The F*ckin Black Sheep: Reign of Fire (2002)

THE BLACK SHEEP is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATH. We’re hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Dig in!

Reign of Fire (2002)
Directed by Rob Bowman

"A heck of an interesting take on the post-apocalyptic genre."  


I wanted to dive back into the very ashy world of REIGN OF FIRE for two reasons. 

1) GAME OF THRONES. Why? Because, you know, it’s the best show ever to feature dragons, nudity and wine. And it has returned. Simple.

2) For whatever reason, I’ve been revisiting random episodes of STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION and THE X-FILES on Netflix, and a name kept popping up that was a familiar one: Rob Bowman. The guy was like 27 and directing episodes of the new TREK series before moving onto THE X-FILES. He sure seemed like the next big deal with a dark, brooding, slick style that seemed perfect for Hollywood. Things didn’t really work (ELEKTRA killed that career), but that’s not to say he bombed (he’s now executive producer for CASTLE). 

In fact, after helming THE X-FILES feature, he took on REIGN OF FIRE, which I’ve always thought was a heck of an interesting take on the post-apocalyptic genre. 

Ok, ok, so REIGN OF FIRE isn’t THE ROAD WARRIOR. Heck, I’m not sure it can equal WATERWORLD. With that said REIGN OF FIRE could be one of the more unique and interesting entries into the subgenre…even if it never reached its potential. The only thing that really held back REIGN OF FIRE from being great is a script that wanted to be more than it was. Everything feels glossed over and hollow without the social commentary, something a really good post-apocalyptic film should have.

But overlook that stuff and turn off the brain, and REIGN OF FIRE is pretty badass. It has some fan-freakin-tastic action sequences, including the rescue of some dummies who thought they could survive out on their own, the whole helicopter/parachute sequence (which is thrilling), and of course the grand finale showdown with one big dragon.  

In case you missed this one, in the near future (2010…why don’t filmmakers go a little further in time?) dragons have returned from one long ass slumber underneath London to destroy the planet. They’re pissed, and they’ve burned everything, leaving humans scrambling to survive. A decade or so later, we meet a pre-Batman, but very angry Christian Bale who plays Quinn Abercromby, perhaps the most stuck up name for a post-apocalyptic movie (I had to look it up…the name carries a lot of Scottish survivor pride). Abercromby leads a group of desperate and starving survivors in a castle when a collection of American rogue soldiers (led by McConaughey) shows up. They claim to be dragon killers, and they need Abercromby and company whether they wanna help or not. Of course, a battle of wills ensues as they engage in an epic lackluster beard competition.  

What really makes REIGN OF FIRE worth watching is one Mr. Matthew McConaughey, who is in full Texan madman mode here. Only a few years after the world learned the dude could play a mean nude bongo drum, he actually seemed like a genuine nutcase which only enhances his performance as Denton Van Zan (now that’s a name). With a shaved head and plenty of tattoos, his performance oozes entertainment as a brash American asshole, chewing up scenery like a can of Skoal, and what’s not to like about that. The guy feels it is his destiny that he can eliminate the dragon problem no matter the consequence. Even though he crazy, McConaughey still shows he can act. Every time he loses a soldier, the pain is clear even if subtle. 

While McConaughey actually looks like he could kick some ass, the same isn’t as true for Bale. Look, I can’t knock Batman/Pat Bateman. The guy always brings a solid performance, but as the film’s hero he isn’t likeable or interesting. If the big backstory (in which as a kid he was the one who discovered the dragons and his mum died) is supposed to make his character super deep, it fails. No fault to Bale, but he’s a hollow character who seems more interesting thanks to unknown Gerard Butler. He doesn’t take off his shirt (sorry ladies), but he does play Bale’s best buddy who helps keep this shitty world of theirs on the light side. They share one of my favorite scenes, where they reenact Star Wars like Shakespeare. It’s pretty funny. 

REIGN OF FIRE also stars the undervalued Alexander Siddig (from DEEP SPACE NINE) as the communications guy and former Bond girl Izabella Scorupco (GOLDENEYE) as Alex, who follows madman Van Zan around but falls for angry Bale. Just thought I’d mention them. That’s all.

So pour a drink of that GAME OF THRONES beer and enjoy a world with a lot of dragons,  McConaughey and Bale. 





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