Welcome to the Suck: D&D Movies

It appears that once again, the topic of a D&D film lifts its ugly face from the murk. I blame Scott Rouse’s posting of a staggeringly bad music video on EN World (though I first saw it on the Roolipelaaja blog).

There have thus far been three movies and an animated series based directly on D&D licences. The animated series divides opinion, but all three films – Dungeons & Dragons, Dungeons & Dragons 2: Wrath of the Dragon God, and Dragonlance: Dragons of Autumn Twilight – suck. Indeed, the first D&D and the Dragonlance flick are so hideous as to make it on my personal Top Ten Worst Movies of All Time list, nestled snugly between Uwe Boll titles and third installments of Marvel film franchises.

Now, JimLotFP and noisms argue on their blogs that there cannot ever be a good D&D film because of various reasons of narrative structure, and because they’re trying to film a concept instead of a story.

While noisms is on to something there, I’m going to suggest that a) there can, in fact, be a good D&D film, and b) the only reason there hasn’t been one is that the ones thus far have been made by raging incompetents and/or on budgets that make the first season of Xena look extravagant. I mean, the first D&D film was made by Courtney Solomon, who couldn’t direct his way out of a wet paper bag. The second one was a Sci-Fi Channel production with a budget of $12,000,000, which, in  the moviemaking business, is practically nothing. Still not an entirely bad movie, though. The Dragonlance film, then, had its animation outsourced to India to a bunch of people who evidently had no idea what they were doing, and presumably for cost reasons. The only positive thing about the end result is that we’re unlikely to ever see Dragonlance: Dragons of Winter Night.

However, there have been good fantasy films. The Lord of the Rings trilogy is awesome, and went on to win Peter Jackson’s weight in Oscars. Conan the Barbarian is an exquisite piece of filmmaking and features one of the finest soundtracks ever. Willow is great. Excalibur is great. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is great. Sure, for every Pan’s Labyrinth, there are three Deathstalkers, but then, isn’t that the standard ratio for film industry in general? Most films suck.

The topic of game movies is a bit stranger, but there we have Uwe Boll skewing the statistics. Also, I like Mortal Kombat. Once upon a time, though, people were convinced that good comic book movies were an impossibility in modern Hollywood.

The long and short of it, though, is… it’s not that you can’t make a good D&D movie. It’s that the guys who tried couldn’t.

The how of it is a more complicated issue. I don’t think a Drizzt movie is a good idea. For a start, someone completely missing the point would accuse it of racism. It’s fully possible no studio would touch it. Indeed, it’s fully possible that no studio has already touched it.

I can’t say I know the answer to how a good D&D movie should be done. However, I know that you don’t get good movies when the people making them are talentless hacks. Personally, I’d probably approach the issue by giving Luc Besson a sufficient budget and a lot of Planescape supplements. Terry Gilliam’s Spelljammer would also be awesome, as would Christopher Nolan’s adaptations of Paul S. Kemp novels.

The problem with the “bunch of guys go to a dungeon” core story is that it’s not much of a plotline. In a game, it’s exciting because you don’t know how the dice will land. You’re in the action, not just a spectator. In a movie, fight + trap + fight + fight + trap + bossfight = bad. Unless it’s 300, pretty much the only movie I know that would’ve been better with even less plot and character development.

However, we have no shortage of people willing to give it a shot, and indeed, the D&D 4E movie is slated for 2011. We shall see.

A Scribbly Award

I was most surprised to find myself the receiver of a Superior Scribbler Award from the esteemed noisms of Monsters and Manuals yesterday.

(Well, not all that surprised, to be honest. I mean, my inflated ego aside, with the way this thing works, most everyone will get one, sooner or later, provided they are updating with any sort of regularity and/or quality. I wasn’t expecting one quite this soon, though.)

I appreciate the kind thoughts and words. This is what he said:

Worlds in a Handful of Dice is the work of Jukka Särkijärvi, a Finn with a better command of the English language than 90% of its native speakers. He’s a writer of excellent rants, thoughtful commentary, and industry insights that are always compulsively readable. The only criticism it’s possible to make is that he doesn’t update regularly enough!

I’ll try and work on the update schedule. My lame excuse for the moment is the exams, but those are over now and I’ve gotta come up with another one.

Now then, for the rules of this award thingy.

  • Each Superior Scribbler must in turn pass The Award on to 5 most-deserving Bloggy Friends.
  • Each Superior Scribbler must link to the author & the name of the blog from whom he/she has received The Award.
  • Each Superior Scribbler must display The Award on his/her blog, and link to this post, which explains The Award.
  • Each Blogger who wins The Superior Scribbler Award must visit this post and add his/her name to the Mr. Linky List (scroll down). That way, we’ll be able to keep up-to-date on everyone who receives This Prestigious Honor!
  • Each Superior Scribbler must post these rules on his/her blog.

This award is really a wonderful way to channel traffic to other blogs that you like. It also channels traffic very efficiently to the blog that started this all. Just sayin’.

Now, for the list of my five awardees, in no particular order.

Geek Related, written by mxyzplk. We have a great deal in common – we both like Paizo, dislike 4E, and have a history with Living Greyhawk. However, he updates more often and has entertaining campaign journals of his Pathfinder Adventure Path campaigns, currently going on the second campaign. He also has a finger on the pulse of the industry and posts news and his take on them, as well as other miscellaneous gaming topics.

Burger Games’ Notebook, written by Ville Vuorela. Ville is a Finnish game designer, but blogs in English. The Notebook contains his views on the industry, especially the Finnish scene, roleplaying games, his games, games in general, and other stuff. He writes well and has insightful (if often pessimistic, but that’s Finland for you) commentary on different topics. This is the only blog without a feed that I bother to read.

Jonathan Drain’s D20 Source, updated by Jonathan Drain. The blog is a mix of crunchy bits for D&D’s 3rd and 4th editions, news and post round-ups, and the occasional post made of awesome, such as the recent posts on D&D’s Most Greatest Weapons and Hilarious House Rules. Also, the place where the deep crow was originally statted before making its way to Pathfinder #16: Endless Night.

LivingDice, written by Trask and occasionally others. LivingDice recently made the jump from “very good” to “superb” when they abandoned their former dark grey on black layout. Recently, Trask has distinguished himself by covering the GenCon Chapter 11 proceedings and keeping us apprised of new developments. Also, Trask previously went by the nom de plume “Trask, the Last Tyromancer”, and I have a soft spot for divination by cheese.

Finally, the odd one out – Politiikkanörtti, by the mysterious anheli. It’s a blog in Finnish, about politics, updated all too rarely by a PoliSci major at the University of Jyväskylä. His stated goal is to cover stuff usually covered in English in Finnish, and vice versa, though I don’t think he ever got around to the latter. However, he is well informed and seems to understand the topics he handles better than quite a few people who get paid for writing about them – and writes well, to boot.

Here is my award. Is it not nifty?

Here is my award. Is it not nifty?

Now, to figure out how I can tack it up on the sidebar…