Reign of Fire Review
By Joe Lozito
"Fire" has no spark
Ok, call me a nerd, but the idea of using cutting edge special effects to create the definitive "dragon movie" sounded like a good idea to me. So where the heck did "Reign of Fire" go wrong?? Well, for starters, it almost never went right. There is very little about this mess to recommend or even discuss. This is a debacle which nears "Battlefield: Earth" proportions. Well, maybe not quite that bad, but really really close.
The only thing - and I mean the only thing - that works in "Reign" is the actual dragon effect itself. The flying beasts look amazing and when they're in action the movie is visually exhilarating. But those moments are few and far between. Very far between. The film (and I use that term loosely) almost plays as a demo reel for the special effects production company which created the shots.
Obviously, "Reign" wants to be the inverse of "Jaws" - instead of staring at the water, we're looking for terror in the skies. But the dragon attacks are so predetermined that they generate no surprise or tension. Even the final battle, which is a direct copy of "Jaws" holds no threat and builds no suspense. In fact, it's kinda stupid.
The main problem with the film (and there's a lot of competition there) is the writing - or lack thereof. With so much dragon lore in the world, how could the film be so bereft of interesting details? Virtually the only facts we learn about the beasties are that they can't see well during dusk (this is completely ignored when, at sunset, a monster snatches a character out of midair like a beagle on a Frisbee) and there is only one male which impregnates multiple females. The latter is such a screenwriting cheat that it makes me angry just to think about it. The only reason for this contrivance is to give the film any kind of ending. Like "The Phantom Menace", "Independence Day", and countless other sci-fi movies, "Reign" goes for the old "kill the brain and the body will die" method of eliminating the threat. Never mind that this solution doesn't work at all when you're dealing with living creatures like, say, dragons. Just because you kill the male doesn't mean the existing females (who are shown in great numbers and have been attacking throughout the film) just go away. Are they supposed to be so upset by the loss of their mate that they crawl off and die? Don't even get me started on how the script arbitrarily clears out the females for the final one-on-one showdown.
X-files director Rob Bowman tries in vain to hold this mess together with a cast of greasy "Mad Max" rejects. With no script to hold on to, he just directs the entire film as though its one big action scene; even during the dialogue (if you can call it that) he keeps the camera moving. Meanwhile, what contractual obligation Matthew McConaughey and Christian Bale were trying to fill with this film is beyond me. Mr. McConaughey grunts and postures his way (and I mean actual "grunts") through the role of the obsessed American dragonslayer, while Mr. Bale just spits out every line as fast as possible, mercifully trying to end the film as quickly as possible I would imagine. It doesn't work.