Toon Talk: Reign of Fire
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Disney Film & Video Reviews by Kirby C. Holt
Reign of Fire
The Truculent Dragon
The year is 2020 A.D., and nuclear Armageddon has reduced our Earth to ruins. But the catalyst for this apocalypse is not an international war, but something out of the fables and fairy tales of yore: dragons. Not myth, but in fact reality, the fire-breathing, sinewy-winged behemoths have reawakened to lay waist once again to the planet they once ruled, in a Reign of Fire, eons ago.
Small groups of human survivors hide in the scattered ruins of civilization, always keeping an eye to the skies for the ravenous predators. In a remote castle in the English countryside, one of these bastions staves off starvation under the leadership of Quinn Abercrombie (a buffed-up and bearded Christian Bale), who as a child witnessed the death of his mother upon the escape of the first creature from the bowels of London.
Struggling to survive, Quinns camp is unexpectedly visited by a group of American soldiers, led by the self-proclaimed dragon slayer Denton Van Zan (Matthew McConaughey, a Kentucky-fried, bald and tattooed hybrid of Robert Duvalls Lt. Col. Kilgore in Apocalypse Now and Vin Diesels Riddick in Pitch Black), offering to help rid them of the local dragon that keeps them away from their precious food supplies. Cautiously agreeing, Quinn and Van Zan form an uneasy alliance, complicated further by the presence of Van Zans alluring helicopter pilot Alex (Izabella Scorupco).
A promising premise for a fantasy adventure film, Reign of Fire is hampered by production values not quite up to par with the aspirations of the story. All to often, the bleak landscapes and fuzzy computer animation fail to engage the viewer, and there is an overall unfocused scope to the film. Former television director Rob Bowman (Star Trek: The Next Generation, Quantum Leap, The X-Files) shows some flair with the action scenes (notably, an aerial dogfight between the dragon and a trio of skydivers as they plummet towards the ground), but, like his feature film debut, the 1998 X-Files movie, tends to let the plot-heavy sequences lumber on under their own weightiness.
Rising above the cumbersome script by Greg Chabot, Kevin Peterka and Matt Greenberg, Bales and McConaughey manage to inject the right amounts of testosterone-fueled angst into their performances. Bales especially inhabits his character thoroughly, with all the guilt of his past and pathos of his present apparent in every pained gaze and force-of-will act of heroism.
Bales, from his stunning debut as they young Jim in Steven Spielbergs Empire of the Sun to his brave, searing portrayal of serial killer Patrick Bateman in American Psycho (an Oscar-worthy role if I ever saw one), has always skimmed just under the surface of the superstardom his talent deserves. Of late, hes been relegated to supporting roles in such mindless pap as Shaft and Captain Corellis Mandolin, with that ever-elusive lead role in an A-list picture just out of his grasp.
Alas, with its murky storytelling and zipless direction, Reign of Fire is not it.
Toon Talk Rating: C
Toon Talk Trivia:
- Matthew McConaughey made his film debut in Touchstones My Boyfriends Back, and also appeared in Angels in the Outfield.
- Christian Bale is best known to Disney fans as Jack Kelly in Newsies and the voice of Thomas in Pocahontas.
- Trekkie Alert: Keep an eye out for Star Trek alumni Alice Krige (First Contacts Borg Queen) as Quinns mother and Alexander Siddig (Deep Space Nines Dr. Bashir) as Ajay the radio operator.
Theres nothing magical about it -- McConaugheys Van Zan.
Coming Soon in Toon Talk:
- Basil of Baker Street makes his DVD debut in the special edition of The Great Mouse Detective, available July 23rd.
- Mr. and Mrs. Ape-man return in the new direct-to-video feature Tarzan and Jane, also available July 23rd.
- Join Zeke and Zeb and Ted and Fred and a bear named Tennessee in the big screen version of The Country Bears, opening July 26th.
-- Kirby C. Holt
Kirby, a former Walt Disney World Resort Cast Member (and Trivia Champ), is a lifelong Disney fan and film buff. He is also an avid list maker and chronic ellipsis user ...
Took Talk: Disney Film & Video Reviews by Kirby C. Holt is posted whenever there's something new to review.
The opinions expressed by our Kirby C. Holt, and all of our columnists, do not necessarily represent the feelings of LaughingPlace.com or any of its employees or advertisers. All speculation and rumors about the future plans of the Walt Disney Company are just that - speculation and rumors - and should be treated as such.
-- Posted July 15 2002