I’m picky when it comes to fantasy movies. Very picky. I’m not a fan of LOTR or any of its seemingly endless derivatives. But while not perfect, I’ve always had a HUGE soft spot for Rob Bowman’s Reign of Fire, which sports a genre-popping screenplay by Gregg Chabot, Kevin Peterka, and Matthew Greenberg that had some fun with a wild premise. Extremely enjoyable on a blunt-force level, I still wish it had been rated-R, and it definitely needed more tanks, helicopters, and few more scenes with multiple dragons tearing shit up, as those AMAZING one-sheets had promised. However, what was delivered was still a total blast of fabulous looking B-movie fun, and the numerous, high-grade action scenes have an in-camera integrity and an honest sense of weight to them. The CGI dragons were definitely some of the best that I’ve seen in any movie – why do older special effects look so much better than a lot of the stuff that we’ve seen on screen in the last couple of years?
There’s tons of yelling, grunting, and sweating with macho behavior galore from an almost impossibly beefy cast. You got Christian Bale pre-Batman, Matthew McConaughey before his McConaissance, ex-Bond girl Izabella Scorupco looking way hot, and Gerard Butler rather effectively playing third fiddle. The production value on this movie was just massive, and I loved the desolate, post-apocalyptic wasteland production design by Wolf Kroeger (Casualties of War, The 13th Warrior) and the bleached and scorched cinematography by the great Adrian Biddle, who shot Thelma & Louise and 1492: Conquest of Paradise for Ridley Scott, among many other fabulous credits. Bowman, a veteran of television’s The X-Files and helmer of the theatrical spin-off The X-Files: Fight the Future, really used the widescreen space with authority in this movie; there’s an aesthetic muscularity to the entire film that I’ve always noticed on many repeat viewings. This is a very solid, unpretentious B-movie made with a slick visual panache that might’ve been better had it gone even more berserk with the larger battle scenes. But back in 2002, this movie must’ve cost a mint.