REIGN OF FIRE
I thought the premise of REIGN OF FIRE ($30) sounded very intriguing and I was eager to sit down with the DVD, which did not disappoint in the slightest. Actually, this movie rocks, and anyone who loves the action or fantasy genres will feel the same way about REIGN OF FIRE. For those completely unfamiliar with the premise of REIGN OF FIRE, the film fuses action and fantasy elements to create something in the vein of THE ROAD WARRIOR meets DRAGONSLAYER.
REIGN OF FIRE opens with a British schoolboy visiting his mother at an excavation site beneath London. Unexpectedly, the heavy equipment opens a great cavernous void from which a fire-breathing dragon emerges. The film then flashes forward several decades. One dragon has multiplied into millions, all of civilization lays wasted and the human race is on the brink of extinction. We quickly learn that Dragons subsist on the burnt remains of the life they incinerate and these fire-breathing creatures are the most voracious of feeders. Before society had been destroyed, scientists had been able to figure out that dragons were responsible for the demise of the dinosaurs, and had gone into hibernation when they scorched almost all the life from the planet during their previous reign of fire.
Those few people still left alive exist in small ragtag groups that have been able to avoid being incinerated by sheer luck and a great deal of caution. One such group is lead Quinn (Christian Bale), who has managed to keep his followers alive in a medieval English fortress, where they eek out the most meager of existences. Then, out of nowhere, a band of American commandos arrive seeking shelter for one night while they repair their equipment. While the inhabitants of this English refuge normally drive off those they perceive to be marauders, the American leader, Van Zan (Matthew McConaughey), manages to make headway with Quinn by informing him that his group have found an effective way to hunt and kill dragons. What follows is a wild ride as these two bands of survivors come together to do what they can to insure the survival of the human race. The cast of REIGN OF FIRE also features Izabella Scorupco, Gerard Butler, Scott Moutter, David Kennedy, Alexander Siddig, Ned Dennehy, Rory Keenan, Terence Maynard, Doug Cockle¸ Randall Carlton, Chris Kelly, Ben Thornton and Alice Krige.
Touchstone Home Entertainment has made REIGN OF FIRE available on DVD in a 2.35:1 wide screen presentation that features the anamorphic enhancement for 16:9 displays. This is a really great transfer of rather difficult material. Adrian Biddle’s cinematography brings to life the bleakness of a post apocalyptic world that has been burnt by both the dragons and the nuclear weapons launched against them in desperation. Much of the time, REIGN OF FIRE has an exceedingly limited color palette, which can appear stark due to the predominance of blues and grays. Only fire lit interiors show any signs of real color or warmth. Still, the image is sharp and well defined, which brings out the grittiness of the cinematography and the film’s production design. CGI effects are convincingly rendered and blend well with the gritty backgrounds. Blacks are accurately rendered and the picture produces good shadow detail. Only brief and very minor digital compression artifacts can be noticed, if one spends time looking for them.
REIGN OF FIRE features excellent 5.1 channel soundtracks in the varieties of Dolby Digital and DTS. The sound designers have taken the mix down a rather aggressive route, playing up the dramatics and the dynamics of the dragon attacks and the use of military firepower in the showdowns between the humans and their ferocious adversaries. REIGN OF FIRE also has a very cohesive 360 degree sound field is highlighted by the flight of dragons that swoop down on their prey, and then turn, coming around full circle. Even more dramatic and effective is the film’s midair helicopter/dragon battle. Dialogue is usually rendered quite intelligibly, although there are a couple of instances where accents and numerous sound effects get in the way. The bass channel is very solid and authoritative, without sounding artificially boomy. Differences between Dolby Digital and DTS aren’t particularly pronounced; although as expected, DTS does have a slight edge, producing a warmer and slightly more textured sound. A French Dolby Digital 5.1 channel track has also been encoded onto the DVD, as have English and French subtitles,
Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD’s interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a nice supplemental section. Three featurettes have been produced and included on this DVD release. Breathing Life Into The Terror runs about eight and a half minutes and features interviews with the production team, as well as a look at how the film’s dragons were conceived and brought to life on the screen. If You Can’t Take The Heat clocks in at fifteen minutes and focuses on the film’s uses of practical fire effects and how everyone is kept safe when working with such a dangerous element. Conversations With Rob Bowman offers nearly twelve minutes of interview footage with the film’s director, who discusses various aspects of the project, as well as his earlier work on THE X-FILES. A theatrical trailer for REIGN OF FIRE, as well as bonus trailers for THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO and BAD COMPANY are also provided on the DVD. Two video game promos close out the supplemental section of the DVD.
REIGN OF FIRE is a highly enjoyable popcorn movie that packs a real wallop. Touchstone’s DVD looks and sounds great, plus the disc offers a pretty solid set of supplements. If you are an action or fantasy genre fan, I think REIGN OF FIRE is a DVD that you will definitely want to check out.
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