In the year 2000, I sat in a dark movie theater and witnessed one of the worst things I've ever seen on the big screen -- and I saw Mission to Mars in its theatrical run. I'm talking, of course, about Dungeons & Dragons, the epic (cough) fantasy film that attempted to capitalize on the world's most popular tabletop role-playing game. Starring Justin Whalin (who? exactly), Marlon Wayans and Thora Birch, the film was ... well, it was really something. I can remember exactly two highlights: 1) the audience bursting into applause when (SPOILER, I GUESS) Wayans' annoying character (ostensibly one of the heroes) was impaled on the villain's sword, then exploding into cheers as he was subsequently thrown off a cliff, and 2) the power going out for five minutes during one of the story's climactic moments and not feeling like I'd really missed anything when everything started up again.
I tell this story because it appears that the people at Warner Bros., purveyors of more than a few quality pieces of cinematic entertainment, have decided to ignore the lessons of the past and take on the Dungeons & Dragons license for production as a major motion picture. The announcement comes 10 months after the settlement of a legal battle over who owned the film rights to the franchise. There's already a script, courtesy of The Conjuring 2's David Leslie Johnson, and everyone involved is just SO EXCITED.
"We are so excited about bringing the world of Dungeons & Dragons to life on the big screen," said Greg Silverman, Warner Bros. president of creative development and worldwide production. "This is far and away the most well-known brand in fantasy, which is the genre that drives the most passionate film followings. D&D has endless creative possibilities, giving our filmmakers immense opportunities to delight and thrill both fans and moviegoers new to the property."
Meanwhile, producer Courtney Solomon (who directed the 2000 film) had this to say:
"We are thrilled that this beloved property can finally make its way to the big screen after 20 years, and that it can be realized by Warner Bros., which has been responsible for the biggest fantasy franchises over the past two decades."
Is it possible that Solomon forgot that he directed a D&D movie 15 years ago? Or that he just can't count? How will he calculate THAC0 with that kind of arithmetical handicap?
OK, maybe I'm being unnecessarily negative. After all, Dungeons & Dragons has a vast and compelling mythology that is fertile ground for the telling of epic stories. And, thanks to Peter Jackson and J.K. Rowling, fantasy filmmaking has come a long way since the turn of the century. Perhaps the team at WB can turn out a quality film that'll please both the grognards and the moviegoer who doesn't know a Lurker Above from a Gelatinous Cube. I'll be crossing my fingers and hoping for natural 20s as this thing gets off the ground.
What do you think? Are you ready for D&D's return to theaters?