Fantasy meets science-fiction in X-Files director Rob Bowman’s kick-ass dragon flick.
In present-day London, 12-year-old Quinn Abercromby witnesses the awakening of a hibernating dragon from a centuries-long slumber, the result of a construction dig supervised by his mother and an incident for which Quinn feels partially responsible.
Twenty years later, the adult Quinn (Christian Bale) is the leader and fire chief of a refortified castle community, responsible for dousing the blazes lit by the dragon’s prodigious number of flame-spewing offspring, airborne juggernauts that have wreaked havoc across the globe, torching civilization and turning humans into an endangered species.
Hope arrives in the form of Denton Van Zan (Matthew McConaughey), an American who has discovered a weakness that allows him to kill the dragons, and Alex (Izabella Scorupco), a scientist/pilot who’s a member of Van Zan’s army, a zealous fighting force that includes a secret weapon: the Archangels, paratroopers using themselves as bait to attract and then dispatch the deadly beasts.
The reaction to this film has always surprised me a little, and that’s not easy to do. This is just pure unmitigated fun. It’s a pretty interesting story that combines two genres that compliment each other. The effects are top-notch, and hold up still. They used a lot of practical effects if they could avoid having to CGI something. If you watch the making of videos you’ll see that the massive amount of fire in the film was mostly very very real. And it’s got some pretty stellar acting.
When your supporting cast already consists of Alexander Siddig, Alice Krige, and Gerard Butler then you can be pretty sure the main is going to be pretty good. Former Bond girl Izabella Scorupco gets to play more than eye candy as a badass who also happens to be the brains of the whole movie. Christian Bale is the very intense and introspective leader of a band of survivors, but plays it as a very restrained performance. This works out particularly well because it balances out a performance by McConaughey that I imagine must’ve spawned from a conversation that went something like this:
Matthew: So Rob, how do you want me to play Van Zan?
Bowman: I want you do every single scene like you constantly have the biggest erection anyone’s ever seen, and everyone else is intimidated and always staring at it in awe. Pretend you have the word “Balls” tattooed in big letters right on your forehead.
Matthew: Alright alright alright.
Seriously, despite having done much more difficult and impressive work this remains my favourite role of his. His alpha male scenery-chewing is so gloriously over-the-top in spots that I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that he walked around the sets pissing on things and other actors to mark his territory. If in his awesome final scene in the film (which makes a fantastc but spoilery gif so I can’t use it here) they CGI”d two watermelon sized testicles onto him, you would totally think to yourself, “Yeah..... that seems about right. Makes sense.”
Unless you’re expecting Blade Runner meets Lord of the Rings (which I’ve hopefully convinced you by now this isn’t) then you’re probably going to enjoy yourself. This is A-plus B-movie fun.