For nerds across the world (myself included), the 2000 film adaptation of the long-standing, mega-influential role-playing tabletop game Dungeons & Dragons was a bit of a crit fail. Yes, obviously, it’s fun to watch Jeremy Irons chew his way through scenery like a barbarian enjoying steak at a local tavern. But beyond these brief, superficial pleasures, that film misses its mark and thensome, settling into rote, rushed, and poorly rendered spectacle.
But now, as a druid might heal a deceased party member right before their last saving throw, we’ve got another shot at a D&D movie, courtesy of filmmakers Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley, whose Game Night proves they know how to raise the stakes on playing games. Our own Steve Weintraub recently spoke with Dungeons & Dragons cast member Justice Smith for his film The Voyeurs, and Smith teased the level of action, levity, and specificity we can expect from the 2023 film.
Beyond Smith, Goldstein and Daley’s D&D adaptation stars Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez, Regé-Jean Page, Hugh Grant, and Sophia Lillis. And while we still don’t know anything specific about the plot details on their take (will it be a fantasy adventure set in the world of D&D? will it involve people literally sitting around a table playing a game? will it be both?!), Smith was able to tell us how much he loved working with Goldstein and Daley and how their specific vision is such a delight to be in — without spoiling anything, of course.
[Goldstein and Daley are] incredible. They’re so funny and they have such clear vision. I loved Game Night. That movie is so good and so funny. And it’s such a clear, specific story. It doesn’t try and be anything that it’s not. I think they approached this the same way. I can’t spoil too much but it’s action-packed, thrilling, funny as hell… it’s all of the things and yet it has a clear idea. That specificity is key in storytelling and John and Jonathan do that so well, being like, “This is the story we’re telling but they’re making it enjoyable the entire time.” This is me not trying to spoil the movie in any regards. I’ve given away no details.
Obviously, a film having a “clear, specific story” is nothing but a strength, especially one based on such multivarious IP as Dungeons & Dragons where the whole point is that every game has a different story. But what really intrigues me is Smith’s emphasis on the film’s humor, calling it “so funny” and “funny as hell.” While that description might give you the heebie-jeebies in relation to the 2000 film’s unintentional comedy, it plays directly into Goldstein and Daley’s strengths, whose previous work has fused comedy with filmmaking panache in such splendid ways it would be a shame for D&D not to have some laughs. Plus: I don’t know about you, but every D&D session I’ve ever had devolves into outright silliness and incoherent bursts of laughter, so I would hope a film adaptation follows suit.
Dungeons & Dragons is scheduled for a March 3, 2023 theatrical release date. Be on the lookout for our full The Voyeurs interview with Smith soon.
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