A white elephant and a termite are fighting for the soul of Rob Bowman's Reign of Fire, which imagines a future in which dragons have reduced everything to an infernal ruin and humans seek shelter wherever they can, trying to avoid being flame-broiled for lunch. Dragons aren't exactly the stuff of high art, but Bowman (The X-Files Movie) acts as if they are, presenting us with a world so unremittingly grim that he's taken all the fun out of it for us. Chewing on his lines like they were beef jerky, Christian Bale plays the leader of a small band of survivalists who've holed up in an English castle. Their strategy is to wait out the dragons, which are starting to run out of food. Then along comes Matthew McConaughey as the George S. Patton of World War III. A cigar stub growing from the side of his mouth, McConaughey's Van Zan ain't waitin' for nuthin'. He wants to kick some dragon ass now.
It isn't much of a conflict to build a movie around, and you can bet the wait-and-see approach doesn't get much of an airing. There's just too much dragon meat cluttering up the screen. Reign of Fire owes a huge debt to the Mad Max movies, of course, a debt it doesn't begin to repay. Mad Max, now there's a termite.