By Nathan Kamal | 9 seconds ago
Matthew McConaughey is best known for playing sweetly southern and deviously charming characters. He first rose to prominence by turning what was clearly a predatory bastard on paper into a guy you’d want to have a drink with in Dazed and confused, and often played variations on this theme. It Could Be A Sleazy Lawyer Turned Fair In The Legal Thriller A time to kill or a criminal white boy named Rick in White Boy Rick, but they all have one thing in common: the charm of Matthew McConaughey. However, the future Oscar winner decided to expand his lineup for a gritty sci-fi/fantasy film released in 2002 and portray a character without the characteristics that made him famous. This film is kingdom of fire, starring Christian Bale and a bunch of dragons, and it’s currently streaming on Hulu.
Before discussing what possessed Matthew McConaughey to star in reign of fireit is worth considering what was hitting the box office in 2002. The highest-grossing films of the year were The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, so fantasy movies were clearly a potential hit. Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man movie opened up new avenues for comic book adaptations, Star Wars: Attack of the Clones was disappointing fans while making money in spades, and Men in Black II was testing the limits of Johnny Knoxville’s appeal. In this crowded field, Matthew McConaughey and Christian Bale battled dragons in post-apocalyptic London.
To give reign of fire its just due, it is at the very least an original idea. The film begins in then-London, as a subway construction unearths a dragon that has been hibernating beneath the Earth’s surface for millions of years. A young boy named Quinn Abercromby (probably the most British name ever) sees his mother killed by the dragon’s emergence and becomes Christian Bale. A brief voice-over exposition by Bale explains that this dragon led to millions of others, leading to the use of nuclear weapons in a failed attempt to fight them and the near extinction of the race. human. Christian Bale, his best friend Gerard Butler and a collection of others live a meager existence at Bamburgh Castle, far from the central nest of London dragons, until Matthew McConaughey comes forward as the voiced gravel, bearded and frequently shirtless leader of a band of Kentucky militia dragon-slayers.
Matthew McConaughey plays fanatical dragon slayer Denton Van Zan (another great name) with a lack of humor that completely ignores his central appeal. The role would be perfect for a bulky-framed actor less capable of nuance and charm, like co-star Gerard Butler or up-and-coming star Vin Diesel, but Matthew McConaughey is hopelessly miscast. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t give it his all. Van Zan is packed with over-the-top intensity and monologues about the death of the winged beasts, and to his credit, Matthew McConaughey commits. Christian Bale has a slightly more complex role as the leader of a community of survivors, understandably reluctant to fight back against the dragons on a suicide mission after witnessing the fall of civilization to fire-breathing monsters. He also sports a bearded, unkempt look identical to how he would play Bruce Wayne in training a few years later in batman beginsso at least some good came out of it reign of fire.
reign of fire is the kind of movie that asks you to stick to the central premise and not ask too many questions, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Dragons battling desperate human survivors in a world burning with ruins is actually a good central image, but the film continues to overload it with unnecessary pseudo-science that makes you think more about the story’s fragile logic. Christian Bale’s exposition dump posits that the dragons actually killed the dinosaurs and that the amount of ash produced caused the Ice Age. It has nothing to do with the actual plot of the movie, but then you’re stuck with the idea that these animals (which Matthew McConaughey and the movie itself are careful to point out are, as supposed to be magical creatures), hunted several species. dinosaurs to extinction, which is not at all typical of animals in a biosystem other than humans. The film also hinges on the idea that among millions of dragons, there is a single male responsible for all reproduction, so killing him destroys them all, Horcrux-style. This does not appear to be an evolutionary breeding strategy.
Matthew McConaughey will spend several years after reign of fire appearing in dreck as How to lose a guy in 10 days, Saharaand Ghosts of girlfriends past before reinventing itself in the now legendary McConaissance. Christian Bale starred in the equally baffling and conceptual flop Balance in 2002, but would soon team up with Christopher Nolan for the colossal hit Dark Knight Trilogy. reign of fire flopped at the box office, grossing $82 million against a budget of $60 million, and currently holds a surprisingly generous 42% on Rotten Tomatoes. Maybe one day we’ll get the post-apocalyptic dragon adventure that audiences deserve, but this wasn’t it.