You might not remember it because it came out the same year as another high profile fantasy film, Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.
Christian Bale, 3 movies removed from American Psycho and 3 movies before Batman Begins.
Matthew McConaughey, stuck doing rom-coms, one film from The Wedding Planner and one film from How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days.
And Alexander Siddig, fresh off his run on Star Trek: Deep Space 9 and a few years before his lead in Kindom of Heaven.
One thing it is notable for, besides the cast, is that it is widely considered the first film to get the visual effects right for large-scale creatures.
Dragonheart's sfx were considered groundbreaking at the time, but they hardly are the model for realistic dragons nowadays.
Reign of Fire took dragon effects to the next level.
The first scene is him walking through a deserted public square, surrounded by a bunch of pigeons flying around him in slow motion.
He arrives on site, goes down to where the diggers have just come upon a void in the rock underneath London.
Apparently Britain did not have workplace safety rules back in 2002.
Of course, boys being boys, Quinn decides to crawl in.
Just then he's startled by a small fire that forms out of nowhere on the floor next to him.
The boy notices flames seeming to drip down from above.
Then the head of a dragon appears and spits goo on his face.
Seriously. It just spits this clear liquid on him.
The boy runs out of the cave and back to his mother.
His mother looks at him. The boy's eyes are dark red.
One of the diggers attempts to light a cigarette. A gust of...wind?...blows out his match.
Nope not wind. Dragon breath.
Quinn and his mother see the flames and immediately head for the elevator to escape. They get most of the way up before the dragon crawls up after them.
Quinn and his mother scream. The dragon peers into the elevator cab before continuing his climb out.
A bunch of jumpy cuts and we see the cab is partially crushed from the dragon squeezing past it.
Cut to a grown up Quinn providing a voiceover for a letter he's writing, presumably to anyone left alive after he dies:
Obviously, in this movie and many others, dragons are an allegory for nuclear weapons.
So @NuclearAnthro you still wanna hate on this film?
The man is unconvinced, saying there isn't going to be a next year's harvest.
The man has already lost his wife and two children. He is determined not to let his three remaining kids starve.
Bale takes the keys out of the truck.
That kinda makes sense.
How they have electricity and running vehicles 18 years after dragons decimated the world makes significantly less sense.
No, vehicles won't be able to run almost two decades after the last gas stations were around. Even if they scrounged for gasoline the gas itself would have gone bad in a few years, if not months.
The guy seems to accept that he's not going to be able to leave, but looks up at someone standing watch in a tower. The two share a look.
Afoot, a plot seems to be.
It's Butler and Bale putting on a live reenactment of Star Wars for the 20 or so children who live in the castle.
It truly is a wonderful scene.
"Keep one eye on the sky."
"What do we do when we sleep?"
"Keep one eye on the sky."
"What do we do when we see them?"
"Dig hard. Dig deep. Run for shelter and never look back."
One of the children tells Quinn the dude left.
A second later a dragon appears. He roasts one of the guy's sons and a large portion of plants.
The family is trapped, flames all around them. The father doesn't know what to do.
He opens his mouth wide and it's here we get our first real good look at the dragons and how their physiology works.
These are dragons that have been fighting humans for 20 years.
Anyway, the other two trucks back out and managed to escape. As they're heading away they see the dragon walking around the burned tomato field.
It makes no attempt to chase after them.
Maybe it's because the dragon already ate one dude and he was full. I'm not sure why supposedly starving dragons would just let potential food escape like that.
Cut to Alexander Siddig's character, who mans an old CB radio, listening for anyone. He hears someone for the first time in years.
The alarm is sounded. The children are sent away. Bale reaches for his gun and goes to get ammunition.
In fact, most of the weapons they do have in the castle are hunting rifles.
They're not armed for battle. Maybe a handful of men live inside the castle who could fight. The rest are women and children.
McConehey plays a character named Van Zandt. He asks who's in charge. Quinn goes down to meet with him.
He said he and his men flew from America to Britian, lost 122 men and is looking for a place to hold up for a day before moving on.
Quinn doesn't trust him.
"Don't be stupid," Van Zandt says. "We can do this easy, or we can do this real easy."
Probably the best line in the film.
Quinn starts to believe this guy might be the dragon slayer he says he is.
The helicopter pilot steps out, she's introduced as "US Cavalry" and she's not wearing one of their stupid hats, so points for that.
She's basically a poor woman's Charleze Theron.
She also speaks with such a noticeable Polish accent it's almost distracting, and I never pay attention of accents.
Then the alarm sounds. Another dragon has appeared.
Van Zandt has his men kit up and head out to kill it.
How they go about hunting dragons is very cool.
The first two get set up right away.
In the air the helicopter is climbing to 50,000 feet and gets set upon by the dragon. The archangels jump out. Quinn realizes they won't be able to see the dragon unless they get the verticle up.
Quinn sets it up and they have a 3D field of view.
The dragon then attacks the dudes who jumped, chasing after the one who jumped out first.
Then we see the nets fly past the two rear jumpers.
The camera pans back to the dragon, who slows down and pulls back.
The jumper looks forward again, just in time to see the ground.
Van Zandt then gets in the radio & tells Quinn to ride his horse into a quarry as bait, bringing it to him.
Quinn ducks and the harpoon strikes the dragon in the chest. It lets out one final blast of fire that Van Zandt dodges before it crashes to the ground, dead.
Van Zandt and his men walk in and shut that shit right down.
McConehey's speech is pretty good:
"I say pity the country that needs them. What are you celebrating, one dragon down, three men dead? Oh yeah, at that rate we might be getting somewhere in 320 years."
Later we see Quinn riding his horse through their makeshift graveyard as Van Zandt watches the burning of his men's bodies.
The two men approach each other.
"You're standing on ground where I've buried hundreds. What are you doing here?"
"I lead. You follow."
Van Zandt is getting ready to usurp Quinn.
There is only one male dragon.
Quinn says he thinks he knows where the male is - London - right where he first saw them as a child.
Van Zandt wants to take Quinn and some of his men and go hunt it. Quinn disagrees.
Quinn doesn't want to put his men in danger.
Van Zandt insists. Quinn says she made a mistake letting them inside. He tells Van Zandt to leave.
Just then Alexander Siddig comes in shouting for Quinn about Van Zandt. He's outside recruiting volunteers to go to London.
Quinn comes running out. He's screaming. He and Van Zandt start fighting. Quinn gets his ass kicked.
McDowell's Charleze Theron walks over to Quinn and gives him a bottle of iodine for his cuts.
She leaves in the helicopter to provide overwatch for the convoy as it heads out.
The convoy stops as the road is blocked off by debris. Van Zandt tells Toasted Oats Charleze Theron to circle back and find them a way around.
It's the male dragon.
It swoops over them a few times before it mounts a frontal assault. Van Zandt narrowly missed getting roasted as he dives under the tank.
Over the radio, Alexander Siddig hears Kroger brand Charleze Theron radio for Van Zadt, with no reply.
He then looks up and his face glows orange.
Inside the castle children are screaming, flames are everywhere. Gerard Butler is trying to get as many kids as possible down into the shelter.
The male dragon stands over the castle, flies off and seemingly away.
Quinn rushes inside.
A child screams from upstairs, Quinn goes after her.
In a tiny, but great scene, Quinn asks her gently twice to let go. She's still clinging. He then screams at her "LET GO!" and she does. He carries both kids down.
Debris piles up and everyone in the shelter is trapped as the dragon continues its assault.
He starts to recite the prayer from earlier in the movie, but can't finish it.
A random woman steps in to help. The kids calm down.
Outside is Van Zandt and Veggie Omelette MRE Charleze Theron. They've come back!
"Look on the bright side, not we've got him outnumbered three to one."
Guardians of the Galaxy this movie is not.
They find a hiding spot and formulate a plan. Quinn will take the West wall, Van Zandt the north and Military Special Charleze Theron will stay put.
I mean, maybe it can't, but it was smart enough to track their convoy back to the castle. Does he not remember that? That was like five minutes ago.
The dragon swoops down and almost hits Quinn with its tail, but he manages to avoid it and make it to the wall.
He fires. The dragon breaths fire and the arrow explodes.
He and Trump University Charleze Theron live happily ever after.
The writing was okay. The dialogue was okay.
It's really a film driven by a great premise and great actors, even if so wouldn't consider any performance here to be the best any of them have done.
It's a dark movie, too. Its color pallet basically 800 different shades of gray. This works, though, as the dragons don't come across as fake.
But they are pretty damn good in this, McConehey especially. It's easy to see how he resurrected his career right after his run of bad rom coms.
Stay tuned for my next one later in the week. I'm not putting it up for a vote bc I already know what I'm going to review...