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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 2.35:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer (RSDL )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • English: DTS 5.1 Surround
  Subtitles
    English, Dutch, English - Hearing Impaired, Bulgarian
  Extras
  • 2 Theatrical trailer - Reign of Fire; Reign of Fire Video Game
  • 3 Featurette - Breathing Life Into The Terror; If You Can't Take the Heat; Conversations with Rob Bowman

Reign of Fire

Buena Vista/Buena Vista . R4 . COLOR . 98 mins . M15+ . PAL

  Feature
Contract

First up, if you don't get the pun in the title Reign of Fire then you shouldn't watch this film. You're either too smart, too stupid, or too uptight.

For all us other people sitting in the middle, who see a title like that and go "hehe, that's clever, I get it", we are the target audience.

To us I say "Let us take our pants off and enjoy the stupidity!"

For in the future, Rob Bowman tells us that dragons will once again rule the air, just like they did back in 1976. Look it up. It's true.

Deep underground, the English are digging yet another bloody tunnel, when they unexpectedly uncover a sleeping dragon which wakes and goes totally batshit... no, make that dragonshit.

So, jump forward a bunch of years to 2020, and we discover the dragons have burnt everything to a crisp, having multiplied to over a million and pretty much doing as they please, what with the human race not having figured out how to build the world's biggest fire-extinguisher yet.

To this crispy new world we meet Quinn, who witnessed the first dragon make his escape and kill his mother years before. All grown up, he now lords it up over a bunch of Cockney survivors with bad accents holed up in an old castle, quietly trying to survive without food and decent parking space.

Then along comes crazy bald-headed, cigar-chomping American actor Matthew MacConaheylookatme! with his roving troupe of gungo-ho militia types. He's a dragonslayer looking for the big daddy dragon and a disposable razor that cuts closer on the second pass. He and Quinn clash over the need to survive or the need to fight, and eventually they decide that a movie about how to grow a vegetable garden wouldnít be as exciting as blowing up dragons with machine guns and crossbows.

Youíve probably already decided if this kind of silliness is your bag. I decided that it is, and looked forward to the prospect of dragon and humans going manoĖa-mano for the fate of mankind. But, like many it seems, the reality of this just couldnít live up to the hype.

It's still a bit of good fun nonsense, but it's just not quite as good as it could have been. It looks like it suffered from a limiting budget, so that we never really get a sense of a million dragons overtaking the world and setting cities on fire, with major landmarks burning and huge aerial warfare etc etc, we're just asked to take it for granted that it all happened.

The scenes of devastation we see are limited to a few quick shots of London on one set. Personally, I wanted to see large scale destruction, something achieved much better with Independence Day, but all we get are flashback newspaper headlines and a quick voice-over.

That doesn't mean I didn't like it, quite the opposite. it's just that it's not quite the apocalyptic spectacle that I had hoped for, and that leaves a slightly bitter taste in my mouth. Still, getting in the right frame of mind, you'd be hard pressed to say that this doesn't makes for a fun 100 minutes in a "Hey, dragons, cool!" kind of way. Any film with man killing dragons has got to have something going for it, so I say we give it the benefit of the doubt.

  Video
Contract

It wouldnít be right to have a perfectly smooth and bright, colourful picture for a film about the burnt out remains of humanity living in a darkened future, now would it? That future would be a bit grainy, very dark, have lots of deep shadows and low lighting and possibly even some dodgy CGI. Rob Bowman thought about this and decided that the film should reflect this vision, and so too eventually the DVD. Most colour seems to have been sucked from the image, leaving a dull cold blue feel to the environs. Coupled with the darkness which contains limited levels of detail, you would do best to switch off all lighting and close the blinds when watching this one, otherwise television screens are gonna suffer horrendous reflections of the viewing room. Watched with properly controlled light the results are very satisfying.

  Audio
Contract

This DVD is graced with a 448kbps Dolby Digital 5.1 and a 768 kbps DTS 5.1 mix. Straight up, let me just say that the DTS edges out the DD by a slight margin. Itís more expansive in the creation of the soundstage, a bit clearer and with a bit more thump to enhance the action scenes. That said, the Dolby mix isnít bad, and would stand up just fine by itself, but comparatively it comes off a little more anaemic. Another problem, well perhaps itís more a let down than a problem, is that because the film doesnít have as much action as you might think, the audio can often fold back down into the front channels quite often. So, because of this the surrounds donít rate as highly as expected, even though they do get to kick in a few times. Most notable is the nice use of a dragon panning through the channels as it circles the mob out to kill it. Nice effect, just not enough of it.

  Extras
Contract

Thereís a few things in this section to take a gander at, but upon viewing you realise that they donít add up to anything really substantial, nor do they add to the experience of watching the film.

Featurette - Breathing Life Into the Terror
This one looks briefly at the creation the CGI dragons. A little about what real animals influenced the design and movements, and how the results were blended into the real environments as believably as possible. It's a little short at around eight minutes, as a little more time would have let the sections feel less truncated.

Featurette - Below the Line: If You Can't Take the Heat
For all you hedge burners out there, this one takes a gander at the massive amounts of fire work on the film. The effects supervisor explains how they got the look of the dragonís firebreathing and various spot fires with liquid propane. Pretty clever really, and not half dangerous. Try this one at home, kids, and Iíll see you in the burns ward at your local hospital. This is 15 minutes long and feels a little more substantial.

Featurette - Conversations With Rick Bowman
A 12 minute conversation with director Rob Bowman. He discusses what works and what doesnít for him when putting together the scares in a film like this or in The X-Files. He set himself some lofty heights, not always achieving them in the end results, but at least he explains his ideas clearly.

Original Theatrical Trailer
This is a deceptive two and a half minute trailer. Why? First, it sets up that the film takes place in 2084, when itís really 2008 and 2020. Then it also makes a point that the dragons can be killed by taking out the heart, which is wrong. Well, yeah, take out the heart and it would kill the dragon, but so would taking out its lungs too, I suppose. It also makes it out to be far more action driven and with larger scale combat scenes, which is misleading. But then again, thatís what a trailer is about, isnít it? How often does a trailer really reflect the final film? Eh, just sour grapes on my behalf.

Reign of Fire Video Game
Just a showcase for the associated video game, but itís cut so fast to match the thumping soundtrack that at times that you canít make out a bloody thing.

...and if you want, you can have a little play with the THX Optimizer theyíve included on the disc.

  Overall  
Contract

Big dragons flying around spitting fire at everything in sight and generally running amok. Sounds enticing, doesnít it? The reality is that itís not quite as exciting or grand as it wants you to believe. Itís still an entertaining romp, with some promising moments to lifts your spirits.

This DVD is pretty nifty in its presentation of the audio and video, with a winning DTS mix to pick, and a few minor extras to run through afterwards.


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      And I quote...
    "Let us take our pants off and enjoy the stupidity!"
    - Vince Carrozza
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Sony DVP-525
    • TV:
          Sony 68cm
    • Receiver:
          Sony STR-DB1070
    • Speakers:
          Wharfedale s500
    • Centre Speaker:
          Polk Audio CS245
    • Surrounds:
          Wharfedale WH-2
    • Subwoofer:
          DB Dynamics TITAN
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard Optical
    • Video Cables:
          standard s-video
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