Movies & TV / Columns

Would Dungeons & Dragons Be Better as a Movie or TV Series?

January 16, 2021 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
Dungeons & Dragons D&D

Before I get into the column part I want to share a cool (to me) story that happened a few months ago. I was doing some side work clearing out houses that were getting ready to be sold and I got an order for a house that needed everything out of the basement. Trash it all. There wasn’t much to brag about as the basement looked like it hadn’t been visited since the 1980s. I was just about done after filling up a 20-foot dumpster when I opened the last cabinet. In front of me was a cache of classic 70s and 80s games but what caught my eye was the original, never been opened, 1981 Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set. I gasped! That along with 1980 RuneQuest made my day. 

Opening the box and going through the contents, untouched for decades, had a very Indiana Jones vibe. It brought back lots of fond memories and it was a gem of a find.

And if you’re curious, I was offered a nice sum for both but decided to hold on to them. 

Dungeon & Dragon fans have some things to look forward to. Paramount and Hasbro’s film entertainment studio, eOne, are in the casting stages of a live-action Dungeons & Dragons feature film along with also laying the groundwork for a television series based on the fantasy role playing game.

Looks like Derek Kolstad, the creator and writer behind the John Wick franchise, has been chosen to write and develop a pitch for a live-action series based on the Dungeons & Dragons universe.

Launched in 1974, it exploded in popularity in the 1980s and has found itself in a resurgence over the last several years. In 2017  the game had “the most number of players in its history—12 million to 15 million in North America alone.” In an earning call last October, Hasbro CEO Brian Goldner said sales had mushroomed 20 percent from 2019. 

As for the movie, Paramount and eOne are planning a feature that will star Chris Pine that is due to film later this year. On the series side, Kolstad isn’t the only writer working on a D&D series, as eOne is looking for multiple writers to develop various projects set in the fantasy universe.

Which begs the question: would D&D work better as a series or movie? My gut says a series is the way to go in order to establish the universe and characters, building from there. I think if they try to bite off too much, throwing a series AND a movie, without a singular vision, one will fail and the other might find limited success. It would be much better to focus on one thing, have it connect with the audience, and go from there. A television series is the better bet over a film.

My decision has nothing to do with the failed 2000 movie, by the way. That venture made $33,807,409 worldwide off a $45 million budget. While it was ambitious, behind-the-scenes drama damned it before it even started filming. 

There was a Dungeons & Dragons animated series that ran for 3 seasons in the 80s that I remember fondly. It focused on a group of six friends who are transported into the fantasy realm and followed their adventures as they tried to find a way home with the help of their guide the Dungeon Master. 

Circling back, with CGI at a better level and a renewed love for the game, there is a huge opportunity to do D&D right and in a way that will draw in hardcore fans and open the door for new ones. 

Just hope they don’t try to copy Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings, as that will only bring ruin.