Set, with chilling prescience, in post-2020, post-Covid, post-Brexit Britain, “Reign Of Fire” appropriately offers us a view of a country on the bare bones of its arse, cut off from the world and reduced to scraping a meagre subsistence from the repeatedly cremated soil of the Northumberland hills. But this is no wasteland ravaged by compromised politicians in hock to impassive hedge funds and oligarchs. No, this time destruction has come from the unearthing of slumbering Dragons beneath London’s latest tube line expansion.
In keeping with its Faragian dystopia, what remains of the UK population also find themselves obliged to accept the ‘assistance’ of a marauding band of American special forces who bring tanks and a helicopter in search of the ultimate prey: big papa dragon, who may be the key to ending the Dragon’s domination by giving the entire species a vasectomy (I’m guessing the writers of this movie had never heard of facultative parthenogenesis).
Director Rob Bowman, more known for his TV work than features, proves quite adept at moving to the bigger cinematic canvas and, despite the gloomy and ashen colour palette manages to craft some striking and impressive visuals to what is, for all intents and purposes, a SyFy Original movie with delusions of grandeur.
Not that it doesn’t have some foundation for those delusions given the remarkable cast assembled for this cash-in on the brief dragon movie renaissance of the turn of the millennium. Featuring up-and-coming stars such as Gerard Butler and Christian Bale plus a slightly down and slumming Matthew McConaughey, “Reign Of Fire” is also notable for being the other movie you’ve seen “GoldenEye”’s Isabella Scorupco in as well as featuring Alexander “Doctor Julian Bashir” Siddig and, briefly, the once-and-future Borg Queen herself Alice Krige.
Its main downfall, though, is in taking its tone from leading man Bale, resulting in an almost absurdly sombre take on a ludicrously high concept. Constantly in denial of its B-movie bona fides, “Reign Of Fire” remains too self-conscious to allow even the slightest bit of fun to creep in and when you’re dealing with a ragtag bunch of survivors who hunt dragons by jumping out of helicopters and attempting to snag them in a net during freefall and you can’t even have a little fun with it, something’s not right.
In keeping with its accidental 2020 foresight, the film ends with the survivors celebrating three months of Dragon free bliss only to receive a transmission from continental Europe offering assistance and support to rebuild a shattered country. Here’s hoping it’s as on the money with that particular prognostication as it was with the rest of the doomsaying.