Reign Of Fire [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak (12th March 2007).
The Film

Post-apocalyptic landscapes, fire breathing dragons and Christian Bale, throw in some CGI and a bald headed Matthew McConaughey playing a character that probably isn't too far from what he's actually like except with a tank instead of some bongo drums and you'll find yourself in the world of "Reign of Fire", a big budget special effect extravaganza from the director of "The X-Files" movie (1998) as well as numerous episodes from that series. And despite that it has a competent director and a fairly good cast it still managed to tank at the box office earning only about half its budget back domestically. There are a number of factors one can attribute to this lack of success such as: the film's stars weren't that well known back in 2002, despite some cool special effects and the appearance of dragons the story tends to lag and the action is sparse between the heavy dialogue scenes of Bale trying to retain control of his castle top colony. That's a shame really because dragon movies are few and far between and just once I'd love to see one that exceeds my expectations, but for the time being we have "Reign of Fire" which manages to scratch the surface but never breaks through.
"Reign of Fire" is set in 2020 AD, dragons have been discovered and have in a short space of time become the dominant species on the planet driving man to hide under ground or in old medieval castles like Quinn (Christian Bale) who has established a colony of survivors that spend their days teaching the children to watch the skies and run as fast as you can whenever a dragon appears. His main priority is to keep everyone safe and alive, but when gung-ho American Van Zan (Matthew McConaughey) appears the line of control starts to blur as him and his team of dragon slayers try to prove that people need not hide anymore and that the dragons can be killed, and the key to humanities survival is to kill the one male dragon.
The cool thing about "Reign of Fire" is that it has big tanks, dragons and an action scene that sees Van Zan jump off a high tower with an axe onto a dragon! I'm sorry but there isn't much here for the ladies, the film also flexes its special effects muscle quite regularly with a combination of practical and CG effects work which results in some very cool looking creatures combined with the gloomy production design that seems eerily like something out of "Mad Max" (1979) the filmmaker's have managed to create a strong sense of atmosphere in this near future world and it does suck you into it relatively easily.
The downside to all this is that the film does get a bit boring with Quinn constantly whining about protecting his people and staying safe, even after Van Zan's crew kills a dragon and proves to Quinn that it can be done. I also found Van Zan to be a hollow shell of a once-upon-a-time action hero, disgruntled and a generally unsavory character, he crashes into town chews up some scenery and is given a fitting end. I was much more impressed with the supporting cast mainly the character Creedy (Gerard Butler), Quinn's second in command and the guy that provides the occasionally humorous quip, I was however disappointed in Izabella Scorupco appearance in the film, or should I say lack thereof. For such a cool character the filmmaker's chose to keep her in the background for most of the film and thanks to roles such as this her name can now be added to the growing "Where are they now?" club.
"Reign of Fire" has some terrific action sequences, special effects and production design, but the film's script and pacing knocks it down several notches, it's worth a rental at the very least.

Video

This film is presented in its original theatrical ratio of 2.35:1, this transfer is in 1080p 24 fps and was encoded using AVC MPEG-4 compression. The majority of this image is fantastically sharp, wide shots look brilliant and display a tremendous amount of detail as do close-ups, however I did spot some problems with the transfer, some backgrounds appear softer than expected especially in low-light interiors, there was some grain throughout the print and I also spotted some speckle and dirt occasionally pooped up as black marks throughout some scenes. Although these instances are sporadic they were still noticeable. Colors on the other hand were accurate and natural especially the grey-toned landscape, skin tones also appear natural with blacks holding a deep vivid presence and shadow detail was consistently good throughout. I spotted no major compression issues or other problems such as edge-enhancement.

Audio

Buena Vista has offered up four audio tracks for this film, an uncompressed English PCM 5.1 track encoded at 48kHz / 16-bit as well as track in English Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1 and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1. For the purpose of this review I viewed the film with its PCM track. The film's soundtrack is a highlight on this disc; the audio is a totally immersive experience that is as aggressive as they come. With crystal clear dialogue and special effects mix that makes use of every speaker. The result is a dynamic presentation that brings you into this post-apocalyptic world in an instant.

Optional subtitles are also available in English for the hearing impaired, French and Spanish.

Extras

Buena Vista has ported over all the extras from the standard DVD release, these include three featurettes plus the film's theatrical trailer also on the disc is a collection of bonus trailers. Below is a closer look at these supplements.

First up we have "Breathing Life Into The Terror: The Making Of The Dragons" featurette which runs for 8 minutes 28 seconds, in this EPK style clip we get a look at how the film's creatures were created as we are taken through the design process through to completion. We are shown the various methods the filmmaker's used to bring the dragons to life.

Next up is "Below The Line: If You Can't Take The Heat" featurette which runs for 15 minutes 3 seconds, in this clip special effects supervisor David Gauthier takes us through the process of setting up the practical effects work with a two week window, as we get an in-depth peek at the creation of the special pyrotechnic effects for the film.

Following that is "Conversations With director Rob Bowman" featurette which runs for 11 minutes 55 seconds, in this interview the director talks about his early career on "The X-Files" (1993-2002) as well as his filmmaking style approach as well as other interesting topics regarding the making of this film and the challenges it posed, this clip is like a mini-commentary from the director which is worth a look.

The film's original theatrical trailer is also included on this disc and runs for 2 minutes 32 seconds.

A collection of bonus trailers is also included for:

- "Blu-ray" promo spot which runs for 1 minute 16 seconds.
- "Invincible" which runs for 2 minutes 33 seconds.
- "The Guardian" which runs for 2 minutes 30 seconds.
- "The Prestige" which runs for 2 minutes 32 seconds.

Also included is "Movie Showcase" which jumps to three key reference scenes that show off the high-definition quality.

Overall

The Film: B- Video: B+ Audio: A+ Extras: C+ Overall: C+

 


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