I was having a conversation with Tiny at the end of this week’s session about the Dungeons & Dragons movies. He’s of the opinion that there is no way to make a D&D movie that doesn’t suck; too much of the fun in D&D is about the wacky bullshit people do around the table. I am of the opinion that a good fantasy movie set in one of the many D&D settings would be indistinguishable from the many decent fantasy and science fiction movies of recent years. I mean, change the names and some of the set-dressing, and the Lord of the Rings trilogy could just as easily have been called Dungeons & Dragons, and it wouldn’t have made the movies any better or worse.
The problem with D&D on screen is that no one really knows how to handle it. With the first movie, there was an obvious lack of direction; the creators apparently didn’t know if they wanted the movie to be funny, serious, wacky, surreal, realistic, or what. As a result, it ended up being none of those things. It was just a big fucking mess. The second movie had more an idea what it wanted to be, but what it wanted to be was something that was decidedly not Dungeons & Dragons. It was overly serious in tone, lacked anything closely resembling emotional connection, and was more like watching a documentary about Dungeons & Dragons than a good movie.
So what does a D&D movie want to be?
There’s a lot of evidence that a series could handle D&D in ways that a movie really couldn’t.
A D&D series might not look too terribly different from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, honestly. There would be an ensemble cast, monsters, magic, a billion fight scenes, wicked humor, powerful emotional experiences and plots that involve fighting a Big Bad or seven every season.
Hercules and Xena proved we can do fantasy on screen with a large enough audience to keep a series afloat. Those series, too, had an effective combination of action and fantasy and humor.
There’s no reason we should assume that D&D would not make for a strong television series with strong role-models like these to build off of. And with the envelope constantly being pushed to bigger and better things (Game of Thrones anyone?), it can only be assumed that a D&D series, handled well, would be bigger and better than any of it’s fantasy television predecessors.
Just a thought.