We all know the world is going to end; an inevitability proven by any number of ancient scriptures or Roland Emmerich films. But if we are lucky enough to survive the bomb, or the meteor, or...a Nicolas Cage performance that unmakes our entire existence, we will have a whole host of new problems to deal with. As an avid watcher of post-apocalyptic cinema, I decided it was high time to take these prescient forecasts of our inescapable fate and issue a somber warning to our readership. Every week I will breakdown a post-apocalyptic film (usually Italian, usually from the 1980's) so that we may ready ourselves for the bleak future ahead of us. I give you Aftermath Mondays!
This Week's Disaster: Reign of Fire
Believe it or not, today's film was not made in that certain boot-shaped, Mediterranean peninsula. My fascination with post-apocalyptic cinema does transcend Italy, though admittedly very rarely. Today's entry is also far more recent than the majority of my favorites but the fullness and outlandishness of its concept more than compensate for a lack of 80's aesthetic. Reign of Fire takes place in England but portrays a chilling outlook for our future undone by an ancient threat. The outlier with this film as far as my typical fare is concerned would be the marked lacking of blatant plagiarism.
What Went Wrong: Engineers in London accidentally unleash a nest of dragons that have been hibernating deep below the surface of the Earth for eons. Those dragons proceed to burn the entire world to a blackened crisp. Apparently, though man had canonized the beasts as the stuff of legend, they are a very real species that not only caused the extinction of the dinosaurs, but also incited the ice age with their ash. What?! Every few million years they purge the Earth of life and therefore place themselves in danger of starvation so they must enter hibernation until the planet repopulates. Oh damn, we gone done and woke 'em up son!
Who Survived: Pockets of humanity have learned to live underground to avoid the menace currently controlling the sky. Though we focus on a sect from England, events in the film suggest a smattering of survivors exist across the globe. While I understand the rationale once the dragons are released, the creatures came from nests under the ground so it seems contradictory to me that borrowing into the ground would offer safe haven.
Who's In Charge: That question is at the heart of the character conflict in Reign of Fire. The film centers on a tribe of survivors living in and below the remains of a castle in England. The leader of that tribe is played by Christian Bale and his one and only driving force is keeping these people alive and well. Enter into the mix a team of adrenaline-junkie American dragon slayers lead by Matthew McConaughey who want nothing more than to stop hiding and start taking back the planet. They engage in a power struggle that ultimate costs innumerable lives. Which would you rather follow?
Who Will Save Us: Only by joining forces as one collective ball of macho, will Christian Bale and Matthew McConaughey be able to triumph over the great lizards and instill hope in the scattered remains of humanity. They discover that almost all the dragons are female with one bull male fertilizing all the eggs. They travel to London, the male dragon's habitat, in the hopes that killing him will exterminate the species by default.
When Will It All End: According to the prologue, this film takes place in the distant future of 2010. But the trailer indicates it as being 2084?!! In the film, there are many references to it being 2010 and even a video of the scorched Earth that is time-stamped 2010. Even if the dragons only came out in 2010 and the film then takes place years later, Bale is a little kid in the opening and is nowhere near 74 years older later in the film. I therefore call bullshit on the trailer. I am also therefore against America pursuing further off-shore oil drilling not because I'm worried about the environment, but that we may accidentally unleash the dragon horde just as foretold in Reign of Fire. Laugh all you want, but don't expect me to buy that How To Train Your Dragon being released in 2010 is a mere coincidence. We had better learn to train them...or suffer annihilation.
One final thought on Reign of Fire. Though not a huge commercial success, I genuinely like the film and think it's one of the most interesting post-apocalyptic films ever made. What I find entertaining as I watch Reign of Fire is to imagine that I'm watching Terminator: Salvation. Christian Bale is playing the leader of a dying race staring extinction in the face and his sole motivation is keeping the human race alive?! Not to mention that, while obviously the film with the bigger budget looks more polished, the production designs of the two films aren't terribly dissimilar. I just replace dragons with killer robots and repress any and all memory of the McG stink bomb.