Monday, May 12, 2014

Blockbusted Blogathon - 'Reign of Fire'

In honor of the release of the new 'Godzilla' film this Friday, Katy at "Girl Meets Cinema" is hosting the "Blockbusted Blogathon." Katy's blogathon is all about B-Movies awareness. 1.) Choose a super cheesy blockbuster b-rated movie, 2.) Include pictures of your selection and the reasons you love that particular movie, and 3.) Include one of Katy's blogathon logos in your sidebar. There is still time for you to enter. Deadline is May 24th!


REIGN OF FIRE
Director ROB BOWMAN
Starring MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY, CHRISTIAN BALE, 
IZABELLA SCORUPCO, and GERARD BUTLER
Written by GREGG CHABOT, KEVIN PETERKA, and MATT GREENBERG


My choice for the blogathon is 'Reign of Fire' from 2002, starring Matthew McConaughey and Christian Bale. This is one of those movies that's so bad it's good. It makes little to no sense, there are multiple plot holes, and Roger Ebert said he "couldn't believe this movie was even made." But this movie is just so much fun to watch, primarily because of a shirtless Matthew McConaughey. 2002 was the height of my McConaughey obsession. McConaughey was on the verge of becoming quite popular, so it's no surprise that McConaughey's best years were yet to come.

The film starts with a young Quinn visiting his mother at her job as an engineer in the London tunnels. When the workman hit a void, a curious Quinn explores it. In the void Quinn comes face to face with a waking dragon who nearly blinds him. Quinn's mother (Alice Krige of 'Star Trek: First Contact') dies protecting him as the dragon surfaces.


The background story of the dragons is kinda ridiculous. Ancient man turned dragons into myths, when they were anything but. Somehow unbeknownst to man, dragons have lived beneath the earth in a self-induced slumber waiting to rise again? They live on ash, which means they have to burn the world to eat. This of course doesn't work well for humans or any living creature for that matter. The dragons supposedly wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago by burning them and causing the sky to fill with ash. I guess that asteroid strike didn't amount to much then?

Supposedly their life cycle is such that they burn the world, spawn far beyond the resources available to them, and when it becomes unsustainable they go into a deep sleep. What makes no sense is how civilization managed to survive throughout the ages (i.e. caveman or medieval times), even when dragons occasionally appeared, but now with all of the modern tools at our disposal, we are unable to deal with dragons.

This is why it's better not to think about the movie, lest your head hurt. What I liked about the movie is that the dragons are dangerous and genuinely scary. The film has some creepy bits throughout. They are not the cuddly creatures of 'Eragon' or 'How to Train Your Dragon.'


Little Quinn grows up and becomes 'muscley' Christian Bale. Now Quinn is in charge of a castle full of frightened and desperate people. I remember seeing an interview with Bale about 'Reign of Fire,' in which Bale said that he originally wanted to lose a bunch of weight, similar to what he did for 'The Machinist.' Bale figured (rightfully so) that these people were on the edge of starvation, so his character would not likely be well muscled and glistening. However, when Bale heard that McConaughey was actually bulking up for his role, Bale decided to do the same. The two men seemed to have a healthy competition on set.


Quinn and his wingman, Creedy, (Gerard Butler) continue business as usual. In their world the dragons are in charge. The humans hide in hovels barely eeking by. The movie immediately gets more interesting when Van Zan (Matthew McConaughey) arrives, along with surviving members of the American National Guard. Van Zan "requests" that Quinn and his people give them shelter for the next day or so. Van Zan's request is more of a demand, as he calmly lets Quinn know that if he wanted to, he could come through the castle door with or without Quinn's permission. Van Zan also challenges Quinn's thinking by telling him that the dragons won't be in charge for long. Van Zan's approach to survival is much different than Quinn's. Whereas Quinn is static, Van Zan is dynamic. But it's easy to be dynamic when you don't have children in your care and Quinn has a castle full of orphaned children.

Despite Van Zan's veiled threats, Van Zan is such a charismatic character that he manages to charm Quinn by telling him a story about how he killed his first dragon in his hometown of Coffeyville, Kansas. Van Zan's sincerity gains Quinn's trust, but Creedy thinks the Americans are likely marauders. He describes Van Zan as a rogue marine. The type of men who killed plenty of dragons in their day, but also took most of the world with them. The introduction of Van Zan and his "Kentucky Irregulars" breathes some much needed life into the dreary film. It also helps that Van Zan is the most complex character in the film, which isn't saying much because the rest of the characters are pretty boring. McConaughey has the best lines in the film, particularly in his initial scene with Bale.


Likewise, the arrival of Van Zan's second in command, Alex Jensen (Izabella Scorupco), along with her archangels, is a bright spot in the film (one of the few). Quinn and Creedy are shocked when she describes her archangels as "bulla men." Quinn explains to Creedy that bulla men were gladiators who used nets to ensnare other men. Alex corrects them, "not men, dragons." As their lives are always in peril, Alex jokes that archangels don't tend to have long lifespans, although Gideon (Terence Maynard) is an eight-year veteran. It's here that Quinn starts to become suspicious of the people he's just allowed in.


No sooner than Van Zan and his crew arrive, then a dragon makes an unexpected house call. Admittedly this was a touch predictable. This scene gives Van Zan and company a chance to prove to the skeptical castle dwellers that they are who they say they are, dragon slayers. Van Zan has an 'Apocalypse Now'-like scene when the helicopter flies over him as he watches on, before making a running jump onto a truck. Yes, Van Zan is a bad mamajama.

Van Zan is the ultimate alpha male military man, who inspires absolute loyalty in his men. He is wholeheartedly dedicated to killing dragons, to his own detriment and the detriment of his men. If the dragons are Moby Dick, he is Ahab. He believes in what he's doing and is willing to go to extraordinary lengths to complete his mission. Alex describes Van Zan by saying, "he doesn't feel things. That's the only way he can do what he does." Thankfully Van Zan breaks the stereotype a couple of times when he openly weeps for his men and later admits that he was wrong.


Alas, these experienced dragon killers mysteriously have a hard time bringing down one measly dragon when they've already brought down over 200. Predictably, when one of their soldiers gets taken by the dragon, Quinn has to step in to assist. The most exciting scene in the film is when Alex and the archangels ascend to the heavens to battle the dragon. The archangels literally jump out of the helicopter, using one archangel as bait, while the other two archangels shoot nets to ensnare the dragon's wings. Then Van Zan orders Quinn to ride his horse as bait, luring the dragon to his harpoon-like weapon. There's another Moby Dick reference for you.


After the dragon is killed, the castle dwellers have a celebration with Jimmy Hendrix's "Fire" blaring in the background. These people have never killed a dragon before and they haven't been able to watch football (or soccer in the U.S.A) for a long time! So why wouldn't they celebrate the killing of a dragon? In one of Van Zan's more complex scenes, Van Zan walks in on the celebration with tears in his eyes. He's lost three of his men and he doesn't believe there's anything to celebrate about. It's at this point that Quinn has had just about enough of Van Zan. He confronts Van Zan about his true purpose there.

Van Zan tells Quinn the reason they are really there is to kill the papa dragon--the father of all dragons, the big bull. Evidently these dragons are like fish. The females spawn the eggs and one male fertilizes them. Never mind that the dragons have spread to other countries across the world. Clearly papa dragon gets around. I've heard of harems, but this dragon takes the cake. If it wasn't already there, this is when the film descends into utter ridiculousness. What species could have survived for millions of years whilst having only one male to propagate the species? That species would have gone extinct a long time ago.


Van Zan wants to go to London to kill the beast and restore the human race to its rightful place. Quinn's mother died in London, so he's not going back there. He also warns Van Zan that the papa dragon is particularly vicious. Men from Pembury went to London and never returned. Then it backtracked them to their castle and completely destroyed it. Quinn is concerned about history repeating itself. Van Zan reminds Quinn that he's holding on to a world of ash. In order to restore it they need to act.


When Van Zan tries to recruit some of Quinn's able bodied men to go to London, an inevitable fight ensues. I read somewhere that this scene really did get a little heated (in good fun) between McConaughey and Bale. Bale said in an interview that McConaughey actually ended up head butting him and in response Bale threw some real punches at McConaughey. So some of the blood on their faces was actually quite real. Bale seemed to think it was all good fun, which confuses me. I've never thought of someone head butting me as fun. Sidenote: I love how men can throw a few punches and get over it. The scene is worth it if only to see a muscle bound tattooed McConaughey. Needless to say, Van Zan is a trained killer. He makes an easy meal of Quinn.


Van Zan and crew make their way to London, but they don't make it. All of his soldiers, save Alex, die in fiery flames. Van Zan alone seems to have survived. The dragon then returns to the castle and kills 65 more people, just as Quinn said it would. What Van Zan does here breaks the alpha male stereotype. Van Zan and Alex help Quinn and others escape their bunker and Van Zan admits that he was wrong. He asks Quinn to lead them so that he can follow.

They seem to get along great after throwing a couple of real punches.
The three of them (Quinn, Alex, and Van Zan) travel to London to do what no one else in the world can, take on the dragon. They go to an area infested with dragons to take on papa dragon. Their only arsenal is a few explosive arrows. I somehow doubt three people with a couple of explosive arrows could save humanity against an army of dragons, but just go with it. This film descended into absurdity long ago. If this was humanity's only hope then we would be doomed.

One of the best (and most ludicrous) scenes in the film is Van Zan's death scene. Van Zan and Quinn use Alex as bait, as Van Zan readies an explosive tipped arrow. For some reason Van Zan thought it was a good idea to climb a tower and take on the dragon mono y mono. To his credit he did injure the dragon and he "died with his boots on." Van Zan goes out the way he lived, in a blaze of glory. It soon becomes apparent that Van Zan never intended to make it out of London alive. When all hope is gone, Van Zan literally takes on the massive dragon with his bare hands and a freaking ax. Van Zan was truly a man's man.

2002 was a few years before the Hollywood sequel machine lost its mind and decided to turn crappy movies into even crappier sequels. So 'Reign of Fire' was spared a sequel...thankfully. Had this film been made a few years later, I have no doubt Van Zan would have somehow "survived" his scrape with the dragon and rode the dragon down to the ground.

Despite the insanity of the scene, IT IS AWESOME. How in the world did he jump that far? Did he have a trampoline or something? Did he really think his little ax could kill the dragon? See the giffy below. Enjoy.
 photo 1Njgt1j-1.gif

Anywhoo, Alex and Quinn carry on to miraculously defeat the dragon. The end. This is perhaps one of the cheesiest, silliest movies, I've ever seen, but I LOVE IT. It has all the essentials for a great movie dragons and shirtless hot men. This is one of those movies that reiterates just how good of an actor McConaughey is, particularly if he could make this role work. Prior to his recent Oscar win, he was one of the most underrated actors out there. I'm glad he's finally getting the recognition that he deserves.


24 comments:

  1. It's been a while since I've seen it but I do need to see it again.

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    1. Hi Francis! Yes, I love this movie. It's so much fun to watch. I just rewatched it so I could write this post.

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  2. Hey, plot holes or not, I really dug this film!
    I'd heard Bale continued trying to pump up after seeing McConaughey. Dude was CUT.

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    1. They both were! Yes, they looked great.

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  3. Oh man, It's been a long time since I've seen Reign of Fire. I need to revisit this. Great post!

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    1. Hi Brittani-- Thanks. Yes, this is such a fun movie to watch!

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  4. This movie took dragons to a whole new level and is the most realistic depiction of dragons I've ever seen. It's testosterone filled and brash, but excellent. One of McConaughey's great unsung roles.

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    1. Hi Maurice! Yes, I agree. I love this movie. "Testosterone filled and brash" is a great description!

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  5. Love this post and that gif of the death scene ^^ It's been years since I saw this movie, I really need to rewatch it sometime. I remember dragon CGI to be fairly good.

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    1. Sati-- Thank you! Yes, this movie has my 2 favorite things, McConaughey and dragons. The cgi was actually pretty good for its time. 2002 was still an iffy year for cgi.

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  6. This was a great popcorn flick. I need to see it again it has been too long.
    I can see why all the women swoon to Matthew McConaughey and Christian Bale.

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    1. David, I agree. This is popcorn flick. That's a perfect description! I prefer McConaughey over Bale personally, but Bale was good in this movie too.

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  7. Thank you Mariah! This was such a great contribution to my blogathon.
    Even though this has some of my favorite actors, I've only seen bits and pieces of Reign of Fire for when my sister puts it on. Next time, I'll definitely watch the whole thing. :)

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    1. I was glad to! Thanks. Yes, it's a great "cheesy" movie. I love it.

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  8. Definitely need to see this one. Dragons and shirtless men with smoking abs....what rock have I been hiding under?!?!?!

    Check out my picks for the blogathon. http://www.tanyamiranda.com/2014/05/spoofs-for-b-movie-blogathon.html

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    1. Thanks for your comment. Yes, dragons and hot men are essential! I'll check out yours right now.

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  9. Got this on disc. It's awesome. Re-enacting Star Wars was classic.

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    1. Oh I forgot about that scene! I was watching it on cable the other day and I think they cut that scene out.

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  10. I should rewatch this one again, interesting how most of the actors are so famous now. I remember the funniest line from Creedy, "What's worse than dragons? Americans!" :D

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    1. That was a great line! Yes, it's one of my favorite movies. I know it's cheesy, but I love it.

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  11. Always been a fan of this one. Also a fun one for spotters of Alexander Siddig!

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    1. Yes, I remember seeing Alexander Sidding from that movie! I always enjoy seeing him.

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  12. I love this movie: the dragons were absolutely realistic: yeah some plot holes but great tension between McConaughey and Bale! I dig how he took in the orphan as his son and protected the kids and ultimately defeat the huge male dragon mono E mono with a crossbow and a explosive arrow: King Arthur style!
    The plot comes Full Circle from Quinn (Bale) being the first to see the Male dragon and killing his mom to the revenge and his confrontation to enabled the ending of the Dragons Rein!
    I also like the subtle love interest between the helicopter pilot and Bale.
    Who knows maybe some pterodactyl survived in some isolated parts of the world: an ancient dinosaur serpent as the Loch Ness monster and other possible survivors of the dinosaur age: dinosaurs were real monsters that ruled the world for millions of years! ! It's really a picture of good versus evil and the human race surviving Armageddon because of the courage of a few!
    Always a great story to support the faith and survival of humankind!

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    1. Hi Rick, thanks for your comment. I love your in-depth analysis of this film. It's one of my favorite creature features. It's such a fun movie to watch for all the reasons you mentioned!

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