It was recently announced that Chris Pine is in negotiations with Paramount Pictures for the starring role in a Dungeons and Dragons movie scheduled for release in 2022.
Pine is the first star attached to the project, with writing-directing duo John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein slated to helm.
Pine is — of course — the prettiest of the Hollywood Chrises, known for his roles as Captain James T. Kirk in the recent Star Trek series and as Gal Gadot‘s love interest, Steve Trevor, in the Wonder Woman movies. And Dungeons & Dragons — AKA DnD — is a fantasy roleplaying game developed by Wizards of the Coast for their audience of nerds.
There is of course nothing wrong with either nerds (hi there!) or the forms of entertainment made for them — be they science fiction, fantasy, or something entirely different (maybe like a blend of science fiction and fantasy?). In fact, in recent years nerd culture — and DnD in particular — has gained wider acceptance.
The popularity of Stranger Things is at least partly responsible, but DnD has been featured in a lot of media lately, with celebrity nerds like Vin Diesel throwing their weight behind the game. This has led to even some socially adept people embracing their nerdy sides.
Some would argue that nerd culture is now in the mainstream. But that doesn’t mean anyone really wants a DnD movie…
There are TV shows, podcasts, and YouTube channels devoted to DnD. Some of them follow campaigns that span dozens of hours of game time, while others just use the game as a jumping off point for comedy and commentary. But none of them feature main characters or familiar story arcs — because DnD doesn’t have those.
There are tons of examples of the pitfalls involved in adapting any interactive game into a movie, but at least Clue had the basic elements of a story built into it. Even something as ill-fated as Battleship had a clear core conflict to work with. But the whole appeal of DnD is the total lack of story structure.
It’s a sandbox world. Do you want to follow the mysterious stranger on a quest to slay a dragon? Go for it. But if you’d rather refuse that call to action and flirt with the half-orc working the bar — get drunk, then go get a tattoo in a back alley before robbing some halfling tourists — that’s an option, too.
It’s improvisation and chaos. It’s adults playing communal make believe — with a handful of rules and a Dungeon Master as referee — and allowing that to be as silly as it sounds.
That’s what keeps fans coming back to DnD shows like Matt Mercer’s Critical Role, the McElroy brothers’ The Adventure Zone, and Dan Harmon‘s HarmonQuest — apart from the charm of the people involved. There’s a sense of surprise and chaos, with a very permeable fourth wall. Nothing is set in stone, and no one behaves quite the way they should.
How do you capture that energy in scripted lines and carefully curated performances? And without that weirdness, what is the appeal of a Dungeons and Dragons movie?
D&Diesel with Vin Diesel (Extended Version)
Sure, there’s the fantasy setting — with elves and monsters and magic — but there are a ton of movies you can watch for that kind of thing. What would make a DnD movie different from Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings — other than the lack of coherent source material?
If Paramount was bold, they could embrace the chaos and improvisation of DnD, and we would see Chris Pine and his co-stars navigating a fantasy world where there are no rules. Maybe they ignore the obvious adventure — allowing the city to be taken over by an evil wizard in the background — while they chase down a gnome who sold them a faulty Potion of Invisibility.
Maybe the dialogue is all improvised. Maybe the narrator turns out to be the DM, and the characters can argue with them when events don’t go their way.
Maybe there are multiple endings based on the characters’ choices. Maybe Gary Gygax shows up with some magic dice.
There are actually a lot of interesting and weird ways that they could approach a DnD movie to make it genuinely novel or interesting. And then there’s the much more realistic option: a lazy cash grab with a recognizable brand slapped on a generic fantasy-adventure plot — with maybe a Bag of Holding thrown in for fan service.
Dungeons & Dragons (2000) Official Trailer – Jeremy Irons, Bruce Payne Movie HD
If that’s the kind of movie they’re making, there really is no point. And considering the fact that Courtney Solomon — director of the horribly cheesy 2000 Dungeons & Dragons movie — is attached to the new project as a producer, well…go ahead and roll for insight.