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What The Dungeons & Dragons Movie Could Learn From Stranger Things

Dungeons and Dragons as a franchise has evolved beyond a pen and paper tabletop RPG and into a multimedia phenomenon however as Wizards of the Coast continuously seeks out a successful movie with Dungeons and Dragons Honor Among Thieves they could learn a lot from Netflixs Stranger Things. The character driven drama progressed its story through the popular tabletop game and became indelibly associated with the franchise when it aired. Although not directly adapted from the RPG the show became one of the brands most successful emissaries garnering a large audience and a new generation of players who now wait for what comes next.

Dungeons and Dragons over the years released multiple official films adapted from the original tabletop games. After three live action movies and two animated features debuted with questionable success Wizards of the Coast and Hasbro began producing a reboot starring Chris Pine Michelle Rodriguez and Hugh Grant. Since the films announcement most of its details have been kept quiet with little insight into the movies plot and whether or not it has the potential to redeem a history of disappointing releases moving forward.Its hard to believe that with Stranger Things season 4 on the way at Netflix ideas for a good DandD movie should somehow escape Hasbro and Wizards of the Coast. Hidden within the shows success were brilliant insights into what worked about a DandD inspired narrative and what people wanted from a tabletop experience. Unlike Stranger Things the original films never understood the community of its players nor the imaginative worlds dreamed of behind a DMs screen and with the series rolling the dice on a reboot perhaps critical success is within the secrets of the nostalgia fueled serial.

It Has To Focus On The Players

The previous movies oddly never focused on the players and settled for a disappointingly generic fantasy tale under the DandD branding. Netflixs Stranger Things understood that as exciting as it is to explore the realm of the incredible the DandD experience comes from the other people in the party. The Duffer Brothers demonstrated that when it came to tabletop RPGs the people outside the game were just as important by introducing audiences to the main cast through their campaign their characters and how it reflected them. If Hasbro wishes to adapt the tabletop experience perhaps the best place to begin is by introducing the movies audience to a likable party of players.Many of the shows protagonists originally were introduced in a session of DandD which allowed people to see Mike Will Lucas and Dustins group dynamics establishing them as relatable characters in Stranger Things season 1. One approach a movie could take is examining the players in the real world their struggles and how theyre represented in the game once the D20s drop and their adventures begin. The movie should establish a Breakfast Club inspired cast of different players who are united by the campaign a shy teenager in the role of a charming bard or a frustrated student as a rage driven barbarian. The story could be a character driven drama with the players as a focus if Hasbro is clever enough to see how it worked on Netflix.

The Movie Should Be Nostalgic

Stranger Things had a lot of personality in its soundtrack props and setting as it tried to be true to the 1980s. For audiences the nostalgia bait was a less than subtle but welcome detail that they found charming for a Netflix series. In the past the Dungeons and Dragons movies garnered criticism for being blandly generic in their look with many comparing them to the types of films thatd premiere on Syfy. High fantasy today is a genre that rarely attempts to channel those retro aesthetics with one of the few examples being Pixars movie Onward if Wizards of the Coast wants to break the mold and be more memorable maybe their future is in the past.

Tabletop RPGs tend to conjure up classic images of a group of friends in a poorly lit basement surrounded by dice photocopied character sheets and empty pizza boxes because whether its through media or memories they tend to be part of growing up. It wouldnt be hard for a DandD movie to channel the spirit of the 80s and 90s nor would it feel out of place if it were a period piece like Stranger Things that found a way to incorporate a group of players either playing the game or somehow transported into it. Even if Hasbro wanted to make a high fantasy film there are still countless years of classic imagery characters and monsters from Dungeons and Dragons they can use to acknowledge the past. A little bit of love reverence and nostalgia could go a long way to make a tabletop movie stand out from titles like Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings.

They Need Iconic Villains

Unlike the previous DandD films Stranger Things had better villains in the Demogorgon the Mind Flayer or even Billy Hargrove all of which stood out as uniquely menacing. Despite having cast talented actors such as Jeremy Irons of DCEU fame the antagonists that Wizards of the Coast brought to their fantasy films werent quite memorable or as threatening as those found on Netflix. In any high fantasy movie the journey is usually only as good as the villains who loom over it and Stranger Things over time managed to create some real monsters both human and inhuman alike.Dungeons and Dragons was not without its iconic villains and Stranger Things even used some of them to help create their own its just a matter of looking through the modules and monster manuals of the past to fill out the movies rogues gallery. Tiamat Venger the beholder and Strahd are all iconic dangers usually known to terrorize venturing parties in DandD. If the movie wants to create the next Demogorgon or Mind Flayer what it comes down to is making these classic characters just as scary dangerous and recognizable.

Its Time For A Different Fantasy

Although premiering before The Lord of the Rings the first Dungeons and Dragons film was quick to draw comparisons because the series didnt do enough to make itself feel different from any other medieval fantasy film. One of the keys to Stranger Things popularity was that it was emotionally driven character focused and wasnt afraid to embrace the enjoyably absurd at times. If a Dungeons and Dragons movie hopes to distinguish itself from an oversaturated genre it needs to be different in tone and more than a gritty lore heavy adventure.

One of the concepts that made Stranger Things compelling is that it was a story about growing up and much of it had a Spielbergian tone to it. Whats interesting about Dungeons and Dragons is that its a game fueled by imagination and that usually mirrors its players allowing for an opportunity to explore similar ideas to Stanger Things. A high fantasy movie could easily be reflective of a young cast of characters shaped by their fears dreams and personal lives using the world of DandD to learn how to cope with things like loss frustration and growing up or discover things about themselves and others. To stand out from other high fantasy projects Hasbro needs to be less Game of Thrones and more like The Wizard of Oz or The Neverending Story focusing more on the emotional and imaginative aspects of a tabletop RPG.Despite previous attempts at a film Dungeons and Dragons Honor Among Thieves isnt a lost cause but a new beginning for the series on the big screen. Netflix has found a way already to engage audiences and utilize some of the games best aspects. However whether the movies will follow their example remains to be seen.

About Ahmad Raza

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