Friday, January 31, 2003

Y'know, sometimes you just want to put your brain on hold and watch a Big Dumb Fun movie. I just finished watching one just now called Reign of Fire.

As you may or may not know, the plot concerns slumbering, apparently invulnerable to everything dragons. Big ass dragons. In short time, they awake and destroy cities great and small, forcing humanity to reenact all those Mad Max films they used to watch on late night TV.

Everybody's too scared to fight back except unrecognizable Matthew McConaughey and his intrepid band of Army or Marines or some branch of the armed forces, who use high-tech equipment, helicopters, and so on to battle and slay the dragons. They have tracked the Big Kahuna beast to London, where they encounter a grizzled Christian Bale, who as a child was present at ground zero when the monsters awoke. He is the leader of a band of humans who are holed up in an ancient castle. He tells them not to try and go to London, the dragon will track back to where they came from and kill them all. Of course, Matthew doesn't listen, and everything goes downhill from there until a satisfying but oddly anticlimactic ending.

I can't help but be amazed at how much giant monster movies have changed since the days of Godzilla and Gorgo. Of course, the effects are a million times more advanced, but the basic way they're presented is so much more aggressive and intense. Many scenes in this film look like those Army recruitment TV commercials we've all seen. Of course, this is what audiences expect and demand these days, and that's fine with me, but I just couldn't help but notice.

Matthew McConaughey, never one of my favorite actors, is actually pretty darn good here, playing a character named Van Zan, supposedly from the Bluegrass State (or at least from a Kentucky battalion), shaven headed, chewing on a cigar butt like Sgt. Fury's great grandson, cut and buffed and walking like he's got a pipe stuck up his ass and speaking in the sort of accent that actors who don't know better think sounds like a Kentucky accent but isn't even close. Trust me, I know on that score. Still, in spite of what I just said, he's not bad, and is easily the most memorable character in the movie.

Not to go off on a tangent, but there's a scene in this film where Van Zan headbutts somebody in a free-for-all. Now, I have never really been in a fist fight, nor have I ever seen one where people do this. But in every film, it seems like, in which there is a brawl there is at least one instance of one combatant headbutting the other. What I'd like to know is does this really happen in real fistfights? And is it effective, or does one wind up doing as much damage to themselves as they do to their foe? This just occurred to me while I was watching.

I liked this film, even though it had ungodly big logic gaps. It reminded me a lot of those grand and glorious 1950's B movies of my youth that I used to watch on the Big Show all the time. They weren't Great Cinema by any stretch, and many were just stupid, but they were fun. And they had big monsters. And by God, sometimes you shouldn't ask for more.

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