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Reign of Fire

Matthew McConaughey and Christian Bale ditch their clean-cut looks and get scruffy in this near-future action fantasy romp. Unbeknownst to us, dragons have been hibernating underground for centuries and, after they're awakened by our need to dig up the ground to construct crappy overpriced condos and millennium Ferris wheels, get pissed off and devastate most of the human race.

Taking a page from Lord of the Flies and adding a touch of Survivor, our two (for the price of one) heroes have decidedly different ways of dealing with the situation twenty-odd years later. Bale's Quinn Abercromby seeks to outlast the beasts and leads a small community in a London-area castle, while McConaughey's Denton Van Zan has come over from America with a bunch of weapon-loaded Marines and a crazy gleam in his eyes, planning to kill them off once and for all.

The duel of ideologies isn't overdone and the tone thankfully doesn't dive too far into "America kicks ass - you suck" territory. One of the definite highlights is when the dukes do finally come out. The theories behind the dragons' awakening and the devised battle strategies are logical enough, so it all makes sense without getting too bogged down in details.

With two male leads and a few more supporting, you'd think there'd be lots of bed hopping going on, but the boys pretty much stick to the job at hand, keeping the romance to a PG level throughout. Izabella Scorupco plays the love interest, although this is surprisingly understated for a Hollywood flick, to the point where, most of the way through the film, Gerard Butler as Abercromby's second in charge at the castle would have been believable as more than just that.

The dragons are well done, with realistic motion and good interaction with the environments. They really should have had more screen time though - seemingly due to budgetary constraints more than any Alien-style "hide it until the last scene" strategy. Well-crafted action scenes provide a good adrenaline boost at the midway point, when the Marines go to battle against the dragons. A couple of rough mattes here and there take the sheen off, but overall, everything looks good technically.

There are a lot of places a story this basic could have been steered right down the craphole, but somehow it manages to move things along nicely and deliver a satisfying summer flick. It's good fun for the testosterone laden, has a few really good laughs that have nothing to do with the plot, and there's also some very nice footage of McConaughey's buff torso replete with tattoos if you like that sort of thing...