A creaky B-movie plot is given an A-list treatment in director Rob Bowman's future-primitive action flick, which delivers just enough thrills and eerie atmosphere to put it above the ranks of the usual, uninspired summer fare. Reign of Fire doesn't try to subvert or mock the conventions of the creature-feature, instead, it approaches them with just the right balance of stone-faced seriousness and levity. The dialogue is threadbare but functional, giving stars Christian Bale -- in his first big-budget action lead -- and Matthew McConaughey plenty of room for appropriate, unapologetic scenery-chewing. And what scenery it is; the real star here is Wolf Kroeger's production design, awash in orange, black, and gray, offering up one of the most vivid, lived-in post-apocalyptic landscapes since the Mad Max series. Reign of Fire's sole drawback -- and it's a big one -- is its last act, in which the tension dwindles just as it should be taking off into the stratosphere. It's here that the script fails Bowman and his game cast. Unlike James Cameron's B-masterpiece Aliens, the scattered plot points don't inform the finale in a satisfying way; instead, it's a warmed-over reenactment of Jaws, with a fire-breathing dragon standing in for a Great White.
by Michael Hastings review