Reign of Fire
An indulgent fantasy flick that checks all the right boxes.
Streaming on HBO | 2002 | PG-13 | 1h 42m
Genre: action, fantasy, dystopia, dragon apocalypse
Why I watched: I was browsing HBO the other night, and I could not believe my eyes when I saw the feature image displaying lil baby Christian Bale and Gerard Butler. I don't know why, but I was filled immediately with nostalgia. For what? I'm not sure. But my search for what to watch stopped immediately. My euphoria did not diminish as the movie progressed; instead it grew! I pressed play, and spent the next two hours in bliss and growing disbelief that I've spent the decade and a half since this movie came out not knowing it existed.
You should also watch: If you've assumed that Christian Bale's native accent is American, you're not alone. But he is, in fact, British. And it is totally weird—and delightful!—to hear him speak with a British accent in Reign of Fire. But if you're discombobulated by it, check out Terminator Salvation (2009) on Netflix to regain your equilibrium. It's actually quite good, and it features a post Batman Begins (2005) Christian Bale. To witness Matthew McConaughey's progress over the years, watch True Detective Season 1, Mud, or Dallas Buyers Club. All are superb.
Wowowow. The very existence of this movie delights me. I had never heard of it before I found it on HBO last week, and it's like the movie-verse sent me Reign of Fire because it knew this is the movie I need and that I want.
Get a hold of this: it's present-day London (the near future, back when this was filmed around 2000), and fire-breathing dragons have decimated the human race. All over the world, people have been driven into remote strong-holds, where they live in terror of the flying monsters. But never fear! Christian Bale, Gerard Butler, and Matthew McConaughey—all twenty years younger, and decidedly in their prime—are here! Er, I mean, Quinn Abercromby, Creedy, and Denton Van Zan are here. Quinn and Creedy are BFFs, and they're also the glue holding their band of humans together. Quinn, incidentally, was also the first person to see a dragon, back when his mother's team of miners accidentally freed it from its rocky hidey-hole deep underneath London at the turn of the century. All grown up now, Quinn and Creedy do adorably quirky things to entertain the children in their anti-dragon fortress (an old castle), like reenact scenes from Star Wars. (Of course the children think the men made the story up themselves—and the grimy, sweet, goatee'd BFFLs don't correct them. It's freakin' cute.)
Matthew McConaughey, on the other hand, is a dragon slayer hailing from the great state of Kentucky. Yep, you read that right. He's the commander of the Kentucky Irregulars, and he's on a mission. He wants to slay the dragon, the single male responsible for fly-over fertilization of all the lady dragons' eggs. In other words, slay the "bull," end the dragon race. And while it seems unlikely that this is possible, it also seems that if anybody could do it, Matthew McConaughey could. Especially the jacked, tattooed, bald, crazy-eyed version of him that appears in Reign of Fire. (For fun context, this movie came out between The Wedding Planner (2001) and How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003). Yep.)
Quinn and his band of survivors don't tend to hear from other people much, so when Van Zan (McConaughey) and his rough riders show up at the castle with tanks and helicopters in tow, the Brits are on high alert. The caravan approaching looks more like an invasion than reinforcements. But Van Zan is persuasive, and so is the helicopter flying overhead. Quinn thought the dragons had cleared the sky of all other flying things—until now. So the Irregulars bring hope, but unfortunately things turn bad quickly. The number of his own men dwindling, Van Zan turns to Quinn for help. Could he be the one to save humankind?
The movie was deemed a box office failure, but it won my heart completely, so I think we could say that it's actually a success. It may not be an especially good movie, but it is an especially enjoyable one.
So no, this isn't a complex, extensive writeup, because Reign of Fire is just not that kind of movie. Watch it. Enjoy it. Don't overthink it. Thank me later.
Happy streaming! Grace