Dungeons and Dragons: A Mismanaged Film Franchise   2 comments

Last month saw the Syfy channel release of the third film in the Dungeons and Dragons film series.  And I’m willing to bet that this is news to you.  I am willing to bet that the fact that ANY Dn’D movies exist is news to you, let alone three.  Hell, I have a subscription to the Dn’D newsletter and I would have never heard of Dn’D 3: The Book of Vile Darkness if not for the fact that I had happened to stubble across it  while channel surfing.

That was pretty rough.  I’ve DVRed the movie but have not been able to bring myself to watch it yet.  Never saw the second movie either (also sitting on my DVR).  Reviews for both have been quite bad.  I saw the first one when it was released in theaters, and the best thing I could say for it was that it really tried its best but fell short.  But, despite of  all this I think that there is still hope for the future of Dn’D on film.

The first in the series (check out the whole thing here)  was underwhelming at best, and racist at worst.  The plot is confusing, and several key scenes ended up getting cut.  I only figured out what the hell was going on when the deleted sections showed up on the DVD’s bonus features.  It stared Justin Whalin (I forgot who he was, too) Marlon Wayans, Thora Birch and Jeremy Irons.



The second movie saw a direct to DVD release in 2005, and to this day I don’t know anyone who has watched it.

It seems odd that Dungeons and Dragons has had so many low budget missteps in the motion picture game.  It is one of the most well known and iconic elements in all of  the geek popular culture that is dominating the mainstream media today.  So why is it still banished to the forgotten realm (pun!) of Syfy Channel movies?

Dn’D 3 t’was (old timey!) produced on a low budget, $12 M.  Dn’D roll playing game currently owned by Wizards of the Coast, which is in turn owned by Hasbro, the same toy company that owns Transformers, GI Joe and Battleship.  Granted not all of those movies were good (possibly none of them) but they had budgets in the hundred millions.  Considering the lack of performance of the first movie I can understand why no one would want to put a lot of money into the series.  But, 2000 was a long time ago, back before marketing to geek culture became a profitable enterprise.  The idea of playing a game of Dungeons and Dragons doesn’t carry the social stigma it did twenty years ago, and the franchise has more name recognition then ever before.  Enough so that another large scale movie would be a smart investment for the franchise.  It is just a question of how the theoretical movie is put together.


We all just need to forget that this ever happened…

First off, it needs to be as accessible to kids who would be learning about Dn’D for the first time as it is to long time players, just like the game itself is.  For this there needs to be a light hearted tone, that you just don’t get from a movie titled The Book of Vile Darkness.  Granted that the “Book of Vile Darkness” is an item in the game, but slap that on to a movie and it just screams “We are taking this way too seriously.”  The first movie had its issues, but it was a story about two care free guys getting in over their heads and going on an adventure, exactly how 100% of all the roll playing games I have ever taken part in have started out.  It needs to capture that sense of adventure that pulls new players in when they first pick up the Player’s Handbook.

Second, it should be animated.  The world of Dn’D is strange and beautiful and dank and creepy and anything else you could ever imagine.  It is simply too big to be contained to reality.  Animation would free the movie of that confinement and take the audience to a place of youthful adventure.  It has to think more like How to Train Your Dragon and less like Game of Thrones.  Lord of the Rings/ The Hobbit prove that there is a place for big budget live action fantasy adventure in theaters, but because of them a live action D’nD  movie, even done well, would end up looking like a knock off.  Which wouldn’t exactly be wrong.  There hasn’t been an animated fantasy story that has been able to match LOTR in scope which D’nD is built to do.  It can really work so long as it doesn’t use any ridiculously stupid plot lines, like say a bunch of kids from our world being transported into the Dn’D universe.  But I don’t think they would ever try something so trite…

Wow… almost forgot about that… Well, moving on…

Third, it needs to tap into the growing community of Dn’D celebrities.   The entire movie could be cast with acctual Dn’Ders, such as Karl Urban and Patton Oswalt.  People who understand the game, like Stephan Colbert and Vin Diesel.  Each character in the film could be give a fully stated character sheet, and the fight sequences could all be played out in as Dn’D sessions, allowing the actors to get into character and add a level of authenticate game play that was lacking in the previous installments.

Dungeons and Dragons has taken on a new life in this brave new era of geek culture.  I think it is time it gets its due on screen.

What do you think? Does Dn’D deserve another shot at the big screen? Tell me below!


Posted December 3, 2012 by atomicsam in Film, TV

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2 responses to “Dungeons and Dragons: A Mismanaged Film Franchise

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  1. Wrong, Sir! You know AT LEAST two people who have seen the second D&D movie (me and Steve.) Honestly, it’s not a great film, but it’s far and away better than the first one. It gets half of D&D right (The serious, Lord of the Rings-esque adventure half) but it does take itself too seriously.

    Truth be told, I’d say the best filmed adaptation of what a real D&D game is like is the comedy mini-series Krod Mandoon and the Flaming Sword of Fire. It’s got swords, sorcery, action, heroics, and tons of laughs both at and with the characters, which no good D&D game ever goes without..

    • Krod Mandoon was a good show! Short lived, but I think it was British produced so that is typical. The Gamers movies (although I’ve only seen the second one) are also a loving tribute to the game that gets more about Dn’D right than the movies did.

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