Dungeons & Dragons, the game, has been having something of a renaissance in recent years. It’s being re-popularized in hit shows and even some celebrities are showcasing some games of their own. The classic role-playing game has been around for decades and offers a little something for everyone in character-building, imagination, conflict, battles, and much more. Now, we are getting a Dungeons & Dragons movie to compliment some of the gains it has made in the short-term. Let’s take a look at what we know about the film so far.
What Is Dungeons & Dragons?
Dungeons & Dragons was first published in 1974 as a, for the time, new look on role-playing games. Players create their own characters and are “led” through the action of the game by the Dungeon Master who wears a lot of hats. The Dungeon Master is both a storyteller and an arbiter while also in charge of enforcing the rules of the game. It is often a theater of the mind experience with the Dungeon Master setting the stage for the action and encounters. But the players often dictating much of what happens as well.
The rights to Dungeons & Dragons is owned by Hasbro who’ve published numerous editions of the game over the years. While there are certain structures and rules that help define the action and settings, the game is also malleable, allowing for maximum creativity among the party and Dungeon Master.
That being said, making a movie out of the concept isn’t as straightforward as other adaptations of video games or books. Wherein those have sometimes linear plot lines or at least developed characters and settings, Dungeons & Dragons can take so many different forms. While there are established canon characters or settings, players are encouraged to make up their own worlds and beings to populate their games. The idea of the property is more of a fantastical world with creatures and characters of every race and alignment.
What Will Dungeons & Dragons Be About?
This remains to be seen. The plot for Dungeons & Dragons isn’t known at this time. It stands to reason, based on the adventures published in multiple versions, the world will have something of a Middle Earth/ Lord of the Rings feel. The main races of characters within the game include (but certainly aren’t limited to) Humans, Elves, Dwarves, Gnomes, and Half-Orcs. That gives a wide range when it comes just to the type of characters we could see.
And within Dungeons & Dragons, there are more than enough adventures to come along over the years to conjure up some fantastical and mystical story arcs. Often, the game is structured around character building, leveling up, and ultimately (though it takes a long time) encountering the big-bad for a final conflict. In this way, the game is built like a classic story.
Chris Pine is already set to star in Dungeons & Dragons as in the lead role. His character isn’t quite known at this point, though it does stand to reason, at least a little bit, that he will play a human. That’s just speculation but considering the actor’s fame, keeping him as closely aligned with his current face makes a lot of sense. He’s fresh off reprising his Steve Trevor role in Wonder Woman 1984 and will soon play Walter Cronkite in the biopic Newsflash. Of course, there are now rumors he’ll be reprising his role as Captain Kirk in a new Star Trek film.
There have been a few pieces of additional casting news as well. Michelle Rodriguez just landed a role. She’s best known for her Lennie role in the Fast & Furious franchise and has another flick coming down the pike when F9 finally hits the screen.
And finally, Justice Smith is on board as well with a confirmed role. His bigger budget films include Pokemon Detective Pikachu and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. It’s shaping up to be a strong cast with a number of other decisions set to be made. I suspect this ends up being a huge group of folks with a number of massive set pieces. I doubt they keep the world entirely insular which could mean a wide-ranging group of folks up on the screen.
Who’s Helming Dungeons & Dragons?
The film has been in development for some time with a variety of names attached. Joseph Manganiello, who hosts his own popular version of the game with celebrities, was originally in negotiations to adapt the film, but that ultimately fell through.
Now, Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley have both been tapped to direct and adapt the screenplay. The creative team has worked on a number of other projects together already in these roles. For starters, they teamed up to write and direct Vacation with Ed Helms and Christina Applegate. It was a silly movie that didn’t perform all that well. From a comedic standpoint, it had its moments but failed to deliver as a complete work.
But they followed that up by co-directing Game Night which was a total hit with critics. The comedy about a family game night gone completely off the rails scored 85% on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s clear that game-playing is part of these two’s list of pastimes considering how accurately they depicted it even in a silly movie. It stands to reason these two have a deeper Dungeons & Dragons background, making them ideal for bringing the story to the big screen.
The two also handled the screenplay for Spider-Man: Homecoming, another blockbuster hit that touched on all the comedy and action you’d want from this kind of film. Having the pair handle a movie like Dungeons & Dragons, considering there could be a lot of moving parts, does give a certain amount of creative stability and imagination.
A Dungeons & Dragons movie adaptation was attempted back in 2000 with Jeremy Irons and Justin Whalin in the lead roles. It was a total bomb failing to earn back its $45 million budget by taking in only $34 million at the box office. The theater of the mind aspects of the game just didn’t play at all on-screen and it failed on almost every level. The story went for a standard fantasy yarn with total world-building along with a number of fantastical elements. The final product was a confusing mess of monsters, characters, and a muddled story. There’s always some risk of that happening again with such a non-linear and broad set of “source” material. So let’s hope they can hone this thing into a logical film.
When Will Dungeons & Dragons Hit Theaters?
The current plan is for Dungeons & Dragons to release early next summer on May 27, 2022. That gives a lot of runway to have the movie start taking shape and other casting decisions to be made. No doubt this will be a massive release, appealing to the growing number of players out there.