Entertainment One has greenlit a live-action series based on the venerable role playing game Dungeons & Dragons, to be directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber. The eOne studio has wide-ranging plans to utilize the brand of Dungeons & Dragons, hoping to eventually have multiple shows and has at least one movie set to be released. As a director, Thurber is also currently a hot commodity, having directed the action comedy Red Notice for Netflix. Starring Dwayne Johnson, Gal Gadot and Ryan Reynolds, the movie swiftly became the most viewed original movie ever on Netflix. While there are no announcements as of yet where the prospective show might land, it feels likely that Thurber will be a bridge to the streaming giant.
Dungeons & Dragons has had an extremely rocky path to adaptations in the past. For the last several years, a feature film version of D&D has been in the works with Chris Pine as a lead and Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley as co-directors. Like so many other films of the last several years, it became mired in production delays due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It is currently set to be released in March of 2023. Way back in the year 2000, there was also a big screen adaptation of the RPG, starring Justin Whalin, Marlon Wayans and Thora Birch. It flopped at both the box office and with critics, despite featuring Jeremy Irons as an evil wizard. There was also a cartoon series in the 1980s and a CGI direct to DVD movie in 2003, but to date, there has never been a truly successful adaptation. See Jeremy Irons in one of those adaptations below.
Part of the difficulty of adaptation is likely the sheer ubiquity of Dungeons & Dragons’ influence. Since its creation in the 1970s by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, D&D has had a massive impact on pop culture. It holds a place as something of a bridge from the high fantasy creations of JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings to modern blockbusters like Game of Thrones and World of Warcraft. While it did not create fantasy tropes like orcs and dungeon-crawls, it certainly popularized them, as well as almost single-handedly creating the concept of shared role playing game systems. But the sheer number of movies, TV series and video games drawing wholesale from D&D can’t help but make the original source seem a little, well, unoriginal. It also probably does not help that by design, there is no original “plot” as such to D&D, only settings and concepts to be utilized by players.
Presumably that is what eOne will be attempting with the much-delayed Chris Pine movie and the prospective TV series. It is currently unclear whether Rawson Marshall Thurber will be helming the three sequels to Red Notice that Netflix currently has in production with its star trio, or how that might impact Dungeons & Dragons: The Series. But they do have a whole giant sandbox of fantasy ideas to play around in, and likely the cooperation of one of the world’s largest streaming services. Which seems like it’s a pretty good place to be in, so as long as they bring back a screaming Jeremy Irons.