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'Reign of Fire'

'Reign of Fire' burns hot and cold

Friday, July 12, 2002

By Barbara Vancheri, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

As if the world didn't have enough to worry about.

 
 
Reign Of Fire

RATING: PG-13 for intense action violence

STARRING: Christian Bale, Matthew McConaughey

DIRECTOR: Rob Bowman

WEB SITE: bventertainment.go.com/
reignoffire

CRITIC'S CALL:

   
 

Along comes "Reign of Fire," featuring flying, fire-breathing, ferocious dragons, unleashed from London's underground. Before you know it, they have laid waste to much of the globe, leaving cities in fiery ruins, prompting Time magazine to ask "The End?" and forcing survivors into castles where the few adults entertain the orphans by re-enacting the "Luke, I am your father" scene from one of the "Star Wars" adventures.

Presiding over this ragtag community is Quinn (Christian Bale), whose mother was a project engineer on a railway tunnel in the heart of London. When a worker drilling into the earth "hit some kind of void," which young Quinn then entered, the dragons were awakened and set loose. Quinn's mother died trying to flee to the surface with her son, then 12. The action quickly shifts to 2020, and how Quinn managed in the intervening years is anyone's guess.

While Quinn, his sarcastic pal Creedy (Gerard Butler) and the others fight a losing battle against the creatures, along comes an American named Van Zan (Matthew McConaughey, with majestic muscles, tattoos, shaved head and crazy glint in his eyes). He arrives with stories about slaying dragons in America, along with some cowboy colleagues who leap out of choppers to serve as human bait for the beasts.

Van Zan tries a little HRT or he-man replacement therapy, as he attempts to displace Quinn as leader of the pack. They pummel each other before joining forces to battle their common enemy. Along for the ride is a comely chopper pilot named Alex (Izabella Scorupco).

"Reign of Fire," directed by Rob Bowman ("The X-Files" movie), creates a world that is dark, smoky and unrelentingly gloomy. More thought seems to have gone into the dragons, which forbiddingly glide through the skies and spit out two chemicals which ignite in the air, than the human stars. Quinn, a nearly sainted figure when it comes to his young charges, is the only character you care about -- sort of. Van Zan, with a cigar often clamped in his teeth, is a muscled caricature with a barely there backstory.

And after sitting through the preliminaries, the final beastly bout is a letdown. In movies such as this, you have to root for the underdogs or be terrified by the creatures. Despite some excellent effects and a dash of humor, this fails on both counts. The future of the world may be at stake, but I kept thinking, "Who cares?"

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