Jan 29 2010

Article XII – In Which Batman and Leonidas Team Up to Fight DRAGONS

I know this title puts in your head perhaps the most awesome image of all time, but please, I need you to settle down.  This column isn’t going to write itself.  I say that because I’ll be damned if I let some tin can machine robot monster take my job.  Even if it can do it more efficiently and always on time and better and grammatically correct – er.  Unfortunately, you’re stuck with me.  And I’m stuck with you.

Reign of Fire was a movie made in the past (2002) about the future (2008) which is now our past.  If you’re confused, raise your hand.  You, you, and you – get out.  There’s no room in this class for idiots.  The movie is 102 minutes short and has dragons in it.  Do I really need to write the rest of this review/article?  The things I do to make you people happy.

The premise of the film is simple: dragons are awoken when some company in London digs too deeply, unleashing the ancient dinosaur-killing creatures on the human world.  Terrible death and apocalypses ensues, and the survivors are forced to cope with life after dragons.

We focus mostly on Batman (Christian Bail) and his best friend Leonidas (Gerard Butler) as they try to make a medieval castle a safe haven for the rest of the world’s population.  Enter David Wooderson (Matthew McConaughey from Dazed and Confused) who has somehow grown into a buff bald guy and works for the army now.  He also carries an axe.  Essentially, they figure out that dragons work like fish, where the females lay the eggs and the single male dragon flies over and sprays them all with his man-juice.  Naturally the main characters decide that it’s a good idea to go kill the male dragon.  Of course, with Batman on their side, they could not fail.

So, the movie itself? It has terrible reviews and most people I know didn’t really like it.  What do I have to say about it?  A lot.  I have a lot to say about everything.  Ask me anything – I’ll tell you what your opinion should be.

This movie is pretty.  The CG is a little dated, but in general, it has some of the coolest creature effects I’ve ever seen.  Especially on dragons.  It looks to me like they took a lot of time to try and figure out how a dragon would actually work on a physical level.  Why do they shoot fire?  Why the hell would they want to burn everything?  It’s all pretty well explained.  Once they’re awakened, the dragons burn everything to the ground, then eat the ash, then go and sleep for millions (?) of years till they are awakened by foolish humans.  The fire comes from mixing two different chemicals to create a napalm-like substance.  Like I said, all explained pretty well.

The temptation to add LOLcats captions on these is overwhelming

The worst thing about the movie is the writing and the dialogue.  Someone took a really cool idea and wrote a few terrible lines of dialogue around it – and it shows.  The actors for the most part do their best with what they’ve got, but there really isn’t much to work with.  Although, to be honest, Batman just needs to look cool, as does Leonidas.

And David Wooderson as Van Zan doesn’t do too shabbily here either, what with him being a big, buff tattooed up army guy who speaks with a growl.  As far as action heroes go, this guy is actually one of the more memorable characters I’ve seen.  I was really surprised with his versatility.  Wow, this is sounding like a real review.  Are you impressed yet?  I’m pretty pleased with myself.  Champagne, here comes Daddy!  I’ve made it as a real movie critic!

The other thing that stuck out to me while I was watching this film was the cinematography.  Wikipedia says cinematography is “the making of lighting and camera choices when recording photographic images for the cinema.”  And if you can’t believe Wikipedia, who can you believe?  Besides me, of course.  So yes, this movie is really beautifully shot and well lit.  The atmosphere in this film is amazing, as far as hopeless, depressing surroundings go, and this is one of the best.  Everything is dark and rainy and there’s fog everywhere.  Wait, that’s England?  Really?  That’s what England is like all the time?  Poor saps.

Have you been to London? I took this picture there. Seriously.

I guess the last thing that needs to be brought up is the question of whether this is indeed a science fiction film or a fantasy film.  For those of you following along at home, I suggest you make a graph with two columns in it.  On one side, write fantasy, on the other side write science fiction.  Now, take all the elements of this film: Batman, Leonidas, Dragons, Post-Apocalyptica, Matthew McConaughey , Helicopters, Star Wars References, and C4 Arrows.  There’s also a tank.  Now, what does your chart tell you?  Fantasy?

You’re clearly wrong.  I am writing a science fiction column, and I am reviewing this movie.  Therefore: science fiction.  But on a serious note (skip if you don’t like serious notes) –   the difference between fantasy and science fiction is essentially a difference in these two ideas: Fantasy is something that you might wish to happen, but never can.  Science Fiction, on the other hand, is the opposite: usually something that can happen, but you would not want.  Most apocalyptic films depict a future that no one in their right mind would choose to happen.  No matter how happy the ending, the journey and the world is not something that anyone would want to happen.  Such is the case with Reign of Fire.  Although there are some that may want dragons to be real – those specific people are insane and should never be allowed to mess with genetic or evolutionary technology.  Or robots.  Because lord knows that some idiot with a degree in robotics will make a mecha-dragon and end all life as we know it.

My own thoughts on this film should be abundantly clear to those of you who know how to read in between the lines.  I hated it the first two viewings (in theatres and renting) but actually quite enjoyed it the third time.  I finally got over myself enough to sit down and enjoy what was essentially eye candy with a little bit of cool action thrown in.  The scene with the helicopter jumpers trying to capture the dragon is one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen.  Batman continues to do an amazing job.  Watch it if you like creature features and don’t mind a little wooden dialogue.  At some point, you are guaranteed to have Matt McConaughey jump off a tower with an axe onto a dragon.  Guaranteed.

It's right after this.

If that doesn’t make you want to see the film – then I can’t convince you either.  Go watch Pete’s Dragon for what you’re looking for.

Next week marks the end of this cycle of “random” movie selection.  I’ll give a prize and a special mention to anyone who is able to tell me my super-secret selection criteria.

I’m out.

If you imagine me slamming my computer off it’s desk and covering it in gasoline then cooly lighting it on fire while I walk away and it explodes, I won’t hold it against you.

2 Responses to “Article XII – In Which Batman and Leonidas Team Up to Fight DRAGONS”

  • Maggie Says:

    I own this movie. I hunted it down and bought it.

    I loved it. I still love it. I loved it in the theater, I loved it when I rented it, I loved it when I bought it. Something about the baldness and the tattoos and the axe jumping and even Batman.

    But I didn’t know that was Gerard Butler. I’m going home and watching this again.

  • Rosser Garrison Says:

    I’ve seen this flick twice and I admit that I really enjoyed it more the second time. I agree pretty much with all of your comments. The dragons are really cool. For an earlier attempt (and a very successful one too…) see “Dragonslayer” which did superb stop-action motion in the manor of Ray Harryhausen. But these were done with the aid of a computer, etc. That film also has a dark, brooding aspect to it (like this film) and I think the writer/producer (or whoever makes those decisions) did well in introducing the dragon bit by bit.

    On another matter….Why can’t Sci-Fi have a possibility that one would WANT to happen (remember your saying: “….usually something that can happen, but you would not want….”)? Does it always have to be something that people do not want to happen? Or are you just a pessimist?

    By the way, Pete’s Dragon IS a terrible movie.

Leave a Reply