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Laramie Movie Scope:
Reign of Fire

A modern story of dragon slayers

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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July 12, 2002 -- "Reign of Fire" is rousing fantasy adventure tale cloaked in the guise of science fiction. It is like the tales of old when brave knights slew fierce fire-breathing dragons with swords. The twist is this takes place in the future when dragons have nearly wiped mankind off the face of the earth. No matter when the dragons arrive, it still takes brave knights to dispatch them.

One of the last strongholds of civilization is a castle in England where a small group of people led by Quinn Abercromby (played by Christian Bale of "Captain Corelli's Mandolin") cower from the marauding dragons, barely surviving. Their hope is to outlive the dragons, who are rapidly exhausting their food supply. One day a column of tanks rolls up to the castle, led by the wild-looking Denton Van Zan (Matthew McConaughey of "The Wedding Planner"). Van Zan looks crazy and has a plan to kill the dragons which sounds crazier still. The plan calls for an assault on London itself, a dragon stronghold fiercely guarded by a giant of a dragon.

When the giant dragon attacks the castle, wiping out many of Quinn's defenders, he decides to try Van Zan's crazy plan. Three lone warriors set forth to do battle in the biggest dragon lair in the world, Quinn, Van San and copter pilot Alex (Izabella Scorupco of "Vertical Limit"). This testosterone-laden tale takes no prisoners. It is full of firey action. The special effects are great. The dragons look real and menacing. The set and production design have a look of gritty realism. The two main characters, Quinn and Van San are well-defined. Speaking of well-defined, McConaughey looks like he's on steroids. Where's that mild mannered guy who was the romantic lead in "Contact?" He looks mean and tough enough with the shaved head, tattoos and muscles, to dismantle Rambo. Christian Bale plays the reluctant hero convincingly. He doesn't want to be a dragon slayer. He just wants the dragons to leave him alone, but the dragons can only push him so far.

The look of the film is impressive with its bombed out London and its scorched earth. There's also a good scene where a couple of men act out a scene from "The Empire Strikes Back" for an audience of children. Myths and stories for a new age. It gives the impression that the old world we know has faded almost irretrievably. It is also a bit solipsistic on the part of Hollywood to include that little skit. There is at least one dead end in the film that looks like it once went somewhere. It happens when Quinn removes something that looks like an egg from the dragon. We'll have to wait and see if there is a scene that goes with this when the DVD comes out. It may have something to do with why Quinn is ultimately convinced to follow Van San's plan. This is a part of the plot that is glossed over a bit in the film.

The action leading up to the climax works pretty well, but the climax itself seems a bit abrupt. I felt a little short-changed by the final battle scene. It should have lasted a little longer and built to a more dramatic climax. Other than that, this is a perfectly good summer action popcorn film with plenty of action and some good eye candy to boot. This film rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2002 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)