Going Down In Flames

Dragons in London? Gimme a break!

St. George, you’d better retire - unless of course, you’re American!

The plot can be summed up in less than ten words - Brits cause trouble. Americans save the world. But while on the face of it this isn’t a film about pro-American propaganda, the subtleties (subtitles) simply can’t be ignored. A little boy, Quinn, in present day London visits his mum working down an excavation site. He inadvertently wakes up a slumbering dragon, and the next thing you know, its 2020 and the world is burning to bits.

The dragon has miraculously spawned a couple of hundred babiess that have eaten almost the entire human race...medium rare or crisp. A few survivors in England headed by a full-grown Quinn (Christian Bale) live in a fortress of sorts, in the hinterland, and are always on the lookout for the ominous shadows in the sky. Their life is hard, but tehy're determined to survive by waiting till the dragons die natural deaths. With an acute shortage of food, tempers are forever swelling. Then come the Americans. As if out of nowhere, a battalion of army tankers, motorcycles and a chopper descend on the unsuspecting Brits, and the American leader, Van Zan(!), a muscled cigar-stomping chap, claims to have the solution to slay the dragons.

Rob Bowman has dealt with the unusual before. He’s directed "The X Files: The Movie", "Alien Nation" and even "Werewolf"...so dragons were really no biggie to pull off. This film is one of the better production products in its realm - the sets, the special effects all lean towards a realistic atmosphere.

If only the same could be said about the other minor details...for example, the script!

Sure, you’ve taken a far-fetched notion, but you fall short of the winning lottery when you expect to ride on the enormity of the idea alone. The performances are exaggerated - Christian Bale is unremarkable, while McConaughey as Van Zan is hardly recognizable in his bulk and barbarism.

You have to give it to Richard Hoover, though, for his special effects. Having been built from scratch, with little to refer to, they came out very well in their depiction of a world infested with dragons. The dragons themselves were notably constructed and some scenes were remarkable.

But all said and done, at the end of it, you’re not really buying into the whole dragon scene. The snag? There’s just too much absurdity, even with a long stretch of the imagination, to overcome the handiwork of a couple of clever technicians.

This article was first published on 26 Sep 2002.