Why is 'Dungeons & Dragons' so beloved? One scene in the movie captures it perfectly

Tracy Brown, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

In "Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves," a bard, a barbarian, a sorcerer and a druid team up to pull off their biggest heist yet — and also save the world.

Much like in an adventure in the tabletop role-playing game on which the film is based, "Dungeon & Dragons," now in theaters, sees its heroes journey across the land on a series of missions to help them on their overall quest: to take down a certain traitorous rogue. And like any good dungeon master, directors Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley, who also wrote the film's script with Michael Gilio, make sure each member of the party has moments to showcase their individual talents.

The tabletop D&D creates a set of guidelines in which players can let their imaginations fly, and Goldstein and Daley sought to channel that experience in the film set within the fantasy world of Dungeons & Dragons rather than directly adapting any existing story.

"We wanted to make sure the movie captured that spontaneity, the collaboration, the unpredictability, and that need to kind of pivot when things turn against you, as they inevitably do," said Goldstein during a recent video call.

"The thing that's so exciting to me about doing a D&D movie is you can add that element of levity and whimsy to the film without at all betraying the lore," added Daley, who noted that playful irreverence is part of the game's experience. "That sense of heartfelt-ness and the lack of cynicism was really important to us … And I think that there's a way to be humorous without at all undermining the stakes, or the sincerity" of the adventure.

One standout sequence that encapsulates the spirit of the film involves the tiefling druid Doric, played by Sophia Lillis. After reluctantly agreeing to join Edgin (Chris Pine), Holga (Michelle Rodriguez) and Simon's (Justice Smith) party, Doric sneaks into a castle to gather some intel as a literal fly on the wall. Unfortunately, her spying is noticed by the Red Wizard Sofina (Daisy Head), prompting a chase where the camera follows Doric in one, long, seemingly uninterrupted take as she tries to make her escape while shape-shifting into a number of different creatures.


It's a sequence Goldstein and Daley pitched at their very first meeting with Paramount for "Dungeons & Dragons."

Abandoned by her human parents for being a tiefling — someone of human lineage who inherited demonic traits thanks to some act by an ancestor — Doric is wary of humans, and also doesn't quite fit in with the druidic community that has taken her in, the Emerald Enclave.

To prepare for the role, Lillis said she "watched a lot of animal documentaries" to study their movements closely, from the muscles they use to their centers of gravity. This is because, as a druid, Doric has an ability to shape-shift into beasts known as Wild Shape.

"I've always thought movement [and] how to use your body is a very important skill to have when you're acting," said Lillis. She put it to use as Doric, in particular during her transitions into animal form; the stunt team also incorporated animal-like moves into Doric's fighting style, she said.


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