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Where Is The Big Budget D&D Movie?

With all the news about The Hobbit movie and movies based on fairytales being announced left, right and center, I have one very simple question to ask the collective minds of Hollywood: Why isn’t there a massive Dungeons & Dragons movie being made at this very minute?

First off, let’s get this out the way: I know that there was a Dungeons & Dragons movie back in 2000, and that it (a) wasn’t a hit, and more importantly, (b) wasn’t very good. What I want isn’t a sequel to that, however. No, what I want is something that takes full advantage of the strange and surreal place that Dungeons & Dragons occupies in pop culture. Think about it: It’s got the brand name awareness of mega-hits like Transformers and GI Joe – oh, and like those franchises, it also had a fondly-remembered-if-not-exactly-great animated series back in the 1980s (Uni!) – as well as the toyetic value of both properties. It’s got the subculture of a Twilight or Star Trek down pat, as well – Imagine the merchandising opportunities! – and, most importantly, it’s got the potential for the epic fantasy storytelling of a Lord of The Rings or Avatar already built in, without the need for all-new world-building on the part of the moviemakers. So… why isn’t someone making this happen already?

At its core, I guess it has to be a mix of rights and shyness after the failure of the last movie. After all, there’s no way that someone somewhere doesn’t want to be making this movie even as you read these words – I just finished the (surprisingly enjoyable) Dungeons & Dragons #1 from IDW, and it’s written by Transformers screenwriter and Leverage creator John Rogers, so it’s not like there’s no-one out there who gets the culture or backstory – so there must, I assume, be some reason it’s not happening that’s related to whoever holds the movie rights. Does New Line still hold the rights after the 2000 movie (Apparently not, as they don’t seem to be involved in this little-known 2005 sequel)? And if not, who does? Surely it can’t be that owner Hasbro – the same company that owns those Transformers and GI Joe franchises, and which also has a movie production company of its own – is afraid of making a movie out of it.

It’s just perplexing. You’d think that with the dual hungers for nostalgic/instant-name-recognition properties as well as fantasy features (as evidenced by the new Fairy Tale Fad that Hollywood seems to be getting swept up in), a D&D movie would be so much more of a no-brainer than, say, Battleship or Stretch Armstrong… So why isn’t it happening?

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Comments

  • Peabody75

    D&D originated the ‘fat, pasty-ass, fanboys-living-in-the-basement, worthless-to-society, nerds-better-off-euthanized” stereotype. Who in their right mind would want to watch a movie responsible for creating THAT?

  • Benelgermosen

    Yeah, cos’ comic books, sci-fiction and fan-zines didn’t exist before 1974.

  • Sijo

    I’m pretty sure that stereotype existed before D&D- don’t forget that comic books, Star Trek and Star Wars precede the game and are much more closely tied to it than D&D even today.

  • Sijo

    I can think of two reasons: One, Hollywood only measures successes; all they know about D&D is that it failed as a movie twice. Second, culturally speaking World of Warcraft is better known than D&D these days. Just as nobody knew the game was ripping off some dude named Tolkien until the Lord of the Rings movies came out. That’s pop culture for you.

    But yeah, a WELL done D&D film -with GOOD SFX- could be huge.

  • Steel

    I still remember Jeremy Irons in that flick. This memory alone keeps me from ever wanting to watch a D&D-movie again.

  • hydrogenizedsoy

    D&D lacks characters, plot, and a cohernent world. That’s it’s great strength as a table top game but why it translates poorly to cinema. Dragonlance, Salvatore’s dark elf stuff, that’d make for a good movie but the D&D core just isn’t gripping stuff.

  • Shurato

    The first D&D movie reminded us that, while Jeremy Irons can act something fierce, he can also chew scenery with the worst of them. A few inclusions such as Richard O’Brien and Tom Baker were nice to see but I left the film with the feeling that O’Brien was just amused to run another Crystal Maze episode and that Baker was half drunk in his scene and that making him into an elf lord was bizarre in the first place.

  • Harlock

    The brand name “Dungeons & Dragons” evokes two types of images:

    – From the mainstream: lame fantasy game played by dorks who have no life

    – From a tiny minority: SUPERAWESOME fantasy game that is SUPERAWESOME

    (Now which category does the author fall into?)

    Plus, D&D has zero literary value, unlike the works of Tolkien, Lewis, and others.

    Even the nostalgia factor is weak because, again, the mainstream never played it. (But the mainstream DID watch G.I.Joe, Transformers, and the like.)

  • Jrau18

    Dude, D&D started in 1974. Star Wars = 1977.

  • Jrau18

    Also, yea, World of Warcraft has all but replaced D&D. And it’s popular with people who aren’t nerds too.

  • Shurato

    The game, itself, has no literary value but the various -settings- that have come out for the game have had quite a lot written with them. Dragonlance, for instance, was a reasonably well received series under Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman. Using some of the better fleshed out settings could be a good start, but one has to remember to base the stories on the characters first and the setting second.

  • Alex H

    If I was going to do a D&D film, I’d skip straight to the licensed games – eg Baldur’s Gate, Planescape Torment or Icewind Dale for the plot. The problem with D&D as a basis for a film is that for all intents and purposes the brand is about creating your own adventure, not about a specific story, a specific location or even specific characters. Also, the connotations of D&D would put off as many people as it attracted – hence why I’d suggest one of the games as a basis. Now… who to cast as Minsc?

  • Alex H

    You mean except all the people who made Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit some of the best selling books of all time I presume?

  • Stephen

    Uhh….HELLO….have you forgotten the Beastmaster?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Beastmaster_%28film%29

  • thesnappysneezer

    If they do it again, they should base it off of the cartoon series, people are attached to it that are not attached to the game. You would get the best of both worlds.

  • Hypestyle

    The next D & D movie must be based on the cartoon show, and this can be an analog to the “Harry Potter” series with youthful protagonists in this strange world.. You can make a more realistic version, without the campiness.. Someone who is knowledgeable needs to make it happen..

  • Stacy

    Someone should make a live action version of the Dungeons & Dragons animated series. That’s something that could rival Harry Potter as a franchise.

  • Seneca16

    The question isn’t ‘When are they going to do a big budget D&D movie’ but rather, “When are they going to do a big budget D&D movie that has a good writer and script behind it.”

  • Dave

    Please, anyone who’s into WoW is TOTALLY a nerd, no matter how in denial they are….!!

  • Hamdinger

    They don’t even have to use D&D in the title though. Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms, Greyhawk etc. There are many D&D properties that have novels and campaigns with many characters and complete stories to adapt.

  • demoncat_4

    its proably due to the other d&d movies not doing well box office wise as the main reason no one has jumped on trying to cash on on d&d again. though its only a matter of time before some one gets brave to do so.

  • Anyone

    I never met anyone who actually plays that.

  • BT

    I think an anime series (along the lines of Full Metal Alchemist) set in the world of Eberron would do well.

  • Zac

    they made it in the 80s..cept they changed the name to “Krull” due to some licensing problems i think.. but it was quite awesome for the time

  • AJEsq

    You had your D&D movie. It was called Dragonslayer.

  • Nightfall

    Uhm Temple of Elemental Evil? Against the Giants? Hell even the recent Age of Worms would be GREAT and “CORE” D&D. (If you want to consider Greyhawk core.)

    Look the problem I see it isn’t what to film, it’s where to start. My advice, hire at least one to two of these guys: Sean K Reynolds, Monte Cook, Erik Mona, Ed Greenwood, Chris Pramas. Then let THEM do the writing. You just get a director that can work and the right actors. Then you’ll have a movie.

  • http://khiaao.blogspot.com Khiaao

    They should make one based on that cartoon that came about about a decade ago

  • carnv

    I’d much rather see an adaptation of the first Dragonlance trilogy.

  • Talmerian

    One of the biggest problems with all of the DnD motion adaptations that have come about is that there is this obsession with people from the ‘real’ world being brought into the ‘DnD’ world. As if that is what those of us who play DnD are doing, imagining ourselves in a fantasy world. No, we are creating characters and telling stories in a fantasy world. That concept needs to be dropped completely.

    An adaptation of the Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms, or Planescape novels would be awesome. However, Hollywood has shown a stubborn tendency to ignore work that is already popular, and complete, for nepotism where a concept is tied to an existing script that is ‘good enough.’ (A major example of this is the travesty that was Wanted, the script for that had apparently been around for 5-7 years and never got anywhere until tied to a concept that didn’t fit it at all) If Hollywood can ever wrap its head around the concept that people enjoy compelling and well-written stories they might just get themselves out of this mess they’ve built.

  • Wayne

    Good question. After the rousing success of LOTR, we waited and waited for the avalanche of swords-and-horses fantasy movies. After all, every time there is a successful movie (let alone three of them, and the first ever fantastic-genre movie to win an Academy Award) Hollywood’s immediate reaction is to buy up everything remote like it and then pump that well dry. Instead, all we got was the first Narnia movie, then critical disasters like The Golden Compass adaptation (effectively cut off at the knees as ‘anti-Christian’), the second Narnia film and the forgetful Eregon. Swords-and-horses action fantasy that doesn’t have the massive Tolkien name behind it seems to fall short at the box office, and it’s always been that way.

    D&D has a very recognizable brand name. /ALL/ RPG-oriented computer games owe their existence to D&D for creating the mere concept, so the entire concept is very well known. Why it hasn’t happened as a decent movie yet, I don’t know. Certainly the first movie probably poisoned that name at the box office, but that was 10 years ago. Surely the curse is off it by now.

    Now, the only valid criticism I’ve seen here is that there are no recognizable characters, settings, story arc, etc, because D&D is ALL fantasy novels rolled into one. You can do anything with it. They’d be better off attempting a real Dragonlance production (the existing one is a cheap horrorshow of how to not make a film), or creating a unique world and using the movie to brand it.

  • KevinT

    All I know is that Larry Elmore would have to be the movie poster artist if ANY D&D movie was to take shape!

  • Podleader

    You said it yourself, Graeme: two flops in ten years. Maybe in another decade. Even Spider-Man needed 25 years to get back in the game after The Amazing Spider-Man movie of 1977.

  • Robert_white1366

    I’ve never had much desire to actually play a table top RPG, but I’ve always been fascinated by them. I’ve even bought some of the D&D books for the lore and the art. I agree completely with the comment that D&D is basically an amalgam of all the most popular epic fantasy tropes.

    That being said, after the quality of the LOTR’s films and most likely the Hobbit, who needs this franchise? I’d be more interested in an intelligent series of films based on Robert E. Howard’s Conan and Solomon Kane, the other pillar of epic fantasy/sword and sorcery.

    It’s akin to me to rushing to make a movie about the worlds greatest and most successful Led Zeppelin tribute band before making a film on, uh, Led Zeppelin!

  • Nightfall

    Him or Wayne Reynolds would be my second choice.

  • Nightfall

    Firstly there IS a Conan movie out there. It’s been filmed, it’s just not been ‘primed’ to audiences yet.

    Secondly Conan isn’t the ‘only’ intelligent sword and sorcery character. There’s also *pause* Elric of Melibone. That would be my choice over Conan, especially considering Elric is twice as cool as Conan.

  • Nightfall

    I honestly think the problem is WotC’s (owners of the D&D line) current direction (which obviously none of you know anything about) isn’t primed towards ‘entertainment masses’ and more along the digital peoples.

    Secondly I take umbrage with the fact WoW is some how “better’ or “more popular’ than D&D. Much of the tropes WoW uses are directly TAKEN from D&D. So the idea that some how WoW is “more accessible” than D&D is complete tripe.

    Thirdly, and most importantly, Hollywood has yet to embrace any one with any SERIOUS talent into the fantasy movie talent business. I can cite at least a dozen authors that still aren’t recognized by many and overlooked by most in Hollywood. Why? Because Hollywood isn’t about stories any more. It’s about the money. And quite frankly the money is going elsewhere.

  • Wayne

    Dude, I’ve played D&D for decades now and I’m here to tell you that WoW is a hundred times more popular and accessible than D&D was in it’s height of popularity during the 80’s. The most generous estimates put about 2 million active D&D players out there. Compare that to WoW’s 10 million+ subscriber base. You have celebrities doing WoW commercials in prime time, there was a South Park episode set in it, etc etc etc.

    Yes, WoW uses things taken from D&D. It also offers a play experience that can be had at any time, for any length of time a person wants, with any group of people that person wants. That is hugely more /accessible/ for most people than a weekly D&D session where they have to read, interact, socialize and travel to get that same experience. D&D is a vastly richer experience than WoW, but like most similar things it requires more work on the part of the participants. Similar to why we have more people that watch TV than read. TV is more popular and more accessible than a book, and the same analogy applies here.

  • Otaku-sempai

    We can’t get a good, big-budget D&D movie for the same reason that we can’t get a good super-heroine movie: The crappy ones have ruined the chances for a decent flick to get green-lighted.

  • Naij

    can’t comment on how good the script will be but a new d&d film is currently being filmed right now (i know someone in it!) – the book of vile darkness – out in 2011 – see imdb.com (search for dungeons & dragons)

  • Miriam

    You have never met anyone who has told you that they play it.

  • Miriam

    The D&D movie of 2000 was the greatest movie disappointment of my life. I love D&D and have played it for 15 years. I was shocked by how horrible the acting and dialog was. I wasn’t expecting Shakesphere, but I was expecting a Princess Bride level fun romp.

    There are plenty of fantasy movies that have the D&D flavor without calling themselves D&D. It might be better that way. D&D is just too open of a system to make a single story thread.

    Much better to have sub-properties of D&D get made into movies and just have D&D as a label like Marvel or DC.

  • Sonofspam

    One would guess that it’s because they don’t have any recognizable characters like say Snake Eyes

  • Bastard

    One would guess that it’s because they don’t have any recognizable characters like say Snake Eyes

  • Jrau18

    …Seriously? Half the football team are nerds? There’s more to being a nerd than playing a computer game. Don’t ruin the term.

  • http://twitter.com/Kekeh77 Kalu Ekeh

    Personally they shouldn’t title it as D&D or better they should only subtitle it. Dragonlance Chronicles, Elminister Tales, Saga of Driz’zt, THOSE are titles you should lead with, because most sword and sorcery fans, while they may not have ever picked up a D20, they’ve sunk their teeth into something of the Realms, Dragonlance, or Eberron. Personally I think an animated series done in the current DC Animated or style of the recent He-Man masters of the Universe Series that Debuted on Cartoon Network, or something in the style of Samurai Jack would be awesome.

  • Squashua

    This man is correct. The D&D movie was “Krull”, but it did diverge from the concept.

  • Nightfall

    Just because more people watch TV doesn’t mean that TV is the better than books. I cite reality TV for that simple fact. :P

  • Nightfall

    The hell?! They’re basing a movie on THAT artifact? What they couldn’t do Vecna?!

  • Ha3ha_n

    What I would like to see is a Dragonlance movie, preferably the fable Huma story. It got a massive battle at the end with magic flying all over the place, dragon filled the sky until it was pitch black, aerial combat and good characters, at least for me. Though one thing I would change is to not do a live-action, they can make it a full CG film if they wanted to 3D stuff…

  • Wayne

    I didn’t say ‘better’, I said ‘more popular’. Two different things.

  • Nightfall

    Popular should also mean better. I mean look at Lost. While people couldn’t follow it at times, it was still better than survivor. :P

  • Thad

    “a cheap horrorshow of how to not make a film”

    Indeed. There’s some perfectly good voice work, but the CG Draconians against the cel everybody-else are incredibly jarring, key details (kender are immune to fear, Raistlin sees people aging when he looks at them, Dragons are considered myth and merely looking at one is enough to root you to the spot with fear) are completely omitted, and the “DEFEAT THE BAD GUY WITH YOUR FAITH IN GOD!” climax makes Narnia look downright subtle.

  • Trynn23

    My opinion is that a movie is based on characters in settings that test them and Dungeons and Dragons has no name characters it is associated with. You would have to create them from scratch which is basically like a real D&D game except the general audience would now know that and Hollywood has gotten very lazy when it comes to creating new ideas from scratch thus no D&D movie.

  • Philo Pharynx

    Personally I’d go with an Eberron movie. I’d have the opener (and teaser trailer) covering the Race of Eight Winds in Sharn. It would be a big spectacle to get people excited and it would show that this isn’t your father’s oldsmobile. Er… fantasy movie. They could adapt some of the Eberron novels or start with a fresh story.

  • Brian from Canada

    The pundits have all answered correctly. Fantasy films DON’T sell, and never have, with the one exception of Lord Of The Rings — which was not only a well respected tome, but a cultural fad in the 60s (from which Led Zeppelin took lyrics), a cartoon following the successful adaptation of The Hobbit… and for some, just a life style.

    I mean, seriously, how many people didn’t have someone saying the words along with the movie in the theatre, or making bad comments in Elfish?

    More importantly, there is no text to base it on. Criticized for dropping key elements or getting stuff wrong, people who didn’t read the books still knew there was a book out there that it’s based on. D&D doesn’t have that; it has guide books.

    Marvel actually added classes to make the cartoon more interesting, a point you can tell by the fact that they showed up in Dragon magazine at the time and not the rules. They went their own way and it worked within the logic of the series, but as a film trilogy it wouldn’t work because there’s no arc structure already set up for how to do films 1, 2 and 3 beyond the beginning and the end. (And yes, there was an end, it was just never put to film but it’s on the DVDs.)

    If someone wants to do a big budget movie, they can capitalize on the name and its difference to the past two films by saying that they went back to the core of what makes D&D work without the bad script. But they need a story to sell it — and no one in Hollywood at this point looks willing to throw $100 million on a film that has no workable story, no character archtypes well known in the general audience, and trilogy structure.

  • Apple_gate

    There is a D&D movie being shot at the moment. ‘The Book of Vile Darkness’

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1733125/

  • Apple_gate

    There is a D&D movie being shot at the moment. ‘The Book of Vile Darkness’

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1733125/

  • Lycan Sejemaset

    Well half my football team played magic: the gathering, and dnd…… so i think half the football team being nerds is a fair statement

  • xwozx

    Personaly i would prefer a live action tv show as a sequel to the original tv series, set a few years after the end of it to be exact. I n my spare time ive even wrote part of my idea up, but alas i lack what makes most people sucessfull, time, money and contacts :S

  • xwozx

    being a fan of d&d is just like being a football fan, you like something, you follow it simple. Stereotypes are dying out, get with the times