Reign Of Fire (2002)

Rating: ***
Release Date: 7/12/02
Director: Rob Bowman
Cast: Christian Bale, Matthew McConaughey, Izabella Scorupco

This intense adrenalin rush is what summer movies are all about. The year is 2010 and Mankind is on the brink of extinction. After lying dormant for millions of years, the dragons awaken and decide to turn the Earth to ash. Humans are helpless against the scourge and even nuclear weapons have no effect. In fact, Man just accelerates his own demise. Back in the present, a man named Quinn (Christian Bale) is the leader of a small band of humans who are trying to survive. Tensions arise when a hobbled together U.S. military force led by a maniacal madman named Van Zant (a shockingly buff Matthew McConaughey) crashes at Quinn's castle to regroup and recuperate. As one of the characters says, "the only thing worse than dragons are Americans..." Van Zant is a proven dragon slayer and is going after the big one, but he and his troops only manage to piss it off. Retribution is swift, and hundreds are left dead. Tired of the senseless killing, Quinn finally agrees to help Van Zant and helicopter pilot Alex (beautiful Izabella Scorupco) take out the head dragon in London.

Yes, it's silly and sometimes stupid, but it's never dull. There's a tangible sense of fear and tension that runs throughout the film, as if death could rain from the sky at any moment. The film is shot almost entirely through blue filters, which creates a dark and forboding atmosphere. The effects are pretty good for the most part, although I was disappointed that it's basically a film about ONE dragon. I was hoping to see lots of the critters flying around, and the chaos that would arise from such a confrontation. The characters are mostly of the absurdly macho type, but the actors are good enough to give them a bit of depth and humanity. Matthew McConaughey makes a compelling anti-hero, and you never know whether to side with him or go against him. Izabella Scorupco, who has been under my radar since "Goldeneye" (1995), is wonderful even though she doesn't have much to do. She's very tough, but she's also very sensitive. She also gets to play with some heavy artillary, which is something that I appreciate. The film is basically like "Independence Day" (1996) with dragons instead of space aliens, and without the burden of goofy camp elements and sugary patriotic sentimentality. An enjoyable way to pass a hot summer afternoon.