Reign of Fire

Posted on June 14, 2009. Filed under: Movies to miss, Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , |

I haven’t done a straight review in a while and caught this on late night TV so thought I’d blog it.

Reign of Fire is one of those films that confuses me, because it isn’t good, but it isn’t exactly bad either.  It was made purely because we’d reached a point where really cool CGI dragons were possible, and it shows.  The plot is incredibly thin, basically dragons-bad-man-scared, and there are a number of plot holes which bugged me throughout.  For example, if the dragons feed on ash, why do they always wait until people are outside to start crispy frying them? Especially when they’ve planted all those tasty ready-to-cook crops outside.  There were a number of times when the dragons seemed to be holding back simply to make the story work.  I reckon Christian Bale had managed to avoid several toastings from a somehow benevolent dragon which chose to wait for him to attack first, and I never understood why the big bad daddy dragon only decided to attack about 20 years after he was first released.

This is starting to sound more scathing than I intended, but there are some good points.  The performances by Bale and Gerard Butler are good, although Matthew McConaughey in a psycho-marine role is a bit more scary than I think he intended.  The special effects really are good, and the overall design of the film captures a kind of futuristic middle ages, but for a film that is essentially a CGI showcase I’m not sure the visuals are quite good enough to justify it.  Of course, I’m seeing it 7 years after its original release and the speed at which VFX move means what was state of the art then is now dated, but I’m still not sure I’m impressed.

Reign of Fire was one of those films I remember hearing about when it came out and I was intrigued, so I’m sad that it didn’t quite live up to even my low expectations.  As I said, it’s not a bad film, there was nothing in it that had me shouting at the screen or looking away in anguish (except Bale’s hideous haircut) but there’s just not much to it.  At only 101 minutes it’s quite short and no one has too much time to develop as a character, but I think the film would benefit from taking itself less seriously.  Rather than trying to convince its audience that dragons living underground lead to a post-nuclear apocalypse and focussing on how terrible everything is, director Rob Bowman could’ve eased off on the angst and allowed a little more fun into the movie.  This would probably lift the intensity of the performances, which at times felt too serious for a movie about dragons, especially in McConaughey’s case.

In the end, I’m going to have to reluctantly consign Reign of Fire to the Movies to Miss pile.  It’s not a major warning against it, I did sort of enjoy it, but there are just too many plot holes and mismatched emotions for the film to work.

Bad Acting Bad Dragon Bad Hair

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