Some of you may know that a few of us here at PCU are big tabletop RPG fans. We love games like Pathfinder, Star Wars, and of course, Dungeons & Dragons. That being the case, there were (predictably) some groans of trepidation when we heard that the folks over at Paramount Studios have set a release date for a new Dungeons & Dragons movie.
Yes, you read that correctly: Hollywood is attempting to revisit the ubiquitous tabletop game that has captured the imagination of gamers for decades.
The thing is, D&D (as it’s affectionately known by players) has also been a serious kick in the teeth for movie studios. Back in 2000, the first big screen adaptation of the 40 year-old tabletop game was released, starring Jeremy Irons, Justin Whalin, and Marlon Wayans. For those of us keeping score, it…did not do well. The film has consistently been ranked as one of the fantasy genre’s worst undertakings ever, and does almost nothing to capture the feel of the actual game. Following that, a made-for-tv “sequel” was released in 2005, called Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath of the Dragon God – this one starring Bruce Payne in the role of the villainous Damodar – and not faring any better than the first film. With an estimated budget of $15 million, the movie only pulled in just over $909 thousand, making it a catastrophic financial failure. While fans seemed largely impressed by it, it also received poor marks among critics.
This brings me back to why I am writing to you today, dear readers. I’m wondering if moviegoers and tabletop gamers alike are really ready to subject ourselves to what could be another abject failure at trying to capture onscreen the spirit of a game that is largely driven by imagination. On top of that, this thing has apparently been in the pre-production works since 2015, and there has been little progress made. As of June of this year, in fact, the biggest news out of the whole shebang was that the studio was in talks with actor Ansel Elgort to play the lead role.
On the flip side, this may not be all bad. With the void left after the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies ended, and with the soaring popularity of HBO’s Game of Thrones, the film world may actually be hungering for more fantasy-style, sword and sorcery movies. Additionally, since a lot of us are aware that actor Vin Diesel is an avid Dungeons & Dragons adventurer, it was no surprise to hear that Goosebumps director Rob Letterman was looking for a “Vin Diesel type” to take on one of the parts in the film. Could we see the muscle-bound actor make an appearance in this film? Who knows. I, for one, would be a bit shocked if he wasn’t in it, though.
To our geek minds, however, there’s really only ever been one faithful screen adaptation of Dungeons & Dragons. Those of us who are old enough to remember Saturday morning cartoons back in the mid-1980s will recall the fun we had while watching the cartoon version of Dungeons & Dragons. The show had great animation, a fun atmosphere, and really kept hyper kids like me engaged for 30 minutes. That’s the kind of thing I would like to see revisited.
All of this being said, though, I am still not holding my breath that Hollywood can pull off another movie based on what is arguably the most popular and well-loved tabletop role-playing game ever. With so many attempts and failures at getting the genre right, I can’t really see another attempt doing much better.
There’s still very little information out there about the film, so we’ll keep our ears to the wire and try to keep you all updated. As it stands, the release date for the yet-to-be-named Dungeons & Dragons movie is set at July 23rd, 2021.
We can only hope that the ghost of Gary Gygax takes pity on us, and helps these filmmakers to roll natural 20s while they work on this.
Tell us, dear readers: Are you looking forward to seeing another attempt at a Dungeons & Dragons movie, or would you rather just stick to the tabletop? Leave us a comment down below!