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Reign of Fire ****
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Starring Matthew McConaughey, Christian Bale, Izabella Scorupco
Directed by Rob Bowman


     I have written some unpopular reviews, but few have made people shake their heads then my addition of "Reign of Fire" to my top ten list for 2002.  People can accept the other films on the list, but when they see "Reign of Fire" on there, they feel as though they must voice their disgust with the selection.  Okay, I'll acknowledhe that I am one of the few people who genuinely enjoyed this film, and I may be the only person to put it on a top ten list.  The film flopped, but it shouldn't have.  It has all the elements of the best summer bloickbuster fair, but it tacked on some fantastic post-apocalyptic/fantasy plot devices.
     Sure, watch the film expecting greatness and you, the ever dicerning viewer, may feel disappointed.  But, you shouldn't be, and here's why.  It's the best dragon movie ever.  If you think about all the dragon films of the past, this may still leave you scratching your head.  But the fantasy/dragon genre was always a misused one.  The mythical creature has always been left to be the nemesis of knights and brave peasants (unless you count "Pete's Dragon," and I'm not).  Bringing the creatures into the modern day would take a quality imagination and an innovative approach.
     Enter Rob Bowman, director of such films as the "X-Files" movie.  He brought a sci-fi sensibility to the film that it would be lost without.  To put in the dragons as the cause of the end of civilization is a nice touch.  A pinch of humor and a cup of special effects thrwon into the mix make a sweet treat.
     The action starts in the modern day with Quinn, a British kid, visiting his mom on the site of a dig where she works.  He walks off on his own and looks into a hole leading into a large cavern.  He wakes up a long slumbering dragon and soon the dragon is killing his mom and leading more dragons to feed on the ashes left from a burnt world.
     Then, the film jumps ahead to the future, where an adult Quinn (Christian Bale) leads a small band of survivors.  They wear rags and carry guns.  They live in a broken down castle.  They only want to survive the dragons, to avoid them and protect those among them.
     Then, a make-shift army led by Denton Van Zan (McConaughey) heads into "town" seeking shelter and supplies.  Van Zan promises that he has killed dragons before, starting with a chance encounter in the states, and can do it again.  Quinn is wary, but after he sees the forces in action, he sees hope, something absent from his life and the lives of everyone in his care for too long.
     As an action film, it's just average, offerring thrills, but no more than the other action blockbusters that Hollywood shells out in packs of 12.  Where the film excells and stands above others is in its vision of a post-apocalyptic world.  It is highly detailed and never fails to be believable.  The film boasts its own style, covering every shot in a gray hue that makes every shot all the more unique.  Few action films can capture the action with such expert visuals.
     McConaughey has garnered more laughs than acclaim for his performance, but he deserves better.  His Van Zan is a hard boiled hero and not much more, but it's the hero that few action films can deliver: a memorable one.
     Bale has been at the game since he played the lead in Steven Spielberg's "Empire of the Sun," and he may never match the performance of that film, but he has been quietly been turning in fine performances ever since.  He may be an actor of cool more than talent, but he is always entertaining and continues the trend as Quinn.
     With each viewing, I waver between a four-star and three and a half-star rating, but it remains the best of it's highly rare genre and a welcome addition to the more broad action genre.

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