Reign Of Fire Blu-ray Review
PictureThe picture on the SD edition (R2) was extremely good in the first place, but this Blu-ray scorches all over it. Polished up and presented with beautifully sharp 1080p transfer, Reign Of Fire cooks up a visual storm with dynamite bright flames and gorgeous vistas of fire that reach that pure white-hot core without any hint of blooming, glitching or contrast flickering. The film, though, apart from the bursts of flame now and again, is actually thoroughly de-saturised and leached of life and colour - and necessarily so, of course. With the land turned to grey dust by the hordes of dragons (that we never really see), the palette is a muted one. But fire-lit interiors are often bathed in a smartly golden glow that is well reproduced amidst the fabulously deep blacks of the scene-dominating shadows. In fact, when comparing this BD edition to my original R2 copy, the film plays somewhat darker - if fans of it can imagine that - with the image often left with only a few slivers of colour amid the blackest blacks that I've seen for a long time. Don't get me wrong though, this looks pretty awesome. The rock and shale faces of the hills have a nice clarity that brings all that glorious British rubble to the fore, and the industrial wastelands of the London-set finale reveal stacks of detail and a nice sense of that all-important three-dimensionality as Quinn, Van Zan and Alex pick their way through.
Flesh-tones are good, with the grime and sweat clinging naturally to the honed and toned muscles on show and faces possessing a realistic pallor that is swarthy and weather-beaten for the blokes, pale and subdued for the ladies. The greys, browns and earthy greens for the dragons are a lot more visible with the higher definition and the swirling mist, smoke and washed-out lighting of “Magic Hour” is more finite and better filtered about the image than on the previous edition.
I did find some very slight evidence of noise in the picture but, other than that, I saw no evidence of blocking, artefacts or edge enhancement to spoil the view, resulting in an image that is very fine indeed. The source print was of a high quality and this Blu-ray disc makes what is, in reality, a very dark and dreary-looking film look fantastic.
SoundWell, here we go again, folks. Once more I get to heap praise upon another simply scintillating PCM Uncompressed 5.1 (48kHz/16-bit) mix. For the purposes of comparison I listened to the SD's pretty effective DTS track and, as good as that is, the PCM leaves it way behind.
The bass is very effective and resoundingly deep and room-filling, with plentiful explosions, the rumble of tanks, the solid, fast and trembling impacts of dragons landing or crashing to the ground and the hefty addition of LFE support to the rolling jets of flame.
Edward Shearmur's score has a good time of it and is well presented all around the speakers. There's not much softness to his music but its bold and strident nature is perfectly reproduced on the disc. Dialogue is always clear and well-centred and the mid-range reveals a depth that swirls quite nicely within the mix, although it must be stated that this is not a track that favours subtlety.
The surrounds are active throughout, with flash-forwards of flame sweeping front to back with unsettling realism, impacts reverberating behind you and dragon-roar and beating wings nicely projected. Listen out for the tank's initial rumble that drives over you from the rear-right, then revel in the total surprise of Alex's first flyby that thunders overhead from back-to-front without any prior warning. And then there is the great support from the rears for when the dragon bumps her helicopter around the sky - really effective screeching of metal tears around the speakers. Later on, the splendid design also has the thundering rotors of the chopper, which remains unseen, circling overhead and passing seamlessly from speaker to speaker around the full set up. Brilliantly realistic. The overall environment that is created is aggressively mixed, energetic and dynamic and certainly provides the film with a sonic ride that is an exciting and immersive one. The only thing that prevents Reign Of Fire gaining the full 10 marks is its lack of the more subtle effects. I'm not saying that they aren't there, but the track is so alive and in-yer-face that you really won't notice them. And, to be honest, with bombastics this good, you aren't going to care, either.
A great, thunderous workout for the system and a good demo track. There are also DD 5.1 tracks in English, French and Spanish.
ExtrasPorting over the extras that adorned the SD release, this BD release offers very little of interest in the way of special features, extolling the film's virtues in a couple of EPKs that are little more than glorified trailers. The first entitled Breathing Life Into The Terror just shows us in MTV, fast-cut-style how the effects were achieved ... although, in reality, it tells us nothing.
The second, called Below The Line: If You Can't Stand The Heat is a brief look at how the flame effects were created, with particular attention paid to the shooting of a scene during the London finale. Again, nothing special here, I'm afraid, unless you are fan of fire-bars.
Then we get Conversations With Rob Bowman, which is just a very annoying 12 minutes spent in the company of the director as he discusses his background with The X-Files and why he loves “scary movies”. In fact, the sheer amount of times he utters the word scary is terrifying in itself. He definitely seems to be under the impression that he made a horror film which, having viewed it a number of time now, I can even more definitely confirm that it isn't.
Rounding the disc off we have the theatrical trailer, and the BD special of a Movie Showcase feature that, when activated, simply takes you into those scenes that the DVD makers believe are the hi-def highlights of the movie.
The extras may look enticing, but they are worthless.
VerdictGreat ideas and a couple of great characters, but sadly a film that cannot contain them. The end result is a movie that can never fully satisfy but, for me at least, can still be enormously entertaining. Christian Bale and Matthew McConnaughey magnificently boost what is an underwritten scenario with over-egged ambitions and delusions of grandeur. The dragons look awesome too, just a shame we don't see enough of them.
The BD release of Reign Of Fire is a definite step-up from the SD edition, with a terrifically sharp image and a wild and bombastic PCM track that is easily up there with the best that I've heard on the format so far. The extras are worthless garbage however. But for fans of the film (and there are some besides me ... I just know it!) this disc is a no-brainer and definitely recommended.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £21.69