Reign of Fire (2002) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes

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

About garethrhodes

Full-time lover of all things creative.
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23 Responses to Reign of Fire (2002) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes

  1. Thought this was a pretty okay B movie, not that bad, not particularly good either, Nice Review.

  2. That Other Critic says:

    I remembered hearing about this and wanting to see it because of how insane it sounded, but I couldn’t remember the title. Thanks for reminding me!

  3. dreager1 says:

    Yeah, I saw this film before my reviewing days so it may be worth a revisit, but I didn’t care for it either. It simply wasn’t that fun and the characters never became very likable or distinct for me. Watching the dragons was always cool though.

    • garethrhodes says:

      It’s a strange little film. The look and tone of it are quite good, and McConaughey commits himself – but the script is second-rate. There’s a better film screaming to get out, somewhere among the mess.

  4. I don’t mind this movie. It isn’t great, or even that good but I like the dragons and it’s an interesting enough concept. Good for a lazy afternoon.

  5. filmfunkel says:

    It’s a film with a lot of strong parts that only amounts to a weak whole; but those strong parts are pretty memorable.

    • garethrhodes says:

      I liked seeing McConaughey and Bale face-off (almost held my breath as they fought), yet there wasn’t really a convincing payoff and the script led us down the same old predictable garden path. Cool dragons, though.

      • Ali says:

        A bit of trivia here. Bale was it seems a pain in the butt to everyone during the shoot. McConaughey was his usual easygoing self. During the fight scene, Bale actually hit McConaughey (which he wasn’t supposed to do) and McConaughey finally got mad and hit him back so hard he knocked him out. The director left it in to get a little revenge on Bale the diva. Bale and McConaughey wound up as friends. Moral of the story: if you want Bale’s respect, punch his lights out.

      • garethrhodes says:

        I love this! Thank you for sharing it. You made me want to go back and rewatch the scene. Come to think of it – that fight scene WAS highly charged. Haha, it would seem you are right. One thing NOT to do to Bale, though – never, repeat never trash his lights.

  6. Mike D says:

    Best dragons in any movie for realsy

    • garethrhodes says:

      You’ve got me thinking now…Game of Thrones is doing a fine job of representing the fire-breathers, but I suppose if we’re being picky, it’s a TV series, NOT a film. Hmm.

  7. theipc says:

    Great post! I actually really like this thing : )

  8. Jeez, this has a pretty stellar cast all things considered! I’ll need to give it a bash, if only to hear Butler rate dragons ahead of Americans. Top work Gareth!


  9. Chris Evans says:

    Haven’t had the ‘pleasure’ of sitting all the way through this (think I’ve seen aboult half an hour of it), but you make some good points Gareth…maybe after a beer (or two) it’ll have some appeal…

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