Reign Of Fire

6 out of 10


Medieval Dragons Versus Jet Helicopters

"Reign of Fire" is almost an object lesson in the core problems of the movie industry: whilst Hollywood curns out plotless flicks, littered with exposions and shootouts, ace British scripts are so short on cash, it's a wonder that they can afford celluloid in the cameras when they film. For the central idea of dragons overrunning the Earth is so cool, feasible and packed with great original ideas, iit should easily have been THE Film of the Year and one of the greatest hits of all time, yet at every point where Lucas's Industrial Light & Magic could have gone to town, its cashstrapped, semi-starving production crew have had to use something apparantly thrown together in a backroom at Zellers. Take the collapse of civilization for instance. James Cameron could easily have obliterated a set the size of New York to produce film footage that would have haunted a generation, but Director Bowman has had to make do with a couple of minutes of flicking through a crummy scrapbook.

After 12-year old Quinn (Christian Bale) discovers the first of the dormant dragons in a cavern during excavation work on London's Underground (its subawy transit system), the film quickly jumps to the post-apocalyptic scene where he is middle aged and holed up with much of what is left of humanity in a reoccupied medieval castle. To his portcullis comes, Van Zan, a renegade US military officer, leading ragtag grouping of what's left of America's military with a plan to rid the world of this most extreme of infestations.

Here again, the budget virtually dictated the casting of Matthew McConnaughy as Van Zan - having arrived in Beverley Hills only a couple of years before with only a dog and a pickup truck to his name, Matt has established a clear reputation as a thesbian, happy to turn in an Oscar worthy performance that would shame Shakespeare in exchange for a bowl of soup and the offer of a bed for the night.

With little more that the spare change from a cup of coffee, Bowman gives us a feast of impressive images, not least of which is Van Zan's hunting of dragons: a skydiver hurtles as bait to the ground, as a monster the size of an office black snaps hungily at his heels, followed itself by a jet helicopter trying to blast it out of the sky with air-to-air missiles. Likewise, the final attack on the castle by a team of dragons is an animation beyond everything we ever imagined such a scene from legends of the Dark Ages would have looked like.

Sadly, down to his last nickels ages before the last reel had been written, rears a head a thousand times more hideous than that of any of the dragons, leaving the ending brutally hacked up. The discovery of a dragon's egg is totally undeveloped and the last scenes are flat and dull with dialogue that borders on laughable and is totally out of sync with the quality of the rest of the story..

Mega-Low Budget British Blockbuster

Film Critic: Robert L Thompsett