Dungeons & Dragons has experienced a surge in popularity over the past decade. Thanks to its inclusion in high profile projects and celebrity connections, the roleplaying game franchise has become more publicly renowned. A new live action film based on the fantasy RPG has been planned since 2015, but did not gain steam until 2020. However, it has been confirmed that the new Dungeons & Dragons movie is well underway. Check out the details of the upcoming fantasy epic!
Dungeons & Dragons: History and Films At a Glance
The fantasy roleplaying game Dungeons & Dragons (aka D&D) was created by Gary Gygax in collaboration with Dave Arneson. Using the initial miniatures rules created by Gygax called Chainmail as a template, and the two game designers expanded and revised the content. The game evolved from a miniatures wargame optional rule set into a play acting system that used as much "theater of the mind" as it does dice rolling.
In D&D, players get to create their own characters built from fantasy tropes, anywhere from fierce barbarians to spellcasting wizards. One player takes the role of the Dungeon Master, who portrays the non-player characters (NPCs) and builds the world the players go on adventures in. The D&D game became a huge success. Although Dungeons & Dragons has had its ups and downs (including a period of being negatively associated with the occult and promoting violence), it has stood the test of time and is currently on its 5th edition, with the franchise nearing its 50th anniversary.
Dungeons & Dragons lost ground to Magic: The Gathering in the tabletop gaming industry. So much so that TSR (the original company that owned and licensed D&D) was purchased by Wizards of the Coast (the owners of Magic: The Gathering) by the late 1990s. Wizards of the Coast would release a new edition (3rd which was streamlined into what is referred to as 3.5 edition).
After this period of renewed success, which was also in part due to video games such as Baldur’s Gate, Neverwinter Nights, and the MMORPG Dungeons & Dragons Online, the game waned again after the disastrous 4th edition. It would lose much of its player base to Paizo Publishing’s Pathfinder until a new edition was released in 2012. It would then rise back up, thanks to celebrity endorsements and players, as well as on social media and online streaming such as Critical Role.
Dungeons & Dragons has been adopted to other mediums, including animation, comic books, novels, and video games. Incidentally, one of the interesting factoids about Dungeons & Dragons is how many celebrities credit their formative years spent playing the game. Among these celebrities are actors Vin Diesel and Joe Manganiello, writer Stephen King, director Steven Spielberg, Tesla CEO Elon Musk, and many others. With D&D’s close connection with film creators and talent, being translated into live action was inevitable.
My D&D char was NG
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 7, 2019
However, the first true Dungeons & Dragons film was met with mostly negative response. Released in 2000 and distributed by New Line Cinema, Dungeons & Dragons by director Courtney Solomon only took in $33.8 million from a $45 million budget. The film was harshly criticized for its bland plot, rushed story, and uninteresting characters, save for the performances of Jeremy Irons and Bruce Payne as the villains. The film did receive a made-for-TV sequel and a third outing that was direct-to-video. Even fans of the source material disliked how the D&D elements were used as little more than set dressing (such as the Beholder in the first film). Moreover, the productions were criticized for not using established D&D settings such as Greyhawk, Dragonlance, or the Forgotten Realms.
New Dungeons & Dragons Film
The development of a brand new Dungeons & Dragons film had been rumored since 2015. It would be a completely fresh take on the material, with no connections to the 2000 film and its sequels except for the D&D material. Initially, Warner Bros. was interested in the project, but passed on it and Paramount Pictures picked up the license.
However, it would not be until Game Night directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein were attached to the project that it had finally gained momentum. This was further pushed into the spotlight in December 2020 when Chris Pine (Star Trek, Wonder Woman) signed on to star. Since then, the D&D film has gained other high profile actors into its cast including Michelle Rodriguez (The Fast & The Furious franchise), and Hugh Grant.
Due to the COVID pandemic, the production of the D&D film had been delayed and was slow in coming together in order to meet safety protocols. However, in a Twitter post Jonathan Goldstein confirmed that the film begun shooting as of April 29, 2021:
— Jonathan Goldstein (@JM_Goldstein) May 1, 2021
The film is currently in production in Iceland and Northern Ireland. There is no word yet if there will be other set locations.
A Bard's Tale
There is speculation that the film will be taking a slightly humorous approach, similar to Marvel Studios’ Guardians of the Galaxy, as directed by James Gunn. Although this creative decision has proven successful for similar movies, fans of Dungeons & Dragons are cautiously optimistic due to the past film history of the roleplaying game franchise. Here’s hoping they roll a 20 on their Performance Skill Check.
Dungeons & Dragons stars Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez, Justice Smith, Regé-Jean Page, Hugh Grant, Sophia Lillis, and Chloe Coleman. Written and directed by Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley, Dungeons & Dragons is set for a theatrical release on March 3, 2023.