Warner Bros wants to play ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ with David Leslie Johnson

This news makes me happy for a lot of reasons.

First, I’m a firm believer that the right imagination can make something great of the overall “Dungeons & Dragons” property, and I think David Leslie Johson is a wicked smart guy and a fun writer. They’re using a script of his called “Chainmail” that they bought last year and they’re turning that into the foundation for the “D&D” film. Roy Lee and Courtney Solomon are producing for Warner, which is interesting. Solomon directed the terrible New Line “Dungeons & Dragons” movie back in 2000, and it’s interesting to see how far genre fare has come since that release.

At the time, it made sense to try to sneak a much lower-budget fantasy movie in before “Lord Of The Rings” got off the ground to try to make some quick money off of a potential audience. If you’re going to take a run at this kind of IP today, you have to take it seriously. There is way too much competition for that dollar, and at this point, if you half-ass it, the audience is going to see you coming. The reasons for each of these major franchises connecting or failing may be different in the small details, but in the broad sense, it’s very simple. Either people connect, or they don’t. If they do, they will become your best friends, carrying the word to everyone they deal with, actively finding ways to prolong their interaction with the property. And if they don’t, then it’s over. Done. They’ll just move on to find something that does.

It also makes me happy because the script that put David Leslie Johnson onto the radar of a lot of people in Hollywood was his “Doc Savage” adaptation, which I liked a lot. I’m sure, no matter what else he’s doing or how well it’s going, it’s got to sting a little to see an announcement today about someone else making “Doc Savage.” It’s not his to own, though, so I’m sure he’s made peace with it. Still, it’s got to assuage that sting to be able to announce something this big on the same day.

Warner is creating some interesting parallel projects these days. “Pacific Rim” this summer and “Godzilla” next summer means they’re betting a fair amount of money on the universal appeal of giant monsters smashing things, and if they’re still serious about doing “World Of Warcraft” with Legendary, then “Dungeons & Dragons” is arguably covering the same ground. Even more interesting, the “Godzilla”/”Pacific Rim” situation is Warner Bros in partnership with Legendary Pictures on both films, which “World Of Warcraft” is Legendary while “D&D” is Roy Lee, one of the two producers who just left “Godzilla” amidst lawsuits and some fairly public disagreement over the development of the film. That feels more like a head to head situation where two films are being developed, targeted at the exact same fans, and we’ll see what ultimately happens with the studio and whether they greenlight both or neither or which one.

If you don’t know “Dungeons & Dragons” well, or if you know it very well, can I recommend a podcast for you? It’s called “Nerd Poker,” and it’s available via iTunes. It’s an ongoing game of “Dungeons & Dragons” as played by comedian Brian Posehn and his very funny friends, and it is a tremendous pleasure from week to week.

Right now, it sounds like Warner and the producers and Johnson are all working on the script and looking for a director, and until there’s more news, that’s all we know for sure about “Dungeons & Dragons.”