Nicholas Goodchild

Historic and Pared Down

Reign Of Fire

21 February 2013 by Nicholas in Films

Reign Of Fire is a film starring Christian Bale, an under credited Gerard Butler and Matthew McConaughey as the token American star to make it more saleable overseas. It dates from before Butler or Bale were particularly bankable in their own rights and seems to be a relatively large budget British film.

The story is of a dystopian future where dragons have reasserted themselves as the dominant species on Earth following a largely ineffectual and not particularly evidenced nuclear holocaust to wipe them out. The settings and props don’t quite mesh with the scenario as relayed by dialogue and montages of newspaper cuttings. The great special effects on the dragons aside, the film looks and feels like it is struggling manfully with a restricted budget.

The story opens with the introduction of dragons and setting up them up as a distinct threat. It also ties nicely to the end, which is sensibly thematic but a little too convenient. It provides a concise introduction to the dragons, a demonstration of their awesome potential but also limitations and is a tense scene that gives the protagonist a back story. It’s very lean scripting.

The rest of the film is largely perfunctory. It’s a blockbuster, but doesn’t quite have a blockbuster’s budget. This limits the number of locations which means that the plot is rather sedate. it also means that there aren’t many action scenes to break up the necessary character moments, which doesn’t help to raise the stakes or create a sense of scale or imminent danger. Perhaps more imaginative directing or a different structure would have created a sense of foreboding and tension, but that arguably would have required a smaller cast and less broad characterisation. It’s a film whose ambitions often overreach its very logistics. Nothing is particularly badly done, but the film is limited in what it can actually achieve.

Bale has little to sink his teeth into but is good. Butler is a likeable presence but doesn’t really extend himself. McConaughey is wide eyed and staring and actually rather good. The characters don’t particularly interact in an interesting way but there is a nice scene early on about the demise of entertainment and the reassertion of the spoken word and small scale drama in its stead. There is very little that shows similar insight and most of the story is predictable and the ending oddly anti climatic (but then again, it had to be in order for a small group to achieve so much and within the constraints of the budget).

As a blockbuster, it’s a British film. As a British film, it’s missing a lot of intensity and character development but doesn’t grate or deal with a load of luvvies. What it really reminds me of is Event Horizon, although Event Horizon was obviously cheaper and worked within its remit much better.