files. It was, I have to admit, a show which I never liked and mostly found boring. Though it's not really relevant here, is it. The CGI for the dragons is okay, nothing pants wettingly great.

You don't see them a lot during the film, but they're obviously there in the big scenes. Despite the massive cost of the film, in my humble estimation, you can't really see it on the screen. Dragons are in about 5 to 10 minutes of the film in total. Boo fucking hoo.

Not that I cared. I didn't want this to be Godzilla, for crying out loud, and on that score it's a triumph, if nothing else. We're expected to care about the people, not the fire breathing lizards. And we do. Sort of.

The film is set about twenty years in the future. In the process of digging somewhere underneath London, an ancient terror is unleashed in the form of a dragon, which proceeds to multiply and destroy virtually all the earth. We are shown this through crudely painted and written articles in Time magazine, which shows that the future isn't that different after all.

Dragons apparently are older than the dinosaurs and were responsible for their extinction. Once they 'clean' a planet of all the living creatures on it and any combustible material presumably, they go sleepy bobos / nigh nighs until someone wakes them up so they can go all postal with the flamethrower all over again.

I admit that written down it seems even dumber than I previously thought, but it works (enough) within the context of the film, at least so far as getting Our Heroes where they need to be.

Humanity is mostly dead, cities are empty, only a small number of huddled masses continue to huddle and amass. Quinn's outpost is one such place.

Christian Bale is our hero, a man called Quinn, the leader of a ragtag band of survivors holed up in an old monastery / nunnery, slowing starving to death and waiting for dragons to come and kill them so their misery can finally end. For some inexplicable reason known only to Rob Bowman and possibly Christian Bale, he uses a Cockney accent that would make Eliza Doolittle from My Fair Lady blush. Or drop her panties, I'm not entirely sure, since the ladies tend to find Bale quite attractive, even after he played the blood spattered Patrick Bateman in American Psycho.

Regardless, he's good in the film. He comes across as a bit timid, but ultimately concerned about the people under his care. His attitude, shaped by a guilt I won't go into (which is stupid anyway) is that their best hope for survival is to just lay low and hope the dragons don't pick them off before aliens or maybe Hare Krishna and the rest of the Superfriends! save humanity.

Bursting onto the scene like an erection through a kindergarten fence is Van Zan, the American leader of the Kentucky Irregulars, a ragtag band of Americans that have flown across the Atlantic ocean in order to carry out a daring plan to end the reptile menace once and for all. They have tanks and helicopters when the rest of humanity is probably remembering soft toilet paper with fondness and nostalgia.

The aspect I liked in regard to the introduction of the Kentucky Irregulars is that the weaponry of the people under Quinn's care, and their tactics were actually geared more towards being able to protect themselves from other people, as opposed to killing dragons. Their major concern was being able to stop marauders, as opposed to protecting themselves from dragons. It was a good touch, as it implied that the other major obstacle towards their survival, at least in the past, was other people as well, trying to take their limited resources by force. Ah, a note of realism in an otherwise nonsensical song.

Matthew McConaughey plays Van Zan in such an over the top manner that you have to wonder why they bothered paying the big dollars for the dragons anyway, when all they needed were some fifty foot Van Zan's stalking the world leaving ruin and desolation in their wake. He's that cigar-chompingly scary / funny.I've never met any pirates in all my years stumbling into things across this planet. I haven't met any angry, gay pirates either. But to me at least Van Zan was the physical embodiment of a furious gay pirate. He looks truly amazing, like your worst butch nightmare come to life.

Next to him, the dragons are mere geckos. Without McConaughey, the film would have been utterly, utterly worthless, despite how good Christian Bale is. His interactions with other characters border on the surreal, as he seems to be in a better or more insane film than the people he's talking to.

On top of that, when the majority of his screen time constitutes glaring at people with an expression that causes rust and screaming at people using a voice designed to rupture organs, he even gets to show his vulnerable side by crying over the deaths of his comrades in arms whilst telling another group of people how much they disgust him! It has to be seen to be believed.

Forget the dragons, Van Zan is worth the price of admission alone. As dumb as the premise is that sets up the story, the solution to humanity's survival which the film moves towards is even dumber. If the writers genuinely believe that they used logic in generating this script, I'd be happy to meet with them to argue about it at length. The system I would like to adopt is the 'loser-pays' method of negotiation, whereby after you are forced to here my copious list of idiotic plotting thus proving the wrongness of your thinking, you have to buy me off with payola.

That's how the United Nations was supposed to work as well, by the way. Regardless of these facts, Our Heroes, comprising Reluctant Hero Quinn, Psychopathic Hero Van Zan, and allegedly attractive Girl Power Helicopter Pilot Alex (played by Izabella Scorupco, who really needs to stay off the smack if she wants to get better parts in future), attempt to kill the one big bull dragon, without whom the other dragons can't procreate. In the final moments we shall see whether there is hope for humanity, or whether this great big barbecue we call life is over. Guess who triumphs.

Although the film is 100 minutes long, it seemed longer. I really was hoping that Van Zan was going to take on a dragon and scenery chew it to death or at least try to fuck it into submission.

In combining the two genres of fantasy and post apocalyptic science fiction, the film achieves an uneasy mix. It mostly worked for me, usually because of the fact that the tone is dour and grim throughout. There are few moments throughout the film of any levity, the main ones being Van Zan's scenery chewing, the other being a recreated pantomime lightsabre battle between a young man and an evil black clad helmeted creature with asthma, whose point is to show how possibly a particular film franchise will persist in the collective consciousness as an epic tale for future generations to come.

Though I very much doubt that even in a post apocalyptic society that people will ever be putting on plays with dialogue like "I wish I could just wish these feelings away" or "If me be returnin, the Bosses will do terrible things to me! Tewwwwible things!"

Alexander Siddig "stars" as well, most famously known for playing Dr Julian Bashir on Deep Space Nine. In this film he is required to hold radio headphones to his head, and to stare pensively into the middle distance. What a waste of a decent actor. He never gets a break in feature films, two lines of dialogue then he usually buys the farm. Same thing happened to him in Vertical Limit. Two lines of dialogue, then BANG! It is a shame, but I'm guessing over the next few years with Hollywood needing swarthy bad guys with impeccable English accents, they'll be kicking down his door. The studios and casting agents I mean, not the Office for Homeland Security.

Other than that, it's enjoyable enough but it's not exactly going to make you change religions or breakfast cereals. It's worth it for Van Zan, and maybe for the dragon at the end of the film. Years after its release it seems like something of an oddity, anachronistic at that, but worth it at least for the outlandishness of the premise.

6 times I thought a guy running at a dragon with a pick-axe was a winning strategy out of 10

“Only one thing worse than a dragon... Americans.” – Reign of Fire.