Reign of Fire

Category: Reign of Fire Reviews | Posted by: admin
Article Date: July 11, 2002 | Publication: Dark Horizons | Author: Alex Sandell
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Reign of Fire is the latest in a long line of monster movies that don't actually feature many scenes with monsters. Spielberg perfected this grand tradition in the mid-seventies with Jaws. It is a tradition that was born out of necessity, rather than creativity. Strangely enough, it works.

With the budget forcing the filmmakers to focus on creating clever ways to make the monster (in the case of Reign of Fire it's "monsters") scary without actually filming many scenes with the beastie, we are given a creature that comes to life through our own imaginations rather than big FX. The filmmakers can't get Lucas-Lazy™ by injecting yet another dose of CGI eye-candy whenever things start to slow down. Instead, they have to entertain through anticipation, expectation, and trepidation ... not computer generation.

Reign of Fire doesn't feature a complex or innovative story, but there is a story involved, and it isn't riddled with plot holes like a lot of the big popcorn pics of late. Pesky dragons wake up every so often and do their best to wipe out civilization, as we know it. The Europeans are being all European about the whole ordeal and are basically just letting what happens happen in hopes that it stops happening soon. Then, in comes George W., err, Van Zan (Matthew McConaughey), a gung-ho American who is determined to wipe them damn "evil-doer" dragons out. It turns out that dragons reproduce in that same boring intercourse-free way that fish seem to favor. The female dragon lays a bunch of eggs and the male comes along later and fertilizes them. So, if the male (for some reason there is only one male) is wiped out, the breeding stops and everything goes back to normal.

The film does lower itself to using CGI in a few spots. The effects aren't particularly good, either. Think the original Dragonheart and you'll be on the right track. Unlike Dragonheart, and so many other PC monster movies, lately, the dragons in this movie are scary and we need to slay them. There's no dragon walking around with Sean Connery's voice and half-baked one-liners. There's no cuddly baby dragon for a meager peasant to adopt. There's just a bunch of dragons burning the shit out of everything humans hold dear and a bunch of pissed off humans that want them to stop. It makes for a damn fun time, even if you have pretty much seen it all before.

In the days before Industrial Light & Magic went crazy and began ramming live-action cartoons down our throats, I may not have considered Reign of Fire to be the fun film that I currently do. But it is 2002, my standards have been lowered by years of trash, and I have a bad case of CGI fatigue. After being burned out by a computer Yoda, computer E.T. and computer Greedo shooting first, I automatically give bonus points to a film that relies on more than a mouse, a keyboard and 3D Studio Max to tell its story. Whenever I see sets, character development, semblances of a plot and other old-fashioned things in a popcorn movie, I get mega-nostalgic and enjoy the picture far more than it probably deserves to be enjoyed.

If CGI fatigue has beaten down your senses in the same way that it has nearly robbed me of mine (was Men in Black II a cruel practical joke?), or if you just like good, old-fashioned monster movies, this film is for you. I freely admit that Reign of Fire isn't a classic, but it isn't Attack of the Clones, either, and for that I will be forever grateful.

On a scale of 1-10?