Reign of Fire (film)

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Reign of Fire
A dragon flying over the British Houses of Parliament breathing fire on the city below.
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Rob Bowman
Produced by Richard D. Zanuck
Lili Fini Zanuck
Roger Birnbaum
Gary Barber
Dean Zanuck
Screenplay by Matt Greenberg
Gregg Chabot
Kevin Peterka
Story by Gregg Chabot
Kevin Peterka
Starring Christian Bale
Matthew McConaughey
Izabella Scorupco
Gerard Butler
Music by Edward Shearmur
Brad Wagner
Mad at Gravity
Cinematography Adrian Biddle
Edited by Declan McGrath
Thom Noble
Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures
Release date
  • July 12, 2002 (2002-07-12)
Running time
102 minutes[1]
Country United Kingdom
United States
Language English
Budget $60 million[2]
Box office $82.15 million[2]

Reign of Fire is a 2002 post-apocalyptic fantasy film directed by Rob Bowman and starring Matthew McConaughey and Christian Bale, with the screenplay written by Matt Greenberg, Gregg Chabot, and Kevin Peterka. The film also features Izabella Scorupco and Gerard Butler.

The film is set in England in the year 2020, twenty years after London tunneling project workers inadvertently awakened dragons from centuries of slumber and the creatures have subsequently replaced humans as the dominant species on Earth. With the fate of mankind at stake, two surviving parties, led by Quinn Abercromby (Bale) and Denton Van Zan (McConaughey), find that they must work together to hunt down and destroy the beasts in a desperate attempt to take back the world.

The film was released by Touchstone Pictures on July 12, 2002. Upon release, it received generally mixed reviews from critics and audiences and became a commercial failure, grossing $82 million on a $60 million budget.[3]


The film opens at an unspecified date in the early 21st century. During construction on the London Underground, workers penetrate a cave. A huge dragon emerges from hibernation, incinerating the workers with its breath. The only survivor is a boy, Quinn Abercromby (Ben Thornton), whose mother, Karen (Alice Krige) - the construction crew chief - is crushed to death protecting him. The dragon flies out of the Underground, and soon more dragons appear. It is revealed through newspaper clippings and the narration that dragons are the species responsible for the extinction of the dinosaurs. They are speculated to hibernate after destroying most living creatures until the planet repopulates. After the dragons reawaken, humanity resists with military force, including with nuclear weapons in 2010. This, however, only hastens the destruction, and within a few years, humans are nearly extinct.

In 2020, Quinn (Christian Bale) leads a community of survivors in a Northumberland castle. They are starving while awaiting harvest. Although most trust Quinn, some are restless and defiant. Eddie (David Kennedy) and his group steal a truck to pick tomatoes, though it is too soon for harvest. They are attacked by a dragon; one man is killed, and the rest are surrounded by fire. Quinn, Creedy (Gerard Butler), and Jared (Scott Moutter) rescue them with old fire engines, but the dragon kills Eddie's son before escaping.

The Kentucky Irregulars, a group of Americans led by Denton Van Zan (Matthew McConaughey), arrive on a Lockheed C-5 Galaxy with a Chieftain tank and AgustaWestland AW109 utility helicopter, the latter of which is piloted by Alex Jensen (Izabella Scorupco). Van Zan has a system for hunting dragons and knows their weakness; poor vision before sunset. With Quinn’s help, Van Zan, Alex and their team hunt and slay the dragon who destroyed the crops.

The survivors enjoy a celebration at the castle that night but Van Zan bereaves with the lost of several of his men. Van Zan and Alex tell Quinn all the dragons they have found have been female. The Americans believe there is only one male - if they kill it, the dragons can no longer reproduce. Although Quinn knows about the male dragon, which killed his mother, he refuses to help.

Van Zan orders his soldiers to enlist the castle's best men. Quinn argues that if they find the male, it will kill them and find the castle. This soon results in the two men’s heated relationship coming to a head where Quinn attacks Van Zan but in the brief ensuing fight, Van Zan gives Quinn a terrible beating and the crowd is forced to pull Van Zan off, after Van Zan gave Quinn the beating they depart. Later true to Quinns warnings, Van Zan's caravan is set up and attacked by the dragon in the ruins of a town 66 miles (106 km) from London. In a display of intelligence, the dragon then follows the group’s tracks back the castle and kills most of the inhabitants in a preemptive strike. Quinn tries to get the survivors to a bunker but is trapped when the dragon returns for a final assault. Creedy is killed in the melee.

Van Zan and Jensen return and free everyone trapped in the bunker. Quinn tells Van Zan and Alex that he will help them hunt down the male dragon. They fly to London and find hundreds of dragons, with smaller ones cannibalized by the starved larger male. Van Zan tells Quinn about their plan to shoot explosives down the dragon's throat with a crossbow. Van Zan fires, but the dragon destroys the arrow and eats Van Zan. Quinn and Alex lure the dragon to ground level, where Quinn fires into the dragon's mouth, killing it.

Later, Quinn and Alex erect a radio tower on a hill overlooking the North Sea. There has been no dragon sighting for over three months. Jared arrives to say they have contacted a group of French survivors who want to speak to their leader. Quinn tells Jared he is now their leader and dedicates himself to rebuilding.



Reign of Fire was filmed in Ireland's Wicklow Mountains, on the condition that the crew clean up after themselves and not damage the landscape. Shot during an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in Europe, many planned sequences could not be filmed due to restrictions. The dead dragon was designed and built by Artem, with visual effects by Secret Lab. The dragon's digital effects posed a unique problem for animators:

"In recent years there have been several movies starring creatures with scaled surfaces. Among these are Jurassic Park, Dragonheart, and Lake Placid. The surfaces of these creatures have generally been constructed by layering painted textures atop displacement maps. This gives the model texture, but the scales stretch and shrink under the movement of the creature, giving a rubbery look that is not realistic."[4]

In order to overcome this limitation, the groundbreaking work done by digital effects animator Neil Eskuri on Disney's 2000 release Dinosaur was utilized as a benchmark in order to create a realistic physical simulation of the dragon. According to Carlos Gonzalez-Ochoa, the film called for "100 foot (30 m) creatures with wing spans of 300 feet (91 m) that could undergo enormous speeds and accelerations. The artistic direction required each dragon to have wings that transition between a variety of physical behaviors and interact with the environment."[5]


Reign of Fire: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Reign of Fire Soundtrack Cover.jpg
Film score (Digital download / Audio CD) by Edward Shearmur
Released July 23, 2002
Length 50:30
Label Varèse Sarabande
Reign of Fire: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
2."Enter the Dragon"3:20
3."An Early Harvest"2:42
4."Field Attack"4:11
6."Meet Van Zan"3:49
8."Dawn Burial"3:02
9."A Battle of Wills"5:31
10."The Ruins at Pembury"2:11
12."Return to London"4:11
13."Magic Hour"5:23
Total length:50:30


Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a 40% rating, based on 154 reviews, with a site consensus "an enjoyable B-movie if you don't use your brain".[6] Metacritic gave it a score of 39 out of 100, based on 30 reviews from critics. Reign of Fire was third in U.S. box-office receipts during its opening weekend (July 12, 2002), taking in $15,632,281—behind Road to Perdition and Men in Black II (in its second week at the top).[citation needed]

Joe Leydon of Variety said of the film, "An uncommonly exciting and satisfying post-apocalyptic popcorn flick, Director Rob Bowman deftly combines an uncommonly satisfying mix of medieval fantasy, high-tech military action and “Mad Max”-style misadventure."[7] Lisa Schwarzbaum of EW agreed, saying "the season could do with more grinning, spinning, un-self-important, happy-to-be-B throwback movies like this one."[8] Elvis Mitchell of The New York Times noted that "the movie might have been a minor classic if it had maximized its own possibilities. But until the rush wears off, the picture is as much fun as a great run at a slot machine: even when your luck runs out, you're losing only pocket change."[9]

Roger Ebert lamented the film as "a vast enterprise marshaled in the service of such a minute idea", adding that "the movie makes no sense on its own terms, let alone ours. And it is such a grim and dreary enterprise. One prays for a flower or a ray of sunshine as those grotty warriors clamber into their cellars and over their slag heaps."[10]


Reign of Fire was nominated for one Saturn Award, but lost to The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and two Festival de Cine de Sitges awards, winning one.[citation needed]

Award Category Result
Saturn Awards Best Fantasy Film Nominated
Festival de Cine de Sitges Best Visual Effects Won
Best Film Nominated

Video game[edit]

PAL region cover art.

In 2002, Kuju Entertainment released the video-game Reign of Fire for PlayStation 2, Xbox and GameCube, which received mediocre reviews.[11]


Currently Michael Bay Are developing a sequel to the film since 2003 there is no Update about development of the sequel since 2006


  1. ^ "REIGN OF FIRE | British Board of Film Classification". Retrieved 2017-04-22. 
  2. ^ a b Reign of fire at Box Office Mojo
  3. ^ "Reign of Fire (2002)". Box Office Mojo. IMDB. Retrieved 2011-10-10. 
  4. ^ Petti, Ernest J; Thompson, Thomas V, II; Lusinsky, Adolph; Driskill, Hank (2002). "Dragon Scales: The Evolution of Scale Tool for Reign of Fire". ACM SIGGRAPH 2002 Conference Abstracts and Applications. ACM: 172–172. doi:10.1145/1242073.1242185. 
  5. ^ Gonzalez-Ochoa, Carlos; Eberle, David; Dressel, Rob (2002). "Dynamic Simulation of Wing Motion on Reign of Fire". ACM SIGGRAPH 2002 Conference Abstracts and Applications. ACM: 174–174. doi:10.1145/1242073.1242187. 
  6. ^ "Reign of Fire". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. 
  7. ^ Leydon, Joe (12 July 2002). "Reign of Fire". Variety. Archived from the original on 28 September 2017. 3/4 stars
  8. ^ Schwarzbaum, Lisa (10 July 2002). "Reign of Fire". 
  9. ^ Mitchell, Elvis (July 12, 2002). "FILM REVIEW; Fire-Breathing Dragons Make It Hot for Humans". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 28 September 2017. Retrieved 28 September 2017. 4/5 stars
  10. ^ Ebert, Roger (July 12, 2002). "Reign Of Fire Movie Review & Film Summary (2002) | Roger Ebert". 1/4 stars
  11. ^ "Reign of Fire review". Gamespot. Retrieved 12 August 2014. 

External links[edit]