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Reign of Fire

SO NOW it is the turn of the dragons to devastate the world and have a few humans battle against these marauding creatures and actually win! Trust Hollywood to come up with something like this. After aliens, space creatures, galactic battles, chimpanzees, boa constrictors, scorpions and the like, here come the dragons flying and breathing fire and barbequing everything in sight. What is more, the dragons are the stars in Touchstone Pictures/Spyglass Entertainment's the "Reign Of Fire", but they don't say a word! All they do is breathe heavily , and these fire-snorters in this gloomy futuristic tale are not exactly dumb.

The storytellers (Gregg Chabot and Kevin Peterka) would have us believe that they are highly intelligent mutants, who are able to multiply and survive just by eating ashes. But then they do eat the humans they come across so much so that there are only a few left — that too holed up in some dungeon for fear of being discovered and burnt to charcoal or gobbled up.

Deep inside present day London, 12-year old Quinn is visiting a subway construction project run by his mother (Alice Krige) when a gigantic dragon slumbering for years, escapes into the open. He escapes but his mother dies leaving him mentally scarred for life.

In a clumsy effort at story telling, director Rob Bowman (X-Files) tries to establish that these dragons multiply and trigger a mass destruction, which not even a nuclear attack could quell.

Their onslaughts are not shown visually except through a montage of newspaper clippings and the world is a grey, chilly place to survive in!

By the year 2020 there is very little left of the earth — and one of the few surviving communities is headed by a now grown up Quinn (Christian Bale) in Northern England.

This small band of survivors, mainly comprising children, lives in a castle-cum-mine and starves most of the time. Somehow Quinn has convinced his people that they can outlast the dragons since fighting them has proved futile.

Enter the Americans — "if there is anything worse than the dragons its them," feel Quinn and his band of followers. Represented by an army unit led by the tattooed, heavily muscled Van Zan (Matthew Mc Conaughey) and Alex (Izabella Scorupco) a pilot and probably the only blonde on the planet! And Van Zan believes these dragons can be hunted and destroyed and that he has a suitable plan for that. A reluctant Quinn is not sure if that is such a good idea, but is eventually forced to accept this vision and join hands with him. This really stretches belief beyond limits but then logic is not in the scheme of things.

Though fiery and nasty to look at, the dragons are not very impressive — initially they are hidden by billowing smoke and darkness and when they do show their faces it's only the deadly male one that makes a scaly mark. By which time, you've had enough. One of the best sequences in the film is that of the skydivers who plummet down from the helicopter to battle in mid-air the fire breathers. The special effects are good no doubt, but nothing spectacular. Mc Conaughey looks like a wrestler and performs like one too.

As for Bale, there's not much to do other than perform some dare devil rescue acts — most often he lacks the passion and the expression to convey the trauma he has already undergone.

The entire film is a waste landscape — all in tones of blue, grey and brown. The bleakness is in large measure due to Simon Wakefield (sets). The desolation hits the viewer right away leaving no room for cheer on any account. Camera work by Adrian Biddle is pretty spectacular.

CHITRA MAHESH

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