It appears that Warner Bros. have managed to secure the movie rights for Dungeons & Dragons. The RPG series is pretty much the grandfather of any roleplaying franchise there is whether its board-based, card-based, or in videogame form from Japan or the West. The core elements of creating character such as stats and skills and the idea to have things be quest or mission based started with Gary Gygax and David Arneson’s 1974 creation.
As a matter of fact, roughly any video game that features stats, stat management, inventory management, etc. can be traced back in some way to the structure of D&D and its character sheets which allowed everything to be organized for multiple adventures for hours on in. It’s also the pinnacle of allowing fans of fantasy—both sword & sorcery and high fantasy—craft their own characters and adventures and interact with other players in a way videogames that kind of do the same don’t touch on completely.
In its almost 40 year history, the Dungeons & Dragons series has never been able to move to the big screen and become the big money franchise it could be. There was a 2000 film that was shot down in theaters. There were also two Syfy films with 2005’s Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath of the Dragon God and 2012’s Dungeons & Dragons: The Book of Vile Darkness—both were true to the material, but didn’t actually transition into anything long term on the network.
This particular D&D film already has a script done by David Leslie Johnson (Wrath of the Titans and Red Riding Hood) and is based on a screenplay that was snagged last year called Chainmail. The script is based on a game created by Gary Gygax before Dungeons & Dragons was released. The film will be produced by Roy Lee and Courtney Solomon—who handed the unsuccessful 2000 film.
Warner Bros. pretty much have the market cornered on fantasy with Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Also, don’t forget WB’s TV grasp on fantasy with Game of Thrones and Supernatural. By snagging Dungeons & Dragons however, they have something that can be built upon creatively similar to Supernatural. D&D is all about imagination, quests, and storycrafting/storytelling.
The franchise at the core—when one pulls up a chair and his or her character sheet—is pretty much a blank slate for whoever wishes to join in. This means that Warner Bros. can pretty much craft fresh characters and adventures in a series that has 40 years of written, franchise history via books, rulebooks, video games and the like. Not only that, but a large bulk of the merchandising has been done for the franchise and has been done for four decades. There is a large fanbase which pumps $1 billion dollars into the franchise already. All WB needs to do is put the money into the movie, produce it, advertise it, and make their movie-specific merchandise.
Warner Bros. is often on point without fail when it comes to fantasy and superhero franchises both in film and TV form, so this is pretty much their film to flop on. On both sides everything is in line for a franchise that could give WB its own Star Wars-esque triple trilogy of films if they invested in it. Plus it will draw fans into the hardcore side of D&D, it might not a lot of newcomers since the series has the stigma of being “for nerds only”, but there will be newcomers. Not only from the movie angle of this, but Dungeons & Dragons could definitely do well as a TV series with a 10+ year run—something Syfy should’ve jumped on.
All in all, Warner Bros. got a pretty good franchise on their hands. Who will get what franchise next? There’s still Anne Rice’s Vampire series which could use a film reboot, any of White Wolf’s fantastic games—Kindred: The Embraced needed a return when it was cancelled in the early 1990s—Vampire the Masquerade, Might and Magic, Todd McFarlane’s Spawn could be done justice this time around with everyone being big on superhero films—just to name a few. The possibilities are truly endless.