When Quinn (Christian Bale) was a little boy, he witnessed the uncovering of a huge, hidden cave beneath London, which unfortunately contained a massive dragon. Now Quinn is a man, and a plague of dragons have ravaged the planet, bringing destruction to the cities and forcing the last surviving people to live in terror in the countryside. It looks as if there is no hope until one day, visitors arrive at Quinn's encampment - visitors from America... with big guns.
This unlikely fantasy was scripted by Gregg Chabot, Kevin Peterka and Matt Greenberg. It offers a land that has been blasted back into the Middle Ages by mythical creatures who breathe fire and pick off the remaining humans one by one. The tone is grim and earnest throughout, matched by the grey photography and convincingly ruined landscapes.
Quinn is a kind of medieval king, living in his castle stronghold and doing his best to harvest meagre crops for his people. There is a mix of old and new here, because he also has various vehicles, dragon protection suits and a radio. When Van Zan (Matthew McConaughey) turns up with his small army, the contrast between the impoverished Brits and American technological know-how is accentuated, leaving both groups to forge a special relationship, as it were, while they quarrel about how to beat the monsters.
Bale and McConaughey may not seem like the most obvious of action heroes, but by adopting gruff mannerisms and growing beards, they manage to win you over. I'm not a big fan of CGI, but the special effects here are excellent, with the dragons (who helpfully turn up one at a time) being particularly effective. Plentiful action sequences, such as the skydiving trap, help the story zip along at a fair old pace.
Reign of Fire may only have one idea, but the novelty is sustained throughout the running time. What it really needed was a sequence featuring an army of dragons facing an army of people, but they do well enough with the budget they have to turn in a good second division blockbuster with an original and carefully rendered post-apocalyptic world. But where did the survivors get the fuel and ammunition from? Watch for: the re-enactment of The Empire Strikes Back. Music by Ed Shearmur.
American TV director and producer who worked on Star Trek TNG and The X Files before directing the movie version of the latter. Followed it up with dragon adventure Reign of Fire and comic book spin-off Elektra.