Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Hollywood Babble On & On #1245: Don't Let Your Dungeon Be Draggin'!

Warner Brothers has announced that they're going forward with a Dungeons and Dragons movie based on the long popular flagship role playing game. This comes after a long legal battle between Warner Brothers, Hasbro, and Universal pictures that I described as akin to two junkyard dogs fighting over a broken fan belt. A lot of noise, dust, and blood over something the winner wouldn't know what to do with when they got it.
That's because Dungeons and Dragons isn't really the story/characters combo that makes a successful film franchise, it's merely a set of tools to enable players to make up their own characters and stories. No adventure on the screen will ever match the millions of adventures that have played out in player's heads of the last four+ decades.
We know that's a fact since there's already been one unsuccessful big budget feature film, and two direct to video sequels that were forgotten even before they were dumped in the Wal-Mart $5 movie bin.
Now while it's likely that Warner Brothers will repeat history, I'm going to offer them a way out. A way to use the D&D game to make a movie that won't suck the balls of a beholder.
The chief reason the last attempts at a D&D movie franchise failed was because they tried to be straight up fantasy adventures using elements from D&D which D&D cribbed from fantasy literature and mythology, so it came across as a bland mishmash rather than a vivid original world like Middle Earth.
So here's what you do, incorporate the game into the movie, and here's how:
It begins with a group of Dungeons and Dragons players who meet every week and have done so for years. They are:
JACK HARDCASTLE: Been a player since college, and his day job is as a police detective. He used to be the department's top ass-kicker, but for the last two years a knee injury has trapped him in a desk job. His D&D character is Hardrock, a dwarf barbarian-fighter.
CYNTHIA MACKY: She's a therapist and marriage counsellor, and the stress of her job, dealing with other people's misery, has left her with a raft of anxiety issues. Her D&D character is Illyria, an elven magic user.
BUCK WELLER: Used to be the proverbial 98 pound weakling, but got super-buff in college. Now he runs a chain of fitness clubs and shills the "BUCK THE SYSTEM FITNESS SYSTEM" on the shopping channel. Since his transformation he's become a bit of an egomaniac and a womanizer. His D&D character is Silverblade, a human paladin.
DENNIS CRANE: Is a chemist for a pharmaceutical company. He dropped out of the group a long time ago when he married his college sweetheart and had a family. He's rejoined the group recently after his divorce, but doesn't feel like he fits in anymore. His D&D character is Greymalkin, an elven rogue.
LINDA BAILEY: Civil lawyer, and is on the fast track to partner in her firm. She's career driven and treats the weekly game as a substitute for vacationing and socializing. Her D&D character is Redleaf, an elven ranger.
Every Wednesday night they meet in the back room of a comic/game store owned by their Dungeon Master SPENCE. 
To add some atmosphere to the game room, Spence has kept a strange looking orb he found in a junk shop in the middle of the table. One night while Spence is in the bathroom the orb starts to glow, then it unleashes a blinding flash and...
Our players are in a strange magical fantasy realm. An aging sorcerer has been listening in on their games, through the orb, and thinks they're just recounting real adventures. He's brought them to his world to save it from a rival who wants to do the usual conquering and enslaving. He's even given them gear just like the ones in their games, but there are some problems.
JACK is not really a dwarf barbarian, so his armour doesn't fit.
CYNTHIA can now cast spells, but her aim is not exactly...exact.
BUCK is given the unbeatable Speaking Sword, but it will become literally harmless if he breaks a vow of celibacy, which Buck will find impossible to keep in a world with real life elf babes. Whenever he violates the vow he has to recharge the sword by doing a humiliating penance ritual, goaded by the increasingly sarcastic sword.
DENNIS is supposed to be a master thief, but he is not built for stealth, and pretending to steal in a game turns out to be a lot easier than stealing in real life.
LINDA is supposed to be an expert in living in the wilderness, but her idea of "roughing it" is settling for a hotel with only a four star rating, and she's scared of not only monsters, but animals in general.
Naturally what follows is a mix of comedy and adventure in a world full of monsters, magic, and mayhem, where the locals play a game called Spreadsheets & Supervisors about office workers. The lead characters have to learn to work as a team, beat the bad guys, save the world and return to Earth before Spence gets out of the can.

So call me Warner Brothers if you don't want another serving of turkey.


  1. Rainforest Giant8/8/15 5:42 pm

    Or they could simply option the rights to Rosenberg's series or Quag Keep.

  2. Rainforest Giant14/8/15 1:18 am

    More seriously, I don't think you can play it for too much comedy. Their is plenty of room for a 'River of the Dancing Gods' or 'Guardians of the Flame' type of story. Do not over think it several writers have done something similar.

    The D&D folks have already tried the humor, the cheesy special effects, and low to mid budget. Give it to someone who understands it. Say Sam Raimi. He did well with tiny and modest budgets and big budgets. You don't need big money just a well written script and actors who are willing.

    Get actors who enjoy D&D Vin Diesel comes to mind sure he's big budget but you might pull him in with love of the genre and story. There are other actors who enjoy RPGs Use iconic monsters but ones that have a low budget factor (everybody and his sister can do 'orc' make up). Good fight choreographers are getting more common as the years go by (that's one part of movies that have gotten better).

    I think if you keep it tight and avoid the big sets or use areas that are already beautiful (BC comes to mind everything from coastal rainforests to high desterty grasslands in the east and those mountains...).

    Give the subject matter respect and the fans will love it. Give them one of the Waynes brothers and you'll lose them.

  3. Giant rainforest - I have a very similar findings to yours.