Why Couldn't the Dungeons and Dragons Movies Have Been This Good?

Posted by Labyrinthian in , , ,


This isn't going to be a review, so you can just fault me for false advertising right now.  No, instead this is more of a lament, for something that should have been great, but fell on its face.  
I'm speaking of the Dungeons and Dragons Movies, of course.  

The first D&D movie had promise... if you didn't look too close.  It had established actors, most notably Jeremy Irons, and it had a fairly large budget of $45 million when it was made in 2000.  Despite that the movie was simply awful.  Gary Gygax even dissed the movie in the gamer documentary Uber Goober.

What can I say about this film?  Not much that is good, that's for damn sure.  It's almost painful to watch from start to finish.  I'm actually getting angry just thinking about it.  The plot is awful, the characters are terrible, the acting is worse, the direction is a joke, and the special effects suck for the most part.  

None of that is the worst part, though.  The worst part is that the film was named Dungeons and Dragons.  For years studios have believed that fantasy movies, and specifically D&D could not be made into a successful movie.  Right around the time that this movie was made some changed their minds and greenlit a bunch of fantasy movies like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings.  While those two franchises soared to record box office numbers D&D grossed a whopping 15.2 million dollars domestically and 33 million world wide.  So the real tragedy is that this film seemed to confirm studio suspicions about the lack of viability of a D&D movie when the reality is that the movie just sucked because of the people put in charge of making it, most notably wirter/director Courtney Solomon.

Despite the first movie sucking lama balls a second movie was made.  This was not a big Hollywood production, but rather a made for TV film.  Dungeons and Dragons: Wrath of the Dragon God was better the the original, which is kind of surprising, but still not very good... which is less surprising. 

The film was billed as a sequel to the first film, though nothing is the same save Bruce Payne and the name of his character, Damodar.  The film is better in that, unlike its predessor, it is the Dungeon and Dragons film.  There are numerous references from in the game including a cleric of Obad-Hai, a mage who uses standard D&D spells like Lightning Bolt and Teleport, the fighter wielding a Vorpal Sword, and a sleezy theif who specializes in finding and disarming traps.  Even with all this the film is at best a one time watch for hard core D&D fans who can appreciate all these things.  It lacked the budget of the first one, and did as much as one might expect with a total budget of 12 million dollars.  

That having been said, I'd like to see what the Dead Gentlemen could do with a 12 million dollar budget!  Their masterpiece, The Gamers 2: Dorness Rising was made on a miniscule budget and is more of a D&D movie than either of the official titiles. 

You might think that they should just scrap the idea of making a live action movie and try for an animated one.  It would certainly be cheaper and easier to produce.  Oh wait, they tried that too with Scourge of Worlds.  SoW is a little known of project that was a straight to video interactive adventure that fell flat on its face.  How could this also be a failure?  How hard it is to make a great fantasy animation video?  

Hmmm....


Wow... I guess it can be done. 

This entry was posted on Tuesday, February 23, 2010 at Tuesday, February 23, 2010 and is filed under , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

8 comments

Those movies sucked because there were no Dwarves in them!!! Also, they didn't have D&D players on the creative staff. It's a shame that true D&D nerds are producing better films in thier garages.

February 23, 2010 at 3:39 PM

@Yoo-Hoo Tom: You might not remember the dwarf from the first D&D movie because he didn't have a name... Which is actually kinda faithful to D&D...

http://www.mutantreviewers.com/vdnd10.jpg

February 23, 2010 at 4:24 PM

And to make the insult worse, there are a lot of really great D&D novels. Why couldn't they have adapted one of those books? It also lets you use the game world name to avoid using the "Dungeons and Dragons" name, which now brings up memories of really bad movies. I think Eberron just oozes movies potential. Imagine the opening credits showing the race of the winds in Sharn. It would let you know that this is not quite traditional fantasy. Or a sequence in the mournland. I see them playing with editing tricks j-horror style to emphasize how wrong the place is. Sadly I don't have $150 million in my back pocket...

March 2, 2010 at 11:11 AM
Anonymous  

If you want to see a D&D campaign brought to screen properly, watch the anime Record of the Lodoss War, which started out as someone's D&D game in Japan:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yiZh1E403Aw

January 1, 2011 at 6:10 PM
Anonymous  

Anonymous the youtube account is gone, so there is no film to watch, sorry.

June 2, 2011 at 3:41 PM

I still remember all my gamer friends and I sitting in line 5 hours before our opening night showing of the first D&D movie. I remember sitting in a theater full of the area's gamers, all of whom were equally excited about the film. And I remember the epic disappointments we all experienced.

However, the D&D Movie is responsible for what turned into a 5-year-long game (which stretched from 2nd ed to 3.5). I was so pissed off that they'd turned dragons into fighter planes that as we walked back to the car, I told my friends "Damnit, we can do better" and we went home, rolled-up characters, and I immediately introduced them to an "elf" (actually a polymorphed dragon) who had a job for them, and who was a recurring gray area character for much of the game.

I was also upset to see that Gygax got NO credit in the movie. The credits just said it was based on the game "copyrighted by Wizards of the Coast."

December 7, 2011 at 9:16 AM

Joe it's good to know SOMETHING good came about because of that movie.

As for Gygax getting credit, I'm fairly sure he didn't want his name attached anywhere on that piece of crap. I'm not saying they offered, just that he hated the movie. He said so many times including once in Uber Goober. Certainly if he wanted his name to appear then it should have. Dave Arneson was actually in a scene of the movie as an extra, but it was cut from the film.

December 7, 2011 at 11:40 AM

I agree... a DnD film needs to be done right. CG cut scenes from Dragon Age and other various games (Witcher, anyone?) are setting the bar far too high for there to be any excuses from studios as to why they can't compete. It's time. Can't wait to see a real DnD finally happen.

June 16, 2012 at 8:31 PM

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