Reign of Fire (2002) Directed by Rob Bowman. With Christian Bale, Matthew McConaughey, Gerard Butler and Izabella Scorupco.
Rob Bowman’s Reign of Fire is a big-budget B-movie about a post-apocalyptic world brought to its knees by dragons. Its aim is to be the mother of all dragon movies – yet it is more interesting as a platform for the screen pairing of Christian Bale and Matthew McConaughey – years before their careers went nuclear.
As is standard, Bale and McConaughey play two broodingly intense guys, brought together to help rid the world of the fire-breathing behemoths that have – give or take the odd patch of green, toasted the surface of the planet. Before they meet, Bale (with the help of Gerard Butler) looks after a small community of survivors. Before long, McConaughey shows up with an aggressive demeanour and a bunch of tanks to add to the testosterone, to which Gerard Butler opines – “Only one thing worse than a dragon… Americans“.
Bale and McConaughey knock the edges off of each other in scenes reminiscent of better films, until they eventually decide to mutually respect each other to fight the good fight. It’s all so formulaic, yet the performances – particularly from McConaughey keep the film from dying a fiery death. That crazed intensity is clear to see, years before the McConaissance took the world by storm. Couple that up with Bale and you have yourself something of a dream-team akin to that of DeNiro and Pacino in Heat. All the while, you can’t help but think that two actors of this calibre deserve a better film to serve their talents.
While the performances, environments and visual effects are good – the script is entirely wooden, which guts the film of any impetus that it struggles to gain. Ex-Bond girl, Izabella Scorupco is ushered in as an uninteresting love interest (’cause there has to be one right!?) – which is one of the many subtexts of the script that are skimmed over.
Although a film like this is easy to bash, when the ridiculously abrupt ending arrives, Reign of Fire can only be summed up as a messy and deeply flawed effort. It’s also stark raving bonkers. Given the right mood, it might play adequately as a piece of take-your-brain-out nonsense, but even that might be stretch. 2.5/5