Reign of Fire – A Movie Review


Warning – Contains spoilers!  Beware.  Beware?  Beware.  Pull the string!  Pull the string!


The movie starts out in present day London.  A young boy walks through the construction site, seemingly known to most of the workers.  Does this young man work there, I wonder.  Haven’t Britain’s child labor laws improved since the days of Charles Dickens?  Maybe the Whigs control the House of Commons again.  Anyway, after the kid gets on the elevator, and goes deep underground into the tunnel they are building, we find that the kid’s mother works there, and he has come to see her.  In their conversation, we learn that the kid is named after Quinn the Eskimo, the subject of a Manfred Mann song loosely based on a Bob Dylan song with similar lyrics.  As Quinn chats with his mother, a worker approaches, saying that they have hit some sort of void with the boring machine (A good two word description for the whole movie).


The boy, his mother, and the worker walk to where the machine stopped.  They hand the boy a flashlight and send him into the hole.  That’s right, this ten year old boy is the first one to enter this mysterious cave that they’ve drilled into.  Their insurance underwriter would have a fit if they knew.  The worker then lights up a cigarette, which is a very dumb thing to do in this situation, as often underground pockets such as this are full of colorless, odorless, and explosive natural gas.  Of course next thing you know, everyone is running out of the tunnel, being chased by a HUGE fireball.  I was sitting there in the theatre, smug that I was correct that the cigarette had in fact ignited the natural gas pocket that they had just opened.  It turns out I was wrong, there was no natural gas. they had awaken a nest of computer animated fire-breathing dragons.


Fast Forward 20 years.


The dragons have managed to wipe out most of the human race.  This fact is conveyed to the audience through a series of fairly cliché scenes of various recognizable landmarks either engulfed in flames or lying in ruins.  In this “Road Warriors with Dragons” vision of the future, we find that Quinn, now in his twenties, is leading a band of survivors holed up in a medieval castle in what was the English countryside.  These survivors lead a day to day existence which consists of hiding from the dragons and reenacting much better movies than this for entertainment.  From here on out, the movie appears to be dimly lit, possibly with inexpensive Shoplites ™.


After we see these people toiling for a little while, Matthew McCanaughy shows up.  He is the first American we meet.  He is leading a small militia of men wearing camouflage and driving an assortment of tanks and humvees.  This is pretty much how Europe sees America anyway, so it didn’t surprise me to see Americans portrayed this way in a film which seems to be targeted to the European market.  You are probably wandering, (as did I), how did this backwoodsy American militia transport all this equipment to England?  Don’t worry, the movie explains this somehow.


Mr. McCanaughy’s character, Benton Harbor, has discovered something important about the dragons.  Something that you would think top scientists would have figured out before the dragons laid waste to most of the world.  It seems that they are all females.  He realized this when one of his men joked that most of the dragons seemed to be extra-fierce for about five days out of the month.  In a giant leap of broken logic, Benton (correctly) deduced that there must be exactly one male dragon in the whole world.  And thus everyone set out to find it and kill it.


How is it possible that these dragons could destroy most of civilization before anyone realized that they could be made extinct by simply finding and killing the only male?  Here’s my theory.  In the twenty-first century, when the dragons first started conquering England, President George W. Bush declares that the fire-breathing dragons, Iraq, Iran, and North Korea make up an axis of evil.  Bush retaliates on England’s behalf with a full-scale invasion of Iraq.  The rest of the world (except for England, which is largely a lifeless, smoldering rock off the coast of Europe by this time) expresses its outrage at America in the form of economic sanctions.  Eventually, the dragons reach America.  The U. S. military initially has some success in fighting the dragons.  Through examination of the killed dragons, the U.S. government realizes that they are in fact all females.  However, this information is deemed top secret because it would be beneficial to the rest of the world, which is now our sworn enemy because of the economic sanctions.  Since the male dragon resides in Europe, the Americans cannot get to it to kill it themselves, and are eventually overwhelmed by its offspring and defeated. 


This was a very dark movie full of underexposed scenes and plot holes.  Unlike Independence Day, this movie didn’t even pretend to have a scientific basis.  We never learn what the dragons eat, how they came to exist, or what their goals are.  The only good thing that can be said about this movie is that it did not have any product placement built into it at all, which is very unusual for a summer blockbuster type movie.