There are certain films that just bring people together. This one was an unlikely surprise. One cool Autumn evening, I sat in my childhood bedroom at my parent’s house watching the ultimate dystopian dragon movie: Reign of Fire. The first person to join me was my younger sister, Danielle. In some ways, Danielle and I have very similar tastes, but when it came to dragons, I wasn’t sure of her stance. She stood there momentarily, absorbing the visual story in front of her, and then sat down silently to continue watching. Not long after, my older sister, Dana, entered. Dana and I also share some similar tastes, but less so than Danielle and me. Dana loves cooking shows, comedies, and quirky RomCom films — none of which are my go-to entertainment choices. So, when she saw screeching dragons and giant tanks pummeling across a grayish, fiery landscape, she was skeptical. “What….is this?” she inquired, amused.
I explained the premise of the movie and said, “Just watch.” She did, and after a little while, she too became engrossed. Both sisters ended up watching the whole film and found it to be very entertaining. While I would like to believe my adoration of ridiculous sci-fi and action films had finally passed on to my sisters, the more probable answer for their intrigue was that the movie stars Christian Bale, Matthew McConaughey, and Gerard Butler.
Reign of Fire is the story of Quinn (Christian Bale) an English man holed up in an old castle, trying to protect the remaining human refugees after an apocalyptic influx of dragons destroyed the world. Quinn is a serious man. He is practical, intelligent, and a pseudo-adoptive father figure to many of the children in the small community. His character is reluctantly brave, but mostly afraid. As viewers, we sympathize with his fears because A.) I think we all can say with relative confidence that if we saw fire breathing dragons we’d probably poop ourselves and B.) we learn at the beginning of the film how the dragons first came to be and how they changed Quinn’s entire life.
It’s a classic tale of a single mother, working hard as a project engineer on a railway tunnel in London, who accidentally drills into an ancient dragon cave while her young son, Quinn, is down there with her. The inaugural dragon burns his way out, leaving Quinn as the sole survivor. Meanwhile, incredulous humans waste a bunch of time not believing the dragons are real. When they finally realize dragons are “a thing” and also happen to be multiplying, it’s too little too late for the feeble homosapiens.
Gerard Butler plays Creedy, Christian Bale’s BFF and fellow Dad-figure to the plethora of kiddies in the community. He and Quinn run a tight ship, making sure the castle is on lock down any time a dragon approaches. Some stuff happens – like the scene where the token idiot jeopardizes everyone’s safety by deciding he’s going to go pick some apples with his kids, even though Quinn told them it’s not safe. During this first half of the movie, we get a sense of what life is like for these people, but mostly, we get to watch Christian Bale sweaty and shirtless swinging a hammer…or an axe…I really don’t know which it was because I was too distracted by his glistening, bronzed chest.
But anywho, at some point, Denton Van Zan (ridiculous name) enters the scene. Van Zan is Matthew McConaughey’s character. He’s an American soldier with an elite team of dragon killers at his back. Van Zan embodies the quintessential American rogue – he’s abrasive, loud, overly aggressive, bullish, super judgey, and his intimidation is turned up to a solid 14. He’s constantly chewing on ¼ of a gnarly looking cigar and whipping his shiny, bald head around to stare down anyone who crosses him. Van Zan’s one redeeming quality is his sensitivity when he loses someone to the dragons.
So, Van Zan and his ragtag military team come barreling onto Quinn’s turf demanding sanctuary for the evening. Quinn initially tells them to piss off, but reconsiders after a riveting story from Van Zan about his mad dragon killing skills. According to Van Zan, he and his team just need a night of rest and refueling before heading on their way to kill more beasts, but Quinn quickly learns that he expects much more (It’s not sexual if that’s what you’re thinking!).
The two men are suspended in perpetual tension and dick measuring competitions as they attempt cohabitation. Both want to be the alpha, but Van Zan seems to conquer the pack nine times out of 10.
Inevitably, Quinn and Van Zan must learn to work together to have a chance at killing the dragons descending upon them. They realize the only way to TRULY get rid of their fiery adversary is to kill the king, the alpha dragon going around spreading his seed to all the ladies. It’s Alphaville (not the band) as the two men combine forces to do the impossible.
See this movie if you enjoy:
- Dragons terrorizing people
- Decent CGI
- Shirtless sweaty dudes
- Watching the world burn
- Dingy castles
- Skydivers plummeting to their deaths
- Too much testosterone
- Star Wars reenactments (you’ll see)