Reign of Fire (2002)

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Released 28-Apr-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Menu Animation & Audio
THX Trailer
THX Optimizer
Featurette-Breathing Life Into The Terror
Featurette-Below The Line: If You Can't Take The Heat
Featurette-Conversations With Rick Bowman
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Reign Of Fire Video Game
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 97:46
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (65:45) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Rob Bowman

Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Starring Matthew McConaughey
Christian Bale
Gerard Butler
Izabella Scorupco
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $24.95 Music Edward Shearmur

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement Yes, Star Wars!
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Reign Of Fire is probably the first in what is likely to be a number of cash-in attempts on a small trilogy known as The Lord Of The Rings. At first it may not seem like it fits that category - it is set in 2020, and in a world that looks suspiciously post-apocalyptic. But it is what caused that apocalypse that places this movie squarely in the fantasy genre - dragons. In a way it is an interesting movie, a sci-fi dragon movie, and it is a combination that a lot of people just didn't seem to handle on its initial release. Faced with the total fantasy of a dragon, the human characters and story were often pulled to pieces for being unrealistic. Ah, that was a dragon swooping by - exactly where is reality in this movie?

    The premise of Reign Of Fire is simple - dragons have been uncovered after millions of years lying dormant (seems it was the dragons that finished off the dinosaurs), and despite the best efforts of the world's military they have burned the majority of the globe to ash. Which is good for them, as ash is their one and only food. In a castle in Northumberland, England, a small enclave of humanity lead by Quinn (a less psycho, although no less buff, Christian Bale) has managed to survive, eking out an existence with hidden crops for food, and a great big wall to protect them. Unfortunately, over the last few years more and more of the crops are being destroyed as the dragons become more desperate - they have bred themselves to such a level that there is no food left. Into this crisis drives the worst thing they can imagine - Americans. More precisely they are a group of soldiers bent on destroying the dragons once and for all, lead by the quite possibly slightly loopy Denton Van Zan (Matthew McConaughey in uber-badass mode). After taking on a dragon that attacks the castle, the soldiers (and some new recruits) head off to London in an attempt to finish the war.

    As director Rob Bowman states during his interview, he wanted to get the best actors he could, and he did a rather good job at that. In casting Matthew McConaughey, Christian Bale, and Gerard Butler, this film boasts not only a very fine line up of proven thespians, but a cast list that should enable most young men to convince their girlfriends to see the movie with them (although I have been reliably informed that this movie has done an excellent job of converting three of the most desired men in films into the undesirable). All this acting ability is largely wasted as the lines are extremely corny and the characters are (with the exception of Quinn) one-dimensional. There's the friend, the crazy bad/good guy, and the smart, pretty woman (Izabella Scorupco) - all straight out of the "how to make an action movie" handbook. The plot is also not the most logical one ever created. There are many niggling holes (where is the water tower mentioned in the first few minutes?), and a few gaping ones (they never seem to have a problem with fuel - even for the helicopter), although a gentle self reminder every now and again that this is a dragon movie makes them far easier to handle.

    What does work, and work incredibly well for Reign Of Fire is the effects. You will believe that dragons exist and are ravaging the world. Some of the effects are jaw-dropping, and this is largely due to the way Bowman, using his years of experience on The X-Files, knows to the second and millimetre the exact time and the exact amount to show of his monsters. They are not used too much, but at the same time, they are not hidden right up until the big reveal at the end (which of course usually results in disappointment). Another reason why this is an interesting movie is that it is Bowman's first feature since moving away from The X-Files (for which he directed the movie, and countless episodes), and if this is anything to go by, an extremely capable action director has been found.

    Reign Of Fire was never going to be anything but a B-movie, a genre-film, a monster movie, and in that regard it succeeds well. With a few more tweaks, and a little less bravado, it could have been a near-perfect action movie, but as is, it is still a very worthy watch for fans of the genre.

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Transfer Quality


    The transfer presented for Reign Of Fire is good, although it is quite grainy, but that would seem to be an artistic choice for the movie.

    Presented at the original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1, this transfer is 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer is generally sharp, providing a good amount of fine detail. The grain doesn't really effect the sharpness, although at times it does become heavy enough to be easily noticeable (such as from 35:22 to 35:30). For the most part, the grainy nature of the film actually adds to the atmosphere. Shadow detail is extremely good, and with the number of dark scenes in this movie that is very important. There is no low level noise present.

    Colours are used in an interesting fashion in this movie, because as noted above, virtually the entire world is in shades of grey. All colours are muted, and this would again seem to be an intentional choice, one that lets the orange of the fire stand out even more.

    There are no compression artefacts in this film, and only a very few film artefacts, although some of those (such as the black mark at 35:44) are quite noticeable. Aliasing is reasonably rare, and with only a few very noticeable instances (such as the cables from 35:10 to 35:14), and small number of subtle instances, it never really becomes a distraction.

    The subtitles are extremely accurate, well paced, and easy to read. They are also rendered in an attractive font.

    This is an RSDL formatted disc, with the layer change taking place at 65:45 during Chapter 7. It was quickly navigated, however it is placed right in the middle of a very tense sequence so it can be a little distracting, and would have been far better placed just a few minutes earlier.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    This is a very good audio transfer and really helps to bring the audience into the film.

    There are two audio tracks present on this disc, both being the original English dialogue, in Dolby Digital 5.1 (at 448 Kbps) and DTS 5.1 (at half bit-rate).

    Dialogue is clear at all times, although it is often not easy to decipher thanks to the thick accents and slurring of the main characters. Audio sync is mostly spot-on, although there is a small section around 34:37 where it does seem to be slightly out.

    The score is credited to Edward Shearmur, and is a good effort, matching the mood of the images well, although never straying from a fairly standard approach. It also helps provide a lot of the suspense in the dragon-chase sequences.

    The surround channels are used very aggressively during almost any scene involving dragons, and also spring into life at other moments during the film (really, what is it about sound designers and helicopters?). When there is little action to get involved with, the soundstage does tend to collapse to the front, although the surrounds do still carry enough of the score to help blend in their use during action scenes.

    The subwoofer is extensively used to drive the deep bass of the dragon. Whether it be the footsteps or the beat of the wings, your chair will rumble and the windows will rattle with every move of the dragon. It is also used to back up the score, and most other sound effects where deep bass would normally be expected.

    The DTS and Dolby Digital tracks are, as with Bad Company that I looked at the other day, virtually impossible to tell apart.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    The extras are a little on the brief side, but apart from that are quite interesting.


    The menu is animated, 16x9 enhanced, themed around the movie, and features Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio.

Featurette - Breathing Life Into The Terror (8:28)

    This is a fairly standard making-of piece that consumes the first couple of minutes with the trailer, and contains a few minutes of shots from the film, leaving precious little time for anything else. It feels a little tedious even at its short running time. Presented at 1.33:1, not 16x9 enhanced, and featuring Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio.

Featurette - Below The Line: If You Can't Take The Heat (15:03)

    This feature is an interview with Dave Gautheir, the Special Effects Supervisor (AKA, the man in charge of blowing things up), and behind the scenes footage of him at work. It shows just how much effort went into creating both the look for the future world, and the physical (as opposed to CGI) fire used for the dragons breath. This feature is very interesting, if a little dry, and well worth a watch. Presented at 1.33:1, not 16x9 enhanced, and featuring Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio.

Featurette - Conversations With Rob Bowman (11:55)

    This featurette is basically an interview with director Rob Bowman, and largely takes the place of a commentary. It is very interesting, and having heard Bowman's commentary on The X-Files Movie, probably preferable to a commentary from him. Presented at 1.33:1, not 16x9 enhanced, and featuring Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio.

Original Theatrical Trailer (2:32)

    Presented at 2.35:1, not 16x9 enhanced, and featuring Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio, it gives a fairly good impression of what the movie will be like.

Reign Of Fire Video Game(1:21)

    This is just a short ad for the video game based upon the movie. Presented at 1.33:1, not 16x9 enhanced, and featuring Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;     The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;     Well, well, well, this is a turn-up for the books. A DVD that has THX certification in Region 4 but not Region 1! Not that it makes any real difference - the discs are essentially identical, so unless you are reading a French translation of this review, it will not matter which version you get.


    Reign Of Fire is a great B-grade action/monster movie that features some of the best creature effects ever put on film. Sure, there are plot-holes large enough to swallow the world (if you imagine that internal combustion engines run on air, your enjoyment of this movie will be vastly improved), but putting those aside, it is all good fun (and even without being cheesy). A note for the ladies (and some men) however - apparently this film virtually writes the book on how to take good looking men and make them unattractive. Oh well.

    The video quality is very good, and while it can become quite grainy at times, that may well have been an artistic choice.

    The audio quality is also very good, with the only let-down being some rather poor use of the surrounds for ambient noise.

    The extras, while a little on the short side, are mostly very interesting.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Nick Jardine (My bio, it's short - read it anyway)
Thursday, January 16, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-535, using Component output
DisplayLoewe Xelos 5381ZW. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS787, THX Select
SpeakersAll matching Vifa Drivers: centre 2x6.5" + 1" tweeter (d'appolito); fronts and rears 6.5" + 1" tweeter; centre rear 5" + 1" tweeter; sub 10" (150WRMS)

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Comments (Add)
Great flick apart from the weak ending (minor spoilers) - Mabster (read my bio)
Actually, nice to see someone who sees the point - krayzkrok
Purchase? - El Barstardo
Draco? - Anonymous
Reign in Cinema - Daria Nicolodi's Fringe
Not an 'Incorrect Opinion', just mine... (some minor spoilers) - Darque
Sell-Through Status and Opinions - Kaiser Soze (I'm not stupid. You're not interested. But my bio is here anyway)
totally boring movie - Anonymous