Featuring some of the more visually stunning dragons ever put on film, Reign of Fire is a slight misfire as a movie, but a nice piece to sit back and fast forward through to see the action scenes. Reign does deliver on its promises, however briefly, although at times it’s fair to feel cheated.
A nearly unrecognizable Matthew McConaughey stars alongside Christian Bale in this dark, post-apocalyptic creature feature. Dragons have been discovered, tear apart the Earth, and here we are in 2020 with the last few survivors struggling to keep going against a constant onslaught of mythical creatures.
Audiences are cheated out of seeing the full-on destruction the wrath of dragons bring on the present day. Instead, the story is overlaid on the credits, filled with stock footage and newspaper clippings. Even a few brief shots of the dragons tearing into landmarks would have added greatly to the film.
Instead, the world is destroyed when the story kicks in. This new take on dragons brings new mythology to them, including their food source being ash, which manages to create a plot hole and close one. The chemical reaction they use to breathe fire is covered, but how the monsters are starving when there is obviously plenty of burnt Earth to go around is puzzling.
The human conflict and struggle serve as the basis for the story and are simply uninteresting. It’s not unique, fun, or engaging. The supposed rivalry between the two main characters never fully develops until a brief fist fight, and then all is forgiven to set up the finale.
Action scenes with the massive dragons are also short. Brief glimpses are not enough to fully appreciate the spectacular special effects which easily outrank all other movie dragons. The sight of the full-sized male beast against the decimated London backdrop is unforgettable, as is the final face-off between man and creature. It’s a shame these shots end so abruptly without creating the necessary tension.
Where Reign of Fire hits its mark it becomes the movie it should have been the whole way through. The dreary landscapes and depressing future offer nothing original, and the human characters are likewise standard fare. The dragons save what could have been a disaster, but there’s still not enough of them.
A razor sharp transfer greets Blu-ray fans immediately. Lush detail is constantly visible even though the grim, bleak tones the film is set in. Black levels are rich, creating wonderful contrast. Things do falter with extensive noise in the whites, and a heavy layer of grain to certain scenes. Some visible edge enhancement is also a distraction. When it’s working right, this is amongst the best the format can offer.
Disney delivers a flawless PCM mix to go along with the wonderful video. Bass is deep and heavy. The fire delivers on all counts. The surround use is fabulous, and creates a deep sense of dread when you can’t see the dragon, but hear it in every speaker as it circles. Debris loads each channel, while movement of vehicles is captured wonderfully in the early scenes.
Breathing Life Into the Terror is a blatantly promotional piece that begins the extras. It even starts by playing the full trailer, available elsewhere on the disc in HD. If You Can’t Take the Heat is the best feature, detailing the extensive use of pyrotechnics with loads of behind-the-scenes footage. It runs slightly over 15 minutes. Lastly, Conversations with Rob Bowman speaks with the director, detailing his influences and thoughts on the production for twelve minutes.
The fire-breathing concept introduced in the film isn’t that far off from reality. Two animals have a similar style, though they don’t breathe fire. Both the bombardier beetle and spitting cobra mix chemicals in their mouths to excrete a defensive mixture to ward off predators.