I remember seeing Reign of Fire in the cinema way back in 2002 and really enjoyed it. Watching it again on DVD, it’s still every bit as good as I remembered, if not better.
The film starts in 2008 with the discovery of a huge hibernating dragon during construction work in the London Underground. The dragon immediately incinerates the entire construction leaving 12-year-old Quinn Abercromby, who was visiting his mother, as the only survivor.
Soon, thousands of dragons have emerged and set about burning everything and breeding like monsters.
We then jump forward to 2020 where humanity is reduced to a few pockets of survivors, hunkering down and hoping to cling on until the dragons return to hibernation. I shall resist the temptation to make any comment about whether or not unstoppable flying flamethrowers really are the worst thing that could have happened in 2020 and quickly move on.
One such community of survivors is led by the now adult Quinn (played by Christian Bale), and living in a medieval castle in Northumberland. Life is hard, of course, but under Quinn’s leadership, the community is largely holding together and surviving as best they can.
That is, until a bunch of Americans turn up.
This militia is led my the wildly implausible Denton Van Zan (Matthew McConaughey) who has worked out how to kill the dragons. After a demonstration of his group’s dragon slaying prowess, Van Zan reveals his big plan to wipe out all of the dragons once and for all.
Quinn refuses to allow his community get involved on the, not unreasonable, basis that Van Zan’s plan is mad and liable to get everyone killed. But many of the community, inspired by the one dead dragon they have seen, decide to go join up with Van Zan.
Inevitably enough, Van Zan gets everyone killed and Quinn reluctantly agrees that now would be a good time to go and kill off the dragons.
Reading back through this synopsis, I am struck by how little sense the film made. But the film gets away with this because, while it may be nonsense, it really is spectacular nonsense.
More than anything, the film succeeds because of the dragons. For a twenty year old monster movie, the dragons are still incredibly effective and remarkably believable.
It helps, of course that we have Christian Bale and Matthew McConaughey in the lead roles. Both actors have enough charisma to carry on through the plot holes and inconsistencies without stumbling, and even make the conflict between their characters believable.
But the film is mainly about the dragons. And these are realised so well, and are so superbly malignant, that all else really can be forgiven.