Envy the country that has heroes, huh? I say pity the country that needs them.
~Denton Van Zan
I apologize for not posting this last week. I had promised, and then last week turned into one of those weeks where suddenly it’s Saturday and you’re still trying to figure out where Wednesday went!
Today’s favorite family film is another movie that didn’t get nearly the hubbub it deserved. Reign of Fire is, in my humble estimation, the best dragon movie of all time. It did for film-dragons what Jurassic Park did for film-dinosaurs, what Lord of the Rings did for the fantasy genre on the big screen. It was iconic and brought dragons to the big screen in a wholly new and non-cheesy way.
And yet, most people don’t even know it exists.
True to form, the first time I saw this movie in the theater, I missed the first 15-20 minutes. (This was a regular occurrence growing up in a family that hated sitting through previews for movies we weren’t interested in).
However, even without the first few scenes, this movie became and instant favorite… which, of course, meant we had to go see it again to find out how it started!
Set on Earth, this movie begins in a fairly typical London. A young boy is visiting his mother’s workplace (excavating a tunnel of some kind) when all of a sudden a fire-breathing monster emerges and kills everyone.
Fast-forward 20 years and the world has been overrun by dragons. Humanity is nearing extinction as these fell beasts are practically un-killable. The few people who remain have no idea whether or not they are the last ones left. Meet Quinn (Christian Bale), the leader of one of these small communities of humanity that remains. His only priority is to keep his people safe. They live in fear, but they live, and to Quinn, that is perhaps the very best they can hope for.
However, they soon find out they are not alone, as Van Zan (Matthew McConaughey) arrives in his tank, along with his compatriots. This is Matthew McConaughey like you’ve never seen him before, and is my absolute favorite role I’ve ever seen him in. I didn’t even recognize him the first time I saw the movie. Van Zan has discovered a way to bring these creatures down, and even has a plan for hurting the dragons at their very core so as to give humanity a fighting chance to retake their planet. Van Zan is not okay with simply surviving, he wants more than that for humanity. Quinn is not sold on his plan, believing him to be either far too optimistic, reckless, crazy, or a combination of all three. Quinn worries that Van Zan will get his people killed, and the two clash over the right course of action.
This movie also has some fantastic secondary characters, including Creedy (played by Gerard Butler), Quinn’s best friend and right-hand man, and Jared, a young orphan that Quinn has taken in and raised as his own. Van Zan’s crew is quiet, determined, and likable, as well.
It’s not all serious and dark, however, this movie has plenty of light-hearted moments… including, but not limited to: banter between Quinn and Creedy, a re-enactment of The Empire Strikes Back, and witty repartee between Quinn and Van Zan.
If you love dragons… this is the movie for you. But be warned: these are not gentle, sentient dragons that sound like James Bond. These are cunning, fell beasts who care about humanity only as much as a lion cares about a wounded gazelle.
Seriously, if you haven’t seen this movie… go find a copy and watch it immediately! Despite the overarching storyline of humans vs. dragons, it doesn’t have anywhere near the graphic violence of Jurassic Park.
Reign of Fire is available to watch for free through Cinemax with an Amazon Prime membership (if you start a free 7-day trial of Cinemax and then cancel that subscription before the week is up). It is also available to rent through iTunes and other online rentals. Or you can flat-out buy the blu-ray for $7.52 on amazon right now. Seriously, it’s that good… you’ll want to own this one!