Actor Joe Manganiello is doing his part to make sure Dungeons and Dragons returns to the big screen – by writing a movie reboot, himself. A hugely popular franchise, with millions of players across the globe, Dungeons and Dragons is something of a cornerstone in ‘nerd’ culture. The table top role playing game is known by almost everyone, even if they’ve never played it. While D&D has successfully ingratiated itself into popular culture, it has yet to be turned into a successful movie franchise. In fact, the 2000 film adaptation was so poorly received that it only has a 10% score on Rotten Tomatoes.
There was successful animated Dungeons and Dragons TV show that ran in the ’80s, while the franchise has also spawned books, video games and magazines. Given its sustained popularity, D&D is certainly worthy of a quality big-screen adaptation. Enter Manganiello, who wants to develop a Dungeons and Dragons movie with the view to turning it into a multi-film franchise. Not only that, but he already has the first draft written. This follows reports from last year of a D&D movie being in the works at Warner Bros., with Goosebumps helmsman Rob Letterman directing and Ansel Elgort attached to star. So far though, nothing more has been heard on the project.
Speaking as a guest on Josh Horowitz’s Happy Sad Confused podcast (around the 53:00 mark), while promoting his new movie, Smurfs: The Lost Village, Maganiello revealed that he’s co-written a D&D script draft with a friend, and has also met with the creative team behind Dungeons and Dragons, Wizards of the Coast, to discuss where the movie could go and what it could look like. Maganiello cites Game of Thrones and the Lord of the Rings franchise as examples of fantasy programs or movies that use a human, emotional aspect to draw viewers in (via MTV):
“Obviously, there’s a spectacle. There’s dragons breathing fire and lightning. But what makes a great superhero or fantasy movie is the human aspect. It’s got to be about something. We root for those characters in Game of Thrones. Fellowship of the Ring was about friendship, this undying love for your friends. That’s something everyone can identify with. When a movie is about something human and real emotionally people are going to want to see. Then you get some dragons breathing fire, and hey, I’m in.”
Maganiello’s passion for the project is clear, and it would be really good to see this actually come to fruition. It won’t be an easy thing to get right, though. Many game properties that should translate well to the big screen in theory, have yet to do so in action. Last year’s Warcraft, for example, performed well at the Chinese box office but flopped in the U.S. and was not well-received, critically. That said, there is an appetite among moviegoers for ‘retro’ franchises to make their comeback.
To this end, Transformers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and now Power Rangers have all fared well; tapping into the public’s desire to reminisce and escape to their childhood fantasies. Dungeons and Dragons is exactly that; a fantasy game set in a mystical world where anything could happen. With the right script, the right budget, and the right cast, this is a movie that could potentially do very well indeed. Let’s hope Maganiello has the creative vision and dedication needed to successfully pull this trick out of the bag.
We will keep you updated on developments with Dungeons and Dragons.