It is a shame that the new trailer for the Descent 2nd Edition Board Game is more engaging than the new D&D movie teaser.
Before anyone starts thinking that this is going to be a screed about how the new D&D movie looks terrible, is going to be terrible, and how lame Wizards of the Coast/Hasbro are, let me make it clear that this will not be that kind of post. Instead, it will be a post about how the movie looks like it doesn't have a budget, that even "bad" fantasy films can be entertaining, and how this is yet another legacy of the pre-Wizards dying TSR.
Let me say that thing that leaped out at me the instant I hit the play button on the new D&D trailer was how low budget it looks. The CGI dragon looks more CGI than the dragon in a Kickstarter project I funded, the actors stilted acting makes it clear that the budget for talent was pretty low, the make up isn't very good, and the visual effects on the spells...well...let's just say that I'm less than impressed. By all appearances Joel Silver has closed all stops and plugged up the budget everywhere...which is to say that this film appears to be the D&D equivalent of the Roger Corman "Fantastic Four" film. It looks like Silver and company are spending just enough money on the movie to maintain the license.
Setting that aside, some of my favorite fantasy movies were made with zero budget. What really seems to matter in these cases is whether the people making the project are actively trying to entertain you. From what I know, and though I know someone who worked on the project that is still remarkably little, many of the people on this project really want it to work. One of the writers on the film is a regular D&D player, has worked on a number of good rpg products in the past, and is an all around nice guy. My hope is that this film can rise to the quality of a "Hawk the Slayer," "Krull," "Beastmaster," "The Knights of Bloodsteel," or even the second D&D movie. I don't have much hope that it will be as good as the "Midnight Chronicles" movie that Fantasy Flight Games made, as that is a pretty remarkable piece of work considering its budget. I don't think it is too much to ask that if this film isn't going to feel epic, that it will at least feel fun. My favorite "D&D" movie is Jet Li's classic "Swordsman II" -- my second is his amazing "Kung Fu Cult Master" -- and if one takes off their "Hong Kong films are awesome glasses" it becomes pretty clear that "Swordsman II" is kind of hokey. But sword energy is still pretty awesome.
All of the problems with this D&D movie, and the earlier two, can be laid in the lap of one single transaction and that is the sale of the license to Courtney Solomon in the dying days of TSR. Courtney was 19 at the time and eventually managed to bring the film to fruition by partnering with New Line Cinema for distribution who purchased the rights for $5 million. This ensured Courtney a solid payday, and ensured that until someone buys the license away from Silver, we are unlikely to get the "D&D movie we want."