Just a few days ago at San Diego Comicon, Wizards of the Coast launched the first trailer for the upcoming movie Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves.
It’s already spread through every corner of the tabletop-playing internet, of course. People are excited to see the game brought to the silver screen. There’s been tons of videos, articles, and posts all discussing the cast, creatures, design, plot, and even the tiny details and easter eggs. Especially the easter eggs.
An Adventure Right Out of a Campaign
The plot of the movie – as it’s been presented so far – is thus: a team of thieves-for-hire (making up a fairly standard adventuring party) stole a powerful magical artifact. Alas, the employer that they stole it for is less than scrupulous, and has used it to cause, summon, or otherwise cause some sort of world-ending evil that they then must stop, gathering new allies and assets to do so. Along the way, they’ll face off with a variety of iconic monsters in (presumably) iconic locales.
Overall, there isn’t anything that I take issue with, or even just dislike, included in the trailer. The CGI looks good, the cast is both star-studded and competent, and it leans into the ability-categorizing created by the class system of the game for the characters. Fans are already excited about seeing high-detail and “realistic” versions of their favorite monsters and species, too.
There looks to be a few minor detail issues, but those might very well be explained or fixed in later trailers and the movie itself.
The druid seeming to wildshape into an owlbear (which is a monstrosity, and therefore not a wildshape option) might just be a polymorph spell, or a unique ability to her the character. Or, the Bard wearing a Harpers pin, and yet stealing a powerful magical artifact for a shady patron (something which directly conflicts with the Harpers’ goal as an organization) might be plot relevant. Who knows? We’ve only really got 2 minutes to go off of – which means not a lot of detail.
My Problem with the Trailer, and Worst Fears for the Movie
My biggest fear for, and current criticism of the trailer’s impression of, Honor Among Thieves is that it will be a fine fantasy adventure, but not much of a true Dungeons and Dragons adventure.
You could take the plot (at least as we’ve seen it so far) and transplant it safely into almost any other fantasy world (yes, even Narnia) and it would still work equally well. You could take the characters and transplant them, too. The monsters are more recognizable as DnD-unique enemies, but even those seem to be the same ones that show up on every single t shirt and lunchbox that WotC puts out and can be replaced by the standard monsters of another setting as well. Nothing about this movie looks like it’s going to add to, develop, or even just dig into the lore of the Forgotten Realms specifically.
Think of it this way – when 50 Shades of Grey came out, anybody who had previously read Twilight immediately spotted it for an adaptation of the latter. That’s because, despite the fact that the location, the names, and the trappings were all different, there was a sense of a similar through-line in terms of characterization, relationships, and themes. It was its own story, but you could still see where the author had used the core of Twilight and scrubbed off the ‘serial numbers’.
You find a similar phenomenon when you play, read, or watch many DnD tie-ins (although not all, I will admit). The Baldur’s Gate games, for example, could have all of their ‘serial numbers’ removed – the name of the setting, the look of the monsters, etcetera, and if you played them like that you’d think “Hey, this feels like a DnD rip-off!” That’s because the lore of the world has been so intertwined with the plotlines, the characters, and the way that they all interact with each other, that you can’t really remove one from another. The same with the Legend of Drizzt novels, or the Dragonlance series in that universe – their settings, the fact that they are Dungeons and Dragons properties, is directly relevant to the stories that they tell.
What I’m nervous about is a movie that relies on those aforementioned ‘serial numbers’, and those numbers alone, to justify the “Dungeons and Dragons” in the title. File them off, and it will just be a fairly standard fantasy plot. Which is fun, and something I certainly enjoy. But it’s nothing to write home about for DnD fans. After all, you can get fantasy from a lot of different sources.
Why I’m Still Going to See the DnD Movie
Of course, a movie that I would consider bland as far as DnD lore will probably be a lot easier to digest and comprehend for those people who go to watch it whom haven’t played DnD. And, too, for casual players who don’t care about the worldbuilding and the lore. And if people see the movie and like it, they might just look up some of the deeper stories behind all those ‘serial number’s and easter eggs.
I can’t complain about something that will make it easier for me to share the things that I love with more people. Well, I can (I can complain about almost anything, and be good at it too) but I can’t make myself mean it. And a movie is certainly easier to get something to consume than whole novels, or video games, or sourcebooks (or cheaply animated cartoons from the 1980s). If anyone does want to get into a more DnD-specific story, I always have my own list of recommendations ready.
When it comes out, I intend to make my way down to my local movie theater to give it my support, regardless of what I wish it could be. Just because I would love, in theory, to have seen a different type of movie doesn’t mean that this one won’t be good. I certainly hope that it’ll be fantastic fun.
What were your thoughts on the Dungeons and Dragons movie trailer? Do you plan to see it when it comes out? Let us know in the comments below!