A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that violence in this monster flick includes the mother of a little boy being killed, non-graphically, by fire-breathing dragons. Deaths are not very bloody -- usually characters enveloped in CGI flames, eaten in one gulp by dragons, or falling. There is occasional swearing, smoking, and drinking.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
As every kid knows, in typical creature-feature there's usually the threat that if a particular giant lizard, monster spider, or ravenous alien isn't eliminated it will reproduce and destroy the world. REIGN OF FIRE is a rare monster movie that actually takes things to that conclusion: 21st-century mankind learned a hard lesson that flying, fire-breathing dragons are no myth but a voracious species that periodically emerges from hibernation, swarms, and scorches the whole planet (killing the dinosaurs was their doing), then goes back underground for thousands of years. Here, in what's left of England in 2020, huddled survivors are led by Quinn (Christian Bale), who, as a boy, witnessed the dragons re-emerge from a London cave. Unexpectedly, Quinn's stronghold gets visitors, American soldiers led by brawny Van Zant (Matthew McConaughey), who claims to have mastered the art of slaying dragons. Van Zant jeopardizes Quinn's colony by demanding they join his troops in a suicidal march on London against the chief "bull" dragon.
Is it any good?
Even with the non-standard approach to a monster-on-the-loose formula, this flick somehow falls flat. Maybe it's just the ultra-serious way thinly-drawn characters approach a comic-bookish premise, or the sense that we've missed the real story -- the rise of the dragons -- and are left with a plodding anticlimax -- an oh-please finale in which ragged characters with bows and arrows fight CGI beasts who withstood combined armies of humanity and nuclear weapons. Once one absorbs the basic story the plotline is largely predictable, though maybe kids will forgive that and the thudding solemnity. In the movie's favor: a short running time and some interesting touches in envisioning a world regressed by dragon-power to a drab, sooty, new Dark Ages. Not enough interesting touches, though.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about dragons, so often depicted in human cultures, running the gamut from good guys to baddies. Ask kids what they thought of the specimens in Reign of Fire?
Critics like to say that the original Godzilla was a cinematic metaphor for the atom bomb. Ask kids if Reign of Fire makes a good metaphor for global warming? For the WWII Blitz? For anything?
Talk about other movies in which civilization is wiped out -- by plague, by alien invasion, by Terminator robots, by the year 2012, by nuclear war, etc. What is the entertainment value of such global-catastrophe flicks?
- In theaters: July 12, 2002
- On DVD or streaming: November 19, 2002
- Cast: Christian Bale, Gerard Butler, Matthew McConaughey
- Director: Rob Bowman
- Studio: Touchstone Pictures
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Run time: 101 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: intense action violence
- Last updated: March 23, 2020
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