Film: Reign of Fire

Creedy: Only one thing worse than a dragon... Americans.

A 2002 post-apocalyptic film directed by Rob Bowman.

In 2008, 12 year old Quinn Abercromby, stumbles upon a sleeping dragon recently unearthed at a construction site in London. Said dragon then awakens, and proceeds to decimate the construction site and kill everyone present, except for young Quinn. Before long more dragons hatch and proceed to multiply across the face of the Earth at an exponential rate, burning human civilization as they go. Paris is burnt to the ground, attacks in Kenya kill dozens of people, until the humans just decide to nuke the dragons out of existence. Unfortunately, this backfires, and rather than killing the dragons it ends up wiping out human civilization as we know it.

Years later, Quinn (Christian Bale) is the leader of a small band of surviving humans living in an English castle. The people hope to survive by keeping their heads down until the dragons run out of food, and starve themselves to death, as fossil evidence in Antarctica suggests they had before. Unfortunately a dragon follows some of the people back to the village and burns their crops. Days later, a band of American dragon hunters, led by Denton Van Zan (Matthew McConaughey) and Alex Jensen, come to the village. After killing the dragon that burned the crops, Van Zan reveals that all of the dragons seen in the world are female, and there is only one male, who fertilizes the females' eggs like a salmon. If this dragon can be slain, the dragons will be unable to reproduce.

Received two Licensed Games, one for the PlayStation 2, Nintendo Gamecube, and Xbox (notable for the PS2 and Xbox versions to get an M rating while the Gamecube version received a T), and another for Game Boy Advance. Both has the player as either a human or a maturing dragon. And by the way, in the GBA version, the dragons were able to talk (!?!)


This movie provides examples of:

  • Achilles' Heel: The dragons can't see well in the light of dawn and dusk.
  • Action Duo: Quinn is the Action Survivor, Van Zan the Action Hero. This puts them at loggerheads for much of the film.
  • Action Girl: She's not that over the top an example, but in the final confrontation Alex is no less competent than Van Zan or Quinn.
  • After the End: Between the opening scenes and the movie proper, dragons have destroyed about everything.
  • All There in the Manual: Quinn's last name.
  • America Saves the Day: Puny Brits need American badasses to show them how to be men again. Subverted in that they cause the destruction of the castle, many needless deaths with nothing to show for it, Van Zan dies rather spectacularly, and Quinn is the one that actually kills the male dragon.
  • An Axe to Grind: Van Zan's hideous looking axe that he uses to finish off the dragons they shoot down.
  • Antihero: Van Zan. Depending on how you look at it Quinn might count as an antihero for much of the film.
  • Apocalypse How: Class 2 (fall of civilization) with the possibility of it growing into a Class 3 apocalypse (human extinction) if the dragons outlast the humans. The survivors begin to rebuild after the dragons are defeated, bringing it closer to a Class 1 event. Shades of Class 4, due to the humans' and dragons' mutual success in devastating the biosphere.
  • Apocalyptic Log: As the introducing voice over explains what happened after the first dragon awakens, we see a newspaper montage covering different stages of the dragon apocalypse, from the first scientific articles to the war itself. A nib pen, presumably Quinn's, scratches out a message to his adopted son.
  • Awesome but Impractical:
    • The entire "skydiving with a metal net to make a dragon fall to its death" tactic the Americans use. Talk about going around the world to get across the street.
    • The Chieftain tank — its BFG is good for intimidating settlements, not so for blowing up flying creatures.
  • Badass: Van Zan. Quinn. Alex. The Male Dragon.
  • Badass Boast: "There's nothing magical about them; they're flesh and blood. You remove the heart, you bring down the beast!" Also, after being told that the sky is the dragon's territory; "No, that's my territory. That's your territory. They're just renting it."
  • Bald of Awesome: Van Zan and Gideon.
  • Bald Black Leader Guy: Gideon, the lead Archangel. Unusually for this trope, he has a sense of humour.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Averted. Alex and the other girls get every bit as beaten up as the boys.
  • Big Bad: The Male Dragon.
  • Big "NO!": Parodied when the protagonists are acting out a scene from The Empire Strikes Back as a play.
    The Black Knight stares through the holes in his mask, and says; "I [breathes heavily] am your father!"
    White Knight: NNNNNNNOOOOOOOOOOOO!
    Watching kids: YEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAH!
  • California Doubling: The London scenes were filmed in Dublin. Dublin was doublin'!
  • The Chains of Commanding: Being The Hero sucks. Just ask Quinn about it. He's responsible for an entire community, has to make hugely unpopular decisions for the good of everyone, and honestly has no real clue what he's doing. The reason he's in charge? Because someone has to be and everyone agrees he is. No wonder he's training Jared to take over.
  • Converging Stream Weapon: The dragons shoot two streams of chemicals which collide in mid-air and ignite.
  • Covers Always Lie: AH-64 Apache helicopters swooping in to combat rampaging dragons? Sorry, not here.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle:
    • The male dragon wipes out Van Zan's convoy in a single pass.
    • Van Zan himself completely dominates his brawl with Quinn; Quinn gets a couple good hits in, but Van Zan nearly beats him to death.
  • Death from Above: Dragons to people, Archangels to dragons.
  • Defiant to the End: Van Zan. "Come on big boy!"
  • Doing In the Wizard: How the dragons make fire, via a reaction of two chemicals similar to a bombardier beetle.
  • The Dragons Come Back: the initial trigger of the central plot.
  • Dragon Hoard: When the young Quinn first stumbles into where the dragon is hibernating the walls are covered by Pyrite...or possibly gold. We didn't get long to look at it before all the burning and the death starts.
  • The Dragonslayer: Van Zan (and his fellow Americans) are all specialists in slaying dragons. They have knowledge of the dragons' weaknesses and exploit these with a range of specialized equipment, including a tank and a helicopter which can drop troops onto flying dragons to force them to land.
  • Dug Too Deep: How the Dragons were awakened.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: He may not inflict any damage, but the way Van Zan goes out is still awesomely Badass.
  • Easy Logistics: Despite the complete collapse of human society, an entire armoured division is able to still support itself. You have to wonder how much fuel they expended just to get to Britain in a world where presumably there is no more oil extraction. This is handwaved when Van Zan's admits that they're running on fumes.
  • Elemental Baggage: Averted. The film explains how the dragons create the fire: two glands each produce half of what is called "natural napalm," which when combined, ignites upon contact with the air.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Christian Bale, Gerard Butler, Matthew McConaughey...they could've called this "Hunks vs Dragons: The Movie", with emphasis more on the hunks than the dragons.
  • Eye Scream: A mild case - Quinn gets a faceful of the dragon's fire fuel when he first discovers them, which makes his eyes turn blood red.
  • Expanded Universe: The video game of the movie shows juvenile dragons, who are ground-dwelling creatures looking rather like dinosaurs.
  • Fake-Out Opening: The film starts with twelve-year-old Quinn meeting up with his mother on the construction site where she works. We learn fhat Quinn's lost a 3000-a-year scholarship and that his (presumably wealthy) father is no longer in the picture, and for a minute it looks as though the film's going to be a serious picture about Quinn and his mother struggling to make ends meet... Aaaand then the dragons appear.
  • Feed It a Bomb: How the male dragon is killed: shooting an explosive-wrapped crossbow bolt into its wide open mouth.
  • Final Boss: The male dragon, whose defeat spells the end of the entire species.
  • Good Is Not Nice: Van Zan. Quinn can look this way to certain members of his community. As Creedy puts it "I'm your best friend. And some days, even I don't like you."
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Van Zan is heading there at a rapid pace. To quote Alex after his fight with Quinn: "He would have killed you. He doesn't feel things. It's the only way he can do what he does."
  • The Hero: Quinn to the castle community and the film.
  • Hero Killer: The big male, who is the original dragon and responsible for the death of Quinn's mother. When Van Zan tells Quinn about him, Quinn is visibly scared, and even Van Zan (the man who will take on a dragon with a chopper and a harpoon gun) wants a small army with him when he goes hunting for it. It even has the reputation you'd expect: Quinn relates an incident wherein a group from Pembery went to London and disturbed him, resulting in 90 deaths and the destruction of the castle. The male subsequently goes on to wipe out Van Zan's army, burn the castle down, killing AJ and Creedy in the process, cannibalise several of his own and kill Van Zan. On top of all that, his vast size makes him the only dragon that's easily distinguishable and recognisable.
  • Hollywood Tactics: the soldiers in this movie don't seem to have any solution to the dragons other than More Dakka.
  • Informed Ability: The Archangel's ability to take down dragons in mid-air is hyped up, but when shown in action it fails horribly with most of them killed.
  • Just Plane Wrong: You'd really need a lot more support for a helicopter than is seen in the movie.
  • Keystone Army: There is only one male dragon. Kill him and the entire species dies out.
  • Killed Off for Real: Eddie, Barlow, AJ, Creedy, Van Zan
  • The Lancer: Creedy to Quinn.
  • Large and In Charge: The big male is at least three or four times the size of the females, possibly far more.
  • Love Interest: Alex is very quietly the Love Interest to Quinn. It's actually handled nicely, with the love interest being shown to have bloomed after the plot is resolved.
  • Meaningful Echo: Early on Van Zan demands to speak to the person in charge. Everyone turns to Quinn. "Well, that'd be you then." The line isn't said again, but a constant theme of the movie is the community's dependence on Quinn as the leader. At the end, Jared rides up to inform Quinn that they have a message from France, and that "They want to speak to the person in charge." Quinn by this point can safely look at his protege and say, "Well, that'd be you then."
  • Monumental Damage: Quinn looks through old magazines, where the photographers only seemed interested in catching famous landmarks on fire - The Empire State Building, the Eiffel Tower, etc. The angles are such you wonder how on Earth the photographers made it out to publish their photographs! Later in the film the characters see the actual ruins of the Tower of London, Big Ben, and Tower Bridge.
  • The Mountains of Illinois: The area around London is shown to be hilly, however in reality it's quite flat.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The poster showed dragons attacking London, and coming in contact with the human military, implying that it's an Independence Day-style invasion movie. The movie's actually set After the End.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Van Zan starts to administer one to Quinn, but they are dragged apart.
  • No OSHA Compliance: In the opening scene none of the workers display any objection to a child (Quinn) entering a construction site without any protective gear. When their digging hits an unexpected cave, one of the workers even suggests Quinn go take a look inside. To top the stupidity off, once Quinn comes rushing out of there, the same worker keeps saying "It's not safe!" If it's not safe, why the hell did you have a child go in there?
  • Not So Stoic: Van Zan is in visible pain when his comrades are killed.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Izabella Scorupco (Alex, the helicopter pilot) is with an American unit and thus implied to be American, but her Polish-Swedish roots slip into her speech now and then, especially at the end.
  • Quick Nip: Subverted
    Quinn: Hey! This is water!
  • Our Dragons Are Different: Oh, so different. They have only four limbs, connected by a bat-like membrane of skin like a Wyvern, they breathe fire through a chemical reaction; and there is only one male who fertilizes all the eggs of the females like a male salmon.
  • Parental Abandonment: Quinn, Jared, and likely most of the kids in the community have lost their parents.
  • Parental Substitute: Quinn to Jared, a boy he rescued from a destroyed town.
  • Passing the Torch: Quinn's objective with Jared, who he is training as his replacement.
  • Perma Stubble: Van Zan
  • Phlebotinum Killed the Dinosaurs: It was the dragons who killed the dinosaurs.
  • Pun-Based Title: It's "raining" fire during the dragons' "reign" of fire.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: The first time we see Van Zan's dragonslayers in action, things go horribly wrong and he loses three men to bring down one dragon. It's implied that while their strategy doesn't always go to plan, this particular outing was an especially poor showing.
  • Properly Paranoid: Quinn and Creedy's concerns about Van Zan aren't too far off.
  • Reality Ensues:
    • Yeah, Van Zan is a badass and all that, but no one is going to survive leaping through the air from the top of a high tower, at an 80ft dragon, with nothing but an axe, when it's heading right for you.
    • Van Zan vs. Quinn. Quinn's an Action Survivor while Van Zan's a trained soldier; Quinn may have the righteous anger of a Papa Wolf defending his people from being seduced by a General Ripper, but ends up on the receiving end of a Curb-Stomp Battle all the same.
  • Rated M for Manly: Matthew McConaughey in one of his manliest roles ever.
  • Red Shirt: The skydivers know they've got a limited life expectancy.
  • Rule of Drama: Even after proving themselves as competent dragon killers, Quinn is suspicious and distrustful of the Americans, wanting no part in their attempt to solve the dragon problem.
  • Shout-Out: The re-enactment of the Star Wars scene. In the post-apocalyptic future, Quinn and Creedy claim authorship to the story and use it to entertain the children.
  • Sleeves Are for Wimps: Van Zan.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Van Zan in the game.
  • Spreading Disaster Map Graphic
  • Survival Mantra: The children's prayer is actually a list of survival instructions and psychological prepping.
    What do we do when we wake?
    Keep both eyes on the sky.
    What do we do when we sleep?
    Keep one eye on the sky.
    What do we do when we see 'em?
    Dig hard, dig deep, run for shelter, never look back.
  • Tank Goodness: The tank Van Zan's crew has with them causes noticeable concern among Quinn and his community.
  • Tanks for Nothing: The Challenger tank does diddly squat against any dragon.
  • Testosterone Poisoning: Matthew McConaughey plays his character this way. Trivia has it, that McConaughey WRESTLED COWS to get his build for the movie.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • Eddie, a member of Quinn's community. First he tries to pick the crop out of season (admittedly it's because he has starving kids, but still...) attracting a dragon in the process and costing them half their crop. Later on, he joins up with Van Zan's doomed raid on London.
    • His children seem to have inherited that same lack of IQ, as one when rescued by Quinn in the fireproof trucks, decides to stand in the exposed turret without a protective suit and thus gets barbecued.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: Van Zan.
  • Watching Troy Burn: Quinn gets to do this to the castle after the big male arrives.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Van Zan tears the brits a new one when they throw a party; to them, they're celebrating the death of the dragon that had devastated their food supply. To him, they're celebrating the death of one dragon and three of his men. However, Quinn gives him one in return, since they have lost hundreds of their community to dragons and have never seen one slain, whilst Van Zan has just arrived and thrown his weight around like he owns the place.
  • Whole Plot Reference: The third act is essentially an homage to the third act of Jaws, with dragons instead of sharks.
  • You Will Know What to Do: Parodied when Van Zan's convoy turns up on their doorstep.
    Quinn: I'm going out. Anything happens, you know what to do.
    Jared: Er... no.
    Quinn: Yeah, me neither.

Alternative Title(s):

Reign Of Fire