Reign of Fire (2002)


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Warning, minor plot points revealed!

For two glorious weeks each year when I was a kid, the 4 O'clock after-school movie presented Monster Week!  Everyday they showed a different Godzilla movie.  I loved Godzilla, Rodan, Mothra, Gamera, Ghidora, Gigan, and all the other monsters that would destroy miniature Tokyo, trip over power plants, and engage in giant size WWF style wrestling matches.  Reign of Fire can be considered a very late arrival in the after-school Monster Week showcase.  It's not a good movie, but it's a great Monster Movie!

The movie begins in present day London where underground construction is taking place.  Young Quinn, watches as his mother, a construction engineer, inadvertently digs into an underground cavern which contains a sleeping dragon.  The dragon wakes, incinerates the construction site and crew, and begins it's destruction of England.  Quinn escapes unharmed.  The movie then jumps 20 years into the future.  The entire planet has been scorched by the war with the rapidly reproducing dragons who burn everything and eat everyone they can find.  Humans have been reduced to a medieval-post-apocalyptic-Road Warrior existence where their only defense is to burrow deep into caves beneath castles and hide.  Quinn emerges as the reluctant leader of group hiding in the countryside near London.  Enter Van Zan... A crazy, cigar chomping,  American military commander with a platoon of mercenaries, a helicopter, a battalion of tanks, and a plan to take back the planet.

Matthew McConaughey is great as Van Zan - The Dragonslayer.  He's super buff, really dirty, and plays the part in a deranged homicidal suicidal over-the top performance.  Christian Bale, still muscled up from his performance in American Psycho, also does a good job as Quinn.  The rest of the cast makes for good dragon fodder.

The special effects sequences are great!  Imagine the T-Rex from Jurassic Park flying around and breathing fire.  The scenes with the smaller female dragons are cool.  Especially the mid air battle with the helicopter.  And the giant male dragon at the end of the film is awesome!  The dragons are super fun to watch but there really should have been more scenes of their fire blasting mayhem.  I would have really liked to have seen an extended sequence of the war that lead to the destruction of the planet.

The most amusing scene in the film is near the beginning when we see Quinn and his friend performing a stage version of the "I am your Father" light saber battle between Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker, for an enthralled group of children before bedtime.  It's fun to see that in this version of the future, Star Wars has become the mythology of our culture.  

Reign of Fire is a fun movie.  Some rainy Sunday afternoon, when you have nothing better to do, run over to the local video store and rent a copy.  Make a big bowl of popcorn, turn up the volume, turn off your brain, sit back, remember what it was like to be a kid, and enjoy a really good monster movie.